The village recently announced it could use what is left of the $50,000 state grant it received in 2009 to fund planning for the Army Reserve Center, at 7402 Roosevelt Road, should the federal government decide to sell it.
Presently, no plans have been hatched, nor has the federal government given the village any indication that it intends to sell the base, Forest Park officials said. Nonetheless, Village Administrator Tim Gillian told council members in a Sept. 21 memo that he recommends the village use the remaining grant funds to “formalize a plan should this site become available in the future.” The council appeared to agreed with the recommendation.
Wills Burke Kelsey Associates, Ltd., a St. Charles-based planning company that the village’s zoning consultant Jo Ellen Charlton works for, could be hired to do the job. The planners would be paid the remnants of a $50,000 grant the village received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) in 2009.
In his memo, Gillian said Charlton is “very familiar with this site and has done some preliminary work on this grant.”
The Forest Park Review called Gillian to ask about the plan, but he refused to comment on the record.
Charlton did not return a call for comment either. But in paperwork filed with the village, Wills Burke listed in general terms what it intends to do in the planning process.
The document states, in part, that consultants plan to identify goals, discuss them with village officials, clarify any funding obstacles and opportunities, make sure any building is done in conformance with village policies and visions, and come up with a final product.
Commissioner Mark Hosty said that although the village wants to get the property “on the tax rolls,” no one in the private sector has expressed any interest because the federal government has shown no sign of letting go of the land.
For months now, Commissioner Rory Hoskins has touted how commercially fruitful an enterprise zone along Roosevelt Road could be. With an enterprise zone, the state provides economic incentives to developers who build or redevelop within the confines of the zone.
Hoskins said that if the property becomes available, it would qualify, under state law.
“It could be designated … because land that was formerly owned by the U.S. government can qualify as an enterprise zone designation,” he said.
This could make his idea an easier sell – to both his colleagues and other Forest Parkers.
Several months ago, Hoskins said an enterprise zone could be created if the village hooked up with an existing one in neighboring Maywood. This met opposition because Maywood’s zone has been almost entirely dormant for much of its life and because of the socioeconomics of that town.
Hoskins’ political rivals on the council have also used the issue to criticize him from time to time.
Little is known about what the village has done with the $50,000 grant it received two and a half years ago.
The Review asked the Mayor’s Press Office to disclose exactly how much of the grant money is left and also asked what has been discussed between planners and the village. Last week, the press office said it would respond to those questions and a handful of others. None of those questions have been answered.
In an article the Review published in 2009 – shortly after the village first received the grant – Hoskins suggested it might be a good idea to use the money to hire a consultant to lobby the federal government about selling that land.
The village recently hired Matt O’Shea, a former village administrator, for lobbying efforts at $36,000 per year. But when Hosty was asked if O’Shea would work toward the sale of the base property, he said the lobbyist’s “specialty is more state” (referring to O’Shea’s time as chief of staff for state House Minority Leader Tom Cross.)
The Mayor’s Press Office was asked the same question, but never responded.
As it stands, the village’s consultants will use the money left from the 2009 grant to plan for what officials hope might someday become a reality.
We incorrectly reported that the current agreement between Wills Burke Kelsey Associates, Ltd. was approved on Sept. 26. In fact, it was only discussed, and the resolution to approve the agreement passed on Nov. 14.