Less Heat More Light On Comcast Building Hearings

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By John Hubbuch

I must admit that I haven't been to, nor plan to attend any of the Oak Park Plan Commission's hearings on the proposal to convert the abandoned Comcast Building to low-income housing. I go to bed around 8PM so evening meetings don't work for me. In addition, I don't live in the neighborhood, and I don't feel that strongly one way or another about low-income housing. But I am interested in how people, and in particular the enlightened citizens of Oak Park, resolve their differences when there are strong feelings on both sides of an issue.

Now I get it that democracy requires an opportunity for all sides to blow of steam in the hopes that their voice will be heard. So the Plan Commission holds a bunch of meetings and everybody's blood pressure spikes for a couple of hours. Partisans are seldom very objective, and their evidence is often slanted and biased.

I previously noted that  I don't have a dog in this fight so my heart and mind are pure. With that in mind, may I suggest that the Plan Commision gather this information if not for itself then for everyone that would like to be a little more informed on the issue.                        

First, get a commercial real estate man like Anthony Shaker or David King to advise what's the likely future for this property if it isn't converted to low-income housing? Will it sit empty for 10 years? What other buyers might find it attractive? Hooters? Sorry. Just kidding.                   

Then let's get the Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar over and tell about projected real estate values and taxes and all the other stuff assessor's talk about. And then maybe the directors of a couple of low-income projects in the Chicago area who can tell us about their experiences on eligibility, stability, crime, whatever. A sight visit could perhaps be arranged.                  

Finally, I'm sure we could get some professor from one of the many universities in the third largest city in America who's an expert on the subject to opine.  He could tells us what he has learned after spending his whole lifetime studying the subject.                                        

The more independent information and expert opinion we get the better. I suspect the Commission is probably doing this anyway, but I just wanted to be sure.                       

One final thing. Yesterday I was surprised that Regis Philbin retired. I thought he was dead.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: January 24th, 2011 7:12 AM

Plan Com. must Demand This. It is role of them to evaluate. Look, John has said, the planners of this project have been at this for 3 YEARS - and have lined this up. The Deck is stacked - so the Commission needs to ASK for the FACTS - Assessor, DK group etc. The Plan group need to ask - WHY is this needed - show how and why? Also, what OTHER projects could go there to Develop that area. Oh - The Village Staff - FAGETABOUT it! They want this project there. The FiX is in.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 6:16 PM

I think you are on the mark re Plan Com's role --collect facts and issue recommendations. The three years in the making project gets a two month review. Neither the proposal nor staff review contained the objectivity expected from govt agencies(OPHA & staff). There was no analysis. Need for senior and mixed housing were not considered. Effective govt has a high level of community, communication, due diligence, and accountability. All are lacking on this project. So the residents must brawl

OP Mom  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 3:53 PM

Mr. Hubbach, I like the things you are suggesting and would hope that someone involved in this..maybe the village...would do what you're suggesting. I believe the opposition is doing their homework and providing important thoughtstarters. Still though, because they are the opposition, the supporters will continue to throw accusations of NIMBY or prejudice their way.

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 6:09 PM

I guess I am confused as to just what the Plan Commission is supposed to be doing? I thought inter alia it was to gather facts and issue a recommendation on whether the Village should grant zoning variances. I could be wrong. I sure hope something intelligible and significant comes out of all this sound and fury.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 3:26 PM

Don't blame the Plan Com is their review process. It's good. Don't suggest that the Plan commission do research and reach out to subject experts. The Plan Commission is a group of volunteers who have full time jobs. They also do not a budget for research, experts, etc. All of the suggestions made point to the village staff. It is their responsibility to vet objectively all proposals. Their job is not to poll the community leaders on which way to go and issue boilerplate.


Posted: January 22nd, 2011 1:52 PM

Oy. Why would anyone convert anything? Didn't the Big Meltdown of '08 create a whole new inventory of foreclosed housing stock out there? Let these folks put some sweat equity to improve what we're already stuck with.

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