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As chair of the village’s Ad Hoc Cultural Park Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a couple of items in response to Gene Armstrong’s July 29 letter to the editor, “About that Altenheim property …,” representing the Concerned Van Buren Citizens.

Mr. Armstrong’s request for the village to create a task force to examine the Altenheim property has already been done once.  The Cultural Park Committee was commissioned by the Mayor and village council in 2017 and charged with vetting the Cultural Park “Concept” and to determine alternatives for the land. The members were appointed by the Mayor and council and represented citizens across the village, including a member who lives in the Residences of the Grove. From 2017-2018 the Forest Park Ad Hoc Cultural Park Committee met 16 times. All of the meetings were open to the public for their input.

The committee was instructed by the council to vet whether a music venue was a good fit for Forest Park. After listening to the community, the committee made drastic alterations to the original Cultural Park Concept. The final recommendation centered on keeping the south 9 acres of Altenheim as green space and moving the community activities of the Grove (which the village had outgrown) to the south Altenheim property.  To see some specifics on what was recommended to the village council, please visit the Cultural Park Forest Park Facebook page. 

The Van Buren Citizen group has stated that they have met with the Mayor and Commissioner Voogd. I do not have any knowledge of what the Mayor and Commissioner discussed with them; however, the Mayor has told me that no decisions will be made until the buildings have been torn down. 

The village has neither endorsed nor rejected the Ad Hoc Cultural Park Committee’s written recommendations. Our committee expects that after the buildings have been torn down, they will be allowed to make a formal presentation to the village council. At that time, the council can make a decision on the committee’s recommendations or once again open up the process for gathering new ideas for the property.

The pending decision whether to keep the south Altenheim as green space or to build more condominiums and townhouses is critical to the future of the village and all of its residents. Once the land is gone, it is gone forever.

Green space is vital to a healthy community. Monetary concerns are very important but not without careful planning and consideration of this valuable asset, which can never be replaced.

Ralph DiFebo

Chair of the Forest Park Ad Hoc Altenheim Committee