River Forest takes developer to court

Paris being forced to finish or remove back deck

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By Maria Maxham

Staff Reporter

The River Forest home of Marty Paris, president and founder of Sedgwick Development, which is involved in the proposed development at Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue, has come under fire by the village of River Forest, which will pursue the issue in circuit court, according to Village Administrator Eric Palm.

Palm, who described the situation as a code enforcement issue, said that following the December 2019 expiration of the permit for an unfinished deck with a fireplace on the back of the house at 711 Park Ave., the village is taking action to force Paris and wife Kerry Paris, who is also listed as homeowner, to either complete the project or tear down and remove the structure.

This follows years of inaction by Paris, son of former village president Frank Paris, who was served with a stop work order by the village in 2016 when he began the house project without a permit. Eventually a permit was granted to Paris, but the work was never completed.

Palm said the village will be officially giving the Parises paperwork and a notice of intent to go to court this week, after which the village must wait 15 days to actually file with the court. The goal, said Palm, is for the judge to compel the homeowner to finish or remove the structure.

If a homeowner fails to comply, the village can be granted a demolition order and can hire a contractor to take down the structure. In such cases, explained Palm, a lien can be put on the property so the village can recoup the expense of demolition.

"We need to protect the village's interest," said Palm. "In situations where, for example, an entire structure is deemed unsafe, the village can be granted the right to hire a contractor and take it down." 

Paris is the president and founder of Sedgwick Development, which, along with Keystone Ventures, formed Lake Lathrop Partners LLC, the group that has created frustration for the village board by drawing out the mixed-use project at Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue.

The most recent conflict occurred when Lake and Lathrop Partners LLC asked for an extension on the project in October. It was granted by the village but extended the permit application deadline from June 17 to Dec. 15, 2019, which pushed out dates for breaking ground and, ultimately, project completion. Trustee Patty Henek voted against that extension, and Trustee Tom Cargie said it was the last time he would vote for an extension for this project. 

"It seems like a continuous process of delays," said Cargie at that time. "There will be no more excuses moving forward."

In December 2019 Lake and Lathrop LLC submitted a new set of project plans, which reduced the building height from five stories to four and from 33 condominiums to 22. Lake and Lathrop LLC also sent the necessary reports and documents to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that soil remediation is completed.

If the plans are approved by the architectural engineering firm outsourced by the village, the permit will be given to Lake and Lathrop LLC around May, and the developer will have 15 months to complete the project. 

A prior issue with Lake and Lathrop LLC related to the village reluctantly agreeing to a "clawback" provision in March, in which Lake and Lathrop LLC would be reimbursed by the village for demolition and environmental remediation if the village ultimately voted to take back the property. At that time, Trustee Henek, who voted against the provision, stated during the meeting that there seemed to be a precedent of extending village deadlines for this developer.

"What I struggle with, in terms of that decision, is how often do we keep doing that before we decide we have to cut ties and be done and move on?" Henek asked at the meeting. 

 "Say in a year it falls apart," she added. "Now we've covered all the costs incurred. We've not only done that, we've also lost a year's time to try and develop the property differently."

Trustee Susan Conti, who voted in favor of the clawback provision at that March meeting, said she wanted to see the Lake and Lathrop project move forward. "I think the prevailing feeling around the board table is [a lack of] confidence in the developer, and if we are going to have to execute the clawback, which none of us want to do," she said.

Neither Paris nor trustee Henek responded to requests for an interview.

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