Forest Park Commissioner Chris Harris will host a public town hall meeting on Feb. 23 to discuss the future of two pieces of village owned property. The town meeting will focus on the Altenheim property and the fire ravaged two-flat at 512 Desplaines Ave. that is also owned by the village. Harris has called for the town hall meeting, but his plan for the meeting has seemingly been met with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm by Mayor Anthony Calderone.
The town hall style meeting will take place in the village hall council chambers. According to Harris the meeting will be an opportunity for residents to hear proposals for use of the two properties and to offer feedback and opinions on what the village should do with the land.
“Public input is vital when you have two pieces of property that can really shape the future of this village,” Harris said in a press release released Monday. “I think a community-minded government is one that makes decisions with the people, not for the people, it gives all a sense of pride and ownership in this village Ð and let’s not forget, it’s the citizens’ tax dollars that make everything possible that should always be respected.”
According to Harris’s press release the meeting will include short presentations on proposed ideas for the properties. Harris, the commissioner of public property, says speakers will include Recreation Board chairperson Jennifer Wolfe, a representative from the Historical Society of Forest Park and Paul Coffey, who has proposed a mixed use of residence and architectural studios for the 512 Desplaines two-flat.
“The agenda includes short presentations from people who have ideas for the property and those people will stick around and discuss their ideas with attendees,” Harris said. “This is really about not only making the citizenry aware of these plans, but also listening to ideas from the community. Do we want the land preserved as green space, do we want to just sell it off? Come out and have your say.”
Harris, who says he has called the meeting in his capacity as Commissioner of Public Property, sent an email last week to all village council members informing them of his plans to host the meeting.
Harris says he would like Calderone and Village Administrator Tim Gillian to speak at the meeting.
Calderone and Gillian have been the point people for the village in negotiations with Fenwick High School for nearly two years about Fenwick’s interest in buying the Altenheim property and constructing athletic fields and a small stadium or bleachers there.
On Monday Gillian characterized the negotiations with Fenwick as “ongoing.”
Calderone said last week that he is not ready to comment about Harris’s meeting, but he will attend, “if it fits on my schedule.”
“I’ve not had a chance to read his email yet,” Calderone said, Tuesday morning.
Harris said he would like Calderone to speak at the meeting.”He’s invited to speak at it,” Harris said. “I hope he attends. It would seem odd for him not to.”
Gillian said he plans to attend the meeting, but didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about it.
“I have not been advised by any other elected officials that they are coming to the event,” Gillian said. “If I’m asked by Commissioner Harris to come to the event then I’ll go.”
Gillian said he found out about Harris’s plan to host the meeting shortly before last week’s village council meeting and shortly before Harris’s email about the meeting was sent out.
“There should have been some discussion about it,” Gillian said.
Gillian said he could not remember another time that a village council member called for and hosted a public town hall style meeting in the village council chambers.
“I don’t recall it since I’ve been around since 1995,” Gillian said.