River Forest approves Lake and Lathrop clean-up

No timeline for when Cigar Oasis will leave site

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By Nona Tepper

River Forest village trustees approved a developer's environmental remediation plan for a parcel at Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue at a meeting May 13. Trustees approval of the developer's plan was needed before demolition and remediation of the site can begin.

"They're starting to get momentum here, which is great, so they want to begin demolition," Village Administrator Eric Palm said at the meeting.

Developer Lake and Lathrop LLC — comprised of Sedgwick Development and Keystone Ventures — plans to build a five-story, mixed-use property at the southwest corner of the intersection of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue.

Palm said the developer had resolved its tax dispute with the Cook County Assessor but that a business is still operating on the redevelopment site and that he did not have a timeline for when it would leave. Cigar Oasis is still open at 7619 Lake St.  

"There is a process ongoing in court regarding the lease and termination of that lease, so I don't want to speak on behalf of the developer or tenant certainly, but they are working that out through court right now," said Palm. 

River Forest has committed $1.9 million in set aside TIF funding for the development. At the meeting, Trustee Tom Cargie said he was surprised the vacant lot at 423 Ashland Avenue wasn't included in environmental remediation plans.

"The concern I have is that we're leaving a potentially contaminated property that isn't really remedied, it's just covered over," Cargie said. "I thought the whole point was to clean up the contaminated property."

Palm noted that Lake and Lathrop LLC is not planning on building on that piece of land. According to the developer's environmental remediation consultant, Pioneer Engineering and Environmental Services, the state's Environmental Protection Agency awarded that lot a No Further Remediation permit in February 2015. Pioneer pledged to do whatever necessary to remain compliant with the EPA.

"The plan put forth by the developer meets requirements," said Palm.  

Village President Cathy Adduci noted that adding the Ashland parcel would have cost more than what the village committed to clean the entire site.

"We didn't have $3 million, we had $1.9 [million] and that's what we used for remediation and demolition," said Adduci.

Trustees unanimously approved the plan, except for Respicio Vazquez who recused himself, citing a common law conflict of interest since he works for the law firm that represents River Forest School District 90 and Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200. 

The developer's environmental remediation consultant plans to start work in June.

The agreement between Lake and Lathrop LLC and the village said the developer must submit permits by June, start construction in December and complete construction by June 2021. If the developer misses the June deadline, it must renegotiate another redevelopment agreement with the village. If trustees vote to take back the property then, the village must reimburse the developer for demolition and environmental remediation costs.

The developer previously estimated demolition at $250,000 and the village's environmental consultant estimated soil remediation at $1.2 million, which is what reimbursement is capped at.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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