Plan for community development task force raises eyebrows in Avon Township
A proposal by Avon Township Supervisor Terry Wilke could create more ripples in a stormy political climate.
Wilke on Thursday announced his intention to form a Community Development Task Force for Avon Township to address issues like vacant homes and commercial properties, affordable housing and neighborhood beautification.
He said the initiative, which he plans to put on the Feb. 10 township board agenda for discussion, would build on work of local municipalities like Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Park to address those issues.
"The general idea is we have some buildings that are very run down," he said Friday. "That needs to be addressed."
The task force, according to Wilke, would develop a process, define the township's role, investigate potential funding sources and seek community input.
But the timing and purpose of the task force have baffled some trustees, who question whether the township should be in the property business.
"It makes absolutely no sense to us," said township Trustee Michele Bauman. "Things are not resolved yet."
The task force announcement comes during an ongoing debate over a vacant home at 320 Bellevue Drive in Round Lake Park, near the township office.
Last summer, Wilke plucked the home for $1 from a "green book" of available Lake County properties on behalf of the township. Some trustees argued he didn't have authority to buy the house without their consent.
That led to a special meeting of voters, called electors, on Jan. 13. Attendees overwhelmingly opposed the purchase and by a show of hands declared it "improper and invalid." Wilke said the directives were "not clear legally."
Electors also directed an independent counsel be hired to determine what can or should be done next. That matter also is expected to be addressed at the Feb. 10 meeting.
"I will be standing with the electors of Avon Township and will be in strong opposition to any effort by the supervisor to acquire additional properties without elector approval as required by state law," said Trustee Steven Vaughn.
Wilke envisioned the Bellevue Drive house, where work has been put on hold, to be the first example in a township revitalization program.
"I think the house was part of the impetus" for proceeding with the task force, he said Friday. "There is a lot of interest locally," he added.
Critics contend they are sometimes surprised by initiatives that surface and say Wilke is not always straightforward.
For example, Wilke said the home price was reduced to $1 because of a $28,000 grant, but no record of that could be found, according to Bauman. Wilke on Friday said the funding wasn't a grant in the legal sense but a waiver of outstanding taxes by the county because the acquisition was to be used for the public good.
Meanwhile, an informational meeting regarding the task force is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 19 at the township office, 433 E. Washington St., Round Lake Park.
Wilke said he hopes the task force will include "numerous residents" and professionals.