Behind the David vs. Goliath storyline laid out during a zoning board discussion on whether to erect a new auto repair shop on Harlem Avenue, there are also a number of philosophical arguments to be had. Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush? Should small business owners yield to larger developments? Are the goals outlined almost a decade ago in municipal planning documents meaningful anymore?
Since 1986 Rod Nunley has leased a small garage on Harlem Avenue and now, with his lease expiring, is looking to relocate his business a short distance to the south at the avenue’s junction with Franklin Street. He bought the property at 7201 Franklin St. a few years ago and demolished a tavern and a liquor store earlier this spring to make way for his new business. Now he needs the village’s permission to move ahead with construction, but has a number of obstacles to overcome.
Employees in the village’s building department are advising public officials that an auto repair shop doesn’t square with Forest Park’s vision for that neighborhood as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. That document serves as a guide for the types of development that should be encouraged in various parts of town.
Meanwhile, a developer is whispering in the ears of public officials that he has a much more grandiose project in the works. Much of the land surrounding Nunley’s property at 7201 Franklin St. is owned by a trust – thus shrouding the owner’s true identity. The trust would like to acquire Nunley’s land, but he has been unwilling to sell.
River Forest developer Tim Hague, a self described “agent” for the trust, is holding his cards close to his chest. Village Administrator Mike Sturino, who supports whatever it is Hague is working on, is also short on details at this point. Rather than offer a shadowy incentive to entice elected officials and the public to leapfrog Nunley’s project, Hague and others involved in the discussion should adopt some candor. It is unfair to Nunley, to residents and to the commissioners to introduce this hypothetical. It benefits no one to force government into a game of trying to guess what’s behind curtain number two.
Reveal the prize, or stand aside and let the pending proposal be judged on its own merit.
Which brings us to the village’s Comprehensive Plan. Village officials must decide if the long term goals for the area are served by opening a new garage. Regardless of what anyone may be promising for the neighborhood, the question is whether this project fulfills the village’s own promise.