Weinstein Wholesale Meats wants to expand its property on Industrial Drive, but as a condition of approval the village is demanding a hefty financial contribution toward the reconstruction of the roadway. Municipal officials are insisting that the wholesale meat distributor pay $427,300 toward work along Industrial Drive that would include water main improvements, before any expansion plans are approved.
According to municipal officials, the village is only asking that business owner Scott Weinstein’s company pay its share of the cost to reconstruct the street. The amount being asked of Weinstein was calculated based on the amount of land that fronts along the street. If the village cannot find enough money to redo the road, Weinstein would see the cash returned, with interest.
“We’re talking about them taking responsibility for their share of the frontage,” Department of Public Health and Safety Director Mike Boyle said.
At a Plan Commission meeting Monday, however, the group voted unanimously to recommend that the village council approve Weinstein’s expansion and that it drop the $427,000 requirement sought by staff. Members of the Plan Commission heard from an attorney hired by Weinstein to contest the fee, but said they weren’t necessarily swayed by arguments that the village has no legal authority to demand such a sum. Instead, the commission members said it simply seemed too large a burden to place on any businesses owner, especially when that company is trying to make an investment.
“I see where you’re coming from, I just want you to know that,” commission member Michelle Dirks said in response to Weinstein’s protest.
The village has long wanted to improve Industrial Drive and a few years ago proposed a special assessment on the businesses along the dead-end strip, but abandoned that idea in the face of opposition. The total cost of reconstructing Industrial Drive is estimated to be slightly less than $4 million, according to Boyle.
In a memo to the Plan Commission, Boyle spelled out the rationale for assessing the fee.
“Given the opportunity to assure adequate access, infrastructure and utilities are provided to a site being subdivided, it is appropriate for the village to seek public improvements related to this site,” Boyle said in his memo. “In this case, instead of a limited patchwork repair, the village is seeking a limited financial contribution equal to their share of the work needed to be performed along the entire length of the road.”
A provision in the village code allows the village to condition its approval of plans to subdivide or combine property upon contributions for public improvements, said Boyle.
Weinstein Meats moved to Forest Park two years ago. Recently it purchased and razed the AB Wire building at 7525 Industrial Drive. Weinstein would like to consolidate the two parcels and expand the company’s parking lot and build a one-story addition to its existing building at 7501 Industrial Drive.
Weinstein needs the approval of the village council to go ahead with his plans. On July 21 the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to recommend that the council grant the necessary variances.
The $427,300 being asked of Weinstein would go into an escrow account. If the village cannot raise enough money within five years to fund the entire project, the money would be returned to Weinstein.
Industrial Drive is a small spur off Desplaines Avenue that provides access to an industrial park. The road is rough, full of ruts, and has some potholes. Heavy trucks, some of them Weinstein’s, rumble over the street every day. The business owner said his expansion will not create more truck traffic.
In comments made prior to Monday night’s Plan Commission hearing, Scott Weinstein objected to the village’s demand that his company should be required to contribute so much money towards the reconstruction.
“I certainly shouldn’t be the one paying for it,” Weinstein said. “If anything I’ve only caused a small portion of the problem.”
During his discussion with the Plan Commission, Weinstein said he could just as easily operate the business without consolidating the two lots, but is requesting that the lots be combined based on a recommendation from Boyle. According to Weinstein, Boyle’s recommendation amounts to nothing less than trickery in an attempt to squeeze his company for money.
Weinstein also said that a planning consultant for the village, Jo Ellen Charlton, told him prior to Monday’s meeting that his proposal would not be up for a vote until he reached an agreement with Boyle on the payment. Village Administrator Mike Sturino implied the same during a separate conversation, Weinstein said.
Sturino attended Monday’s meeting and said there is no scheme to bilk Weinstein’s company. As for the Plan Commission’s recommendation that the village council approve the project without forcing Weinstein to pay for road repairs, Sturino said he will review the arguments before preparing his own recommendation.
“We really want to take exception that staff led the petitioner down some primrose path to get to this point,” Sturino said.
In recent years the village has received contributions from developers for public improvements. Focus Development, the developers of the Residences at the Grove, spent approximately $512,000 for road improvements, according to Charlton, the village’s planning consultant. Focus can recapture some of those costs as other buildings are erected along the road that it constructed, said Charlton.
Editor Josh Adams contributed to this story.