I am writing to express concerns regarding the actions of the Elmhurst Zoning Commission during its open meeting of Jan. 30. This meeting was the public's opportunity to comment on the application for zoning variances for the controversial Addison Street parking garage.
Tamara Brenner, a resident opposing the garage, presented a detailed critique of the parking study commissioned by the city. Rather than listen to her complete analysis, a commissioner asked if her work had been "peer reviewed". Later Ms. Brenner was challenged by the commission's acting attorney to demonstrate her status as an "expert witness."
It is undemocratic and contrary to the Illinois Open Meetings Act to place limits on who may participate in an open meeting and what they may present. The commission cannot require that critiques be offered only by "experts" or pursuant to a peer reviewed study. They are obligated to consider all input but may value it based on their assessment of its quality.
The commission chose to cut off Ms. Brenner's presentation, as well as that of another garage opponent. Brevity is important but any time limits should be announced in advance, expansive enough to allow for substantive input and applied evenhandedly.
Ms. Brenner has done us all a service by identifying flaws in the needs analysis supporting the garage's construction. Given the amount of concern about the project, and the millions of dollars of taxpayer money at stake, it's important that the Zoning Commission keep an open mind rather than give any impression that hearings may be a charade.
The next meeting on the Addison parking garage application will be on Feb. 13. At that meeting I hope that the commissioners conduct themselves in a manner consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.