You wouldn’t buy a home without a home inspection.
Forest Park should not consider purchasing the multi-acre Army Reserve site on Roosevelt Road without a thorough environmental review and some sort of structural assessment of the step-up from dilapidated buildings currently on the site.
It was good news recently when the military granted an extension until Nov. 1 for Forest Park to enter a bid for the now vacant property. But the additional news that the military will not allow the village, or any other bidder, to find out what environmental hazards exist in the buildings or the extensive grounds has to be a red flag and a deal breaker.
It appears to be just that for three members of the village council — Joe Byrnes, Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero. They’ve said there can be no bid without adequate environmental review. Good for them. Common sense.
We’d go further and say there are two other gob-smacking holes in this Mayor Rory Hoskins-led process. We believe this critical property has to produce taxes for Forest Park. Property taxes. Sales taxes. Liquor taxes. Hotel taxes. Some sort of tax income for the financially pinched village. And that means the entire parcel cannot be given over to use by the village as a new municipal center.
Also, how about some sort of architectural and financial assessment of just how viable the current non-descript buildings on the site would function as a village hall, police and fire department, and public works facility. How much — ballpark — would it cost to convert the buildings to new uses? What would be the gain financially if Forest Park sold off the properties which currently house its workforce?
Finally, and perhaps most frustratingly, just what is this weird military swap meet that does not allow Forest Park to simply bid to buy this local property? Instead the village could be gifted with the property if it ponies up an untold amount of money to invest in a notable water-related infrastructure project at the military’s Fort Sheridan property in the north suburbs.
Here we need Hoskins to open up about what he knows. The mayor is inclined to hold information close to the vest. Won’t work here, Mayor. Committing Forest Park taxpayers to pay for what — sewers, retention ponds, fountains? — without explaining the scope and cost of a potential obligation, is not going to fly. Not with a majority of the village council, the Forest Park Review or with citizens.
A thorough public presentation of all phases of this bold concept has to happen. Sooner than later. The mayor should look at this as an opportunity, not an intrusion on his limited authority. Sell the plan. Make the case. Earn public buy-in.
And in the meantime, tell the military there will be no forward movement until the site is fully open to environmental review.