Western Springs Village Attorney Michael Jurusik and Board of Trustees President Bill Rodeghier told a packed on Monday evening that the organization Openlands and its local backers should not expect special treatment or "premature" public hearings in their as historically- and ecologically-significant parkland.
Jurusik and Rodeghier repeatedly stated that the Board cannot and will not take any action or schedule any hearings—and has no obligation to involve the public—until Openlands has completed their proposal to the satisfaction of the Village Code, which Jurusik said the organization has not yet done.
“Not everybody that calls the Village and inquires about something immediately gets discussed in the public,” Jurusik said. “The reality is, we have an incomplete submittal at this time… Once it’s complete, it will certainly get an airing in a number of public [arenas.]”
In contrast, petitioners like Village residents Sharon Cloghessy and Paul Karas said the Village is asking for too much, and appealed that the not-for-profit’s bid could not survive the submission process if held to the same onerous bureaucratic and financial burdens placed upon ordinary purchasing offers. They also argued that without public interest the proposal’s grassroots would be quickly squashed. (For instance, Openlands has requested a waiver from the nearly $60,000 deposit required in any application.)
“If Openlands has to conform with the Village Code, the project is going to die,” Karas warned, adding that the Village was demanding far too much up-front detail before opening a public forum on the idea. “We need dialogue so that people can hear about this before Openlands throws up their hands—and a great opportunity, as some see it, just fades away because they can’t afford to just keep spending money.
“At this point, it’s about the spirit of the Code as opposed to the letter of the Code.”
But President Rodeghier, while calling the Openlands concept noble, worthwhile and still very much plausible, disagreed on this.
“If you start changing the rules and regulations for one person, you’re just self-defeating; you open the door to, ‘you did it for Openlands, why can’t you cut the requirements for an application to build or to do something else?” Rodeghier said.
The Board explained that there are myriad difficulties in navigating the legal and financial minefield that Timber Trails has become since original purchaser and developer Dartmoor Homes foreclosed on the former golf course in 2010. The in-place 2005 annexation agreement lays out very specific infrastructure-building requirements for supporting both Unit II and the semi-developed eastern Unit I. Additionally, the majority of $55 million issued in annexation-connected bonds is secured by Timber Trails land.
And Openlands is hardly the only organization interested in buying Timber Trails; new offers are floated regularly. From the Board’s point of view—their central mission being to protect the Village—an ideal solution would neatly tie up all loose ends without performing the expensive, headache-inducing legal backtracking surgery required by a proposal like Openlands’. (“There isn’t a clean ‘reset button,’” Jurusik said.)
This did not stop emotional appeals like that given by Lisa Kouba, a 23-year resident and longtime advocate for keeping development out of Timber Trails, who cited a 1999 Cook County Land Use Plan that explicitly calls for acquiring privately-owned open space in the congested county.
“This is a beautiful jewel-box of a community, and there is this opportunity that is out there that reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt faced with Yellowstone,” Kouba said. “We have this pristine area that could be this part of Western Springs now… without the maintenance headaches that plagued us when we were looking at it from the Park District standpoint.”
A slightly different and unique perspective came from Ed Fitzpatrick, a Timber Trails resident who said he supports Openlands’ vision, but as a Unit I landowner was going to need some “uncertainties” answered about the not-for-profit.
“They’re not the only party that has to be listened to,” Fitzpatrick said. “We bought land, properties, all of us, paid a large amount of money, bought into a planned community, and a series of things that have happened over the last four or five years has depreciated our property significantly, to where it’s proven difficult to sell… We’re sitting here with a void as to what’s going to go in there.”
The Board did agree to collect an e-mail list of concerned residents (about 30 signed up) and to better-publicize their correspondence with Openlands, but offered no further promises besides encouraging Openlands to fulfill the Code-mandated requirements for a purchasing proposal.
Fluoride complainants extract pledge of more data
A string of concern over the potentially-negative influence of fluoride in Village drinking water has been moving through Western Springs in recent weeks with the growing knowledge that contains 2.1 mg/L fluoride, enough to potentially cause fluorosis in children.
But while this knowledge has some residents purchasing home water filters, others have also begun to suggest that even after reverse-osmosis has become the Village water treatment du jour, fluorine should not be used as a post-treatment additive.
“In addition to the fluorisis concerns, there’s thyroid problems, kidney problems, lower IQs, bone issues that are all associated with ingesting fluoride,” said resident Marcy Rossi, who herself has a thyroid condition, holding a six-page list of communities that no longer treat water with a fluoride additive. “I would just ask what the process would be to look into this further before we start adding.”
Village Director of Municipal Services Matt Supert said that current long-term plans for water treatment do still involve re-fluorinating treated water post-blend to match USDA-recommended standards, but also that he and the Village were open to reconsidering.
“We can certainly look at other studies,” Supert said.
Fellow resident Annie Tandy also stepped forward to request that water-content reports be more timely, rationalizing that such data is of little use a year after the fact.
“I don’t think that I want to see the numbers for 2012 and 2013 after we already drank the water. We want to see the current information,” Tandy said. “Current data should be available to the public.”
While Supert and head of the Public Works and Water Committee Trustee Suzanne Glowiak noted that the regular testing that Public Works performs is less thorough than the more-expensive annual tests, they did also offer to begin releasing what data is available from the regular testing and comparing it against the expected norm.