Des Plaines alderman: Don't do Rosemont any favors on rezoning
A Des Plaines alderman says the city shouldn't do any favors for the Rosemont Park District by approving a rezoning request, since the park district's attorneys tried to interfere with Des Plaines' redevelopment efforts.
New 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester also said the 4-acre piece of park district property at issue, which is located fully within the city of Des Plaines, was offered for sale to the city at an amount four times what the park district paid for it originally.
Aldermen on Monday voted 3-3 to deny the park district's request to rezone the site near Higgins and Mannheim roads from residential and limited office commercial zoning to general commercial zoning.
The zoning change would have allowed the park district to relocate a billboard that is due to be taken down with the expansion of the Jane Addams Tollway. Without the rezoning, the park district will lose revenues it collects from the billboard company.
Chester said the same attorneys who represent the park district appeared before the city council in April to oppose rezoning for the proposed $1 billion redevelopment of the O'Hare Lake office complex at 2200 E. Devon Ave., just across from the Rosemont border.
"I realize this is a favor being asked of us, but I'm just thinking if anyone is here from Rosemont, the street runs two directions," Chester said at Monday's city council meeting.
Mayor Matt Bogusz didn't take a formal vote on the zoning change but said he would have voted against it since there were no park district officials at the meeting.
Park director Karen Stephens said she was not informed of the meeting and didn't directly respond to Chester's comments Tuesday.
Park district attorneys William Ryan and Terrence McCabe, who also represent the village of Rosemont in real estate matters, didn't respond to a request for comment.
Ryan was at an April 20 city council meeting to speak on behalf of residents of the Executive Estates condo complex in Rosemont, across the street from O'Hare Lake. He said those residents oppose O'Hare Lake owner Robert Kozonis' plan to redevelop the complex with new offices, hotels, residential towers and retail spaces.
In May, the Des Plaines council approved zoning rules that pave the way for the possible development.
As to the park district property -- a triangular parcel located north of Higgins, east of Orchard Place and west of the railroad tracks -- the rejection of a zoning change means when the billboard comes down, it can't go elsewhere on the property.
Eighth Ward Alderman Mike Charewicz, chairman of the community development committee, said he didn't see a need to rezone the property since there is no redevelopment project proposed. Charewicz, Chester and Don Smith voted against the rezoning.
George Sakas, the city's director of community and economic development, said the park district acquired the land in the early 2000s through condemnation proceedings. Even though the property is in Des Plaines, it falls within the boundaries of the Rosemont Park District.
The initial plan was to use the property as a park with a walking path, Stephens said, but the park district never received a grant to fund the project. Today, it sits as open space.
Stephens said a proposed sale of the land to Des Plaines has been on the table for years, as Des Plaines has tried to redevelop its adjoining city-owned property at Mannheim and Higgins.
With respect to a possible asking price, she said, "We still have to get the money back we paid for it."