Forest Park is about to appoint a new official advisory committee to eventually recommend just what the village ought to do with the precious open space it has long owned at the Altenheim.
Consider us skeptical. The village government, in a rare bold move, acquired this site 21 years ago to ward off its sale to likely housing developers. It then took 20 years to finally demolish and remediate the site of multiple derelict buildings on the property. And now, as finally the multimillion-dollar loan used to acquire the site is paid off, there is another committee coming into formation.
We take some heart that the two village commissioners seemingly driving this unexpected action are Jessica Voogd and Maria Maxham. It is unusual in Forest Park village government to see commissioners take semi-independent action and we applaud them for taking this on. Further, they are pledging the process will be “open, transparent and successful.”
That would be new.
Planning for the use of this treasure has been some peculiar hot potato in town for years. A committee was formed and then aggressively ignored. One town hall was held by a rogue commissioner and then aggressively ignored. Suggestions of further public discussions have been rejected by the current and former mayor.
That’s why we’re skeptical.
Healthy that, in announcing their plans to seek applicants for this new committee, Voogd and Maxham (a former editor of the Review) say they want the group to gather up all the previous planning and to consider it as part of the new study. But then at some fairly early point, this committee is going to need basic direction only the mayor and village council can provide.
Specifically, is the village open to, or even eager to, sell off a portion of the site for mixed-use development? If that is a given, and it might reasonably be, let’s get that on the table early. Is the village open to partnering on this project with the park district? That entity is proving itself to be capable in building out active recreation centers. Could they work to create a more passive park setting, too?
Good for these two commissioners for stepping up. Let’s see who applies and who they recruit to serve on this critical committee.
We want our skepticism to be proven wrong.