Neighbors go to bat for resident as oversized garage door permitted in Hickory

  • Written by Kelly White

  A variance request passed by a 6-1 vote Thursday night allows for a 10-foot tall garage door to remain standing in Hickory Hills, although the city ordinance only permits garages with a maximum of eight-foot garage doors.
  Yanena Staszec, 9225 85th Court, attended the Sept. 26th City Council Meeting where she pleaded with Mayor Mike Howley and city officials to allow her newly remodeled garage to be left alone.
  “We are doing extensive remodeling on our home and we now have a 10-foot garage door, in addition to a two-car garage,” Staszec said at that meeting. “The work has already been done to the garage. We were not aware of the ordinance before the remodeling. If we have to change it, it will be difficult, because the work has already been done.”
  Staszec added the heightened garage door is to accompany her husband’s work vehicle, a van measuring nine feet in height. “We feel it is better to park the van in the garage rather than out on the street or in our driveway,” she said. She added neighbors might complain more about a commercial vehicle parked out on the public street or in her driveway rather than in her garage.
  Building Commissioner, John Moirano, agreed with Staszec, saying: “It is better having the van in the garage rather than parked outside. You see so many of these work vans nowadays, and they are often too tall to fit in standard size garages. My only suggestion would be to eventually change the city ordinance to allow nine foot doors instead of eight, instead of just making one exception.”
  Alderman John Szeszycki felt changing the ordinance to permit nine-foot garage doors with a 900-foot interior would be necessary in order to prevent future exemptions for variance requests in similar cases as Staszec’s.
  “If you just change it for one person, people are going to point out the fact that it was allowed for that one person and expect the same result,” he said.
  Although Howley stated the city ordinance does not allow garage doors to stand at that height, no vote could be made at the September meeting. Alderman Deborah Ferrero noted she has polled Staszec’s surrounding neighbors and has not had one complaint about the heightened garage doors. Staszec commented she has also asked surrounding neighbors whether or not the size of the garage was an issue and said she has not received any negative feedback.
  Staszec’s neighbor, Dan Reilly, addressed the city council Thursday night, in support of the garage staying as-is.
  “I live directly north of her home and I am here to be the self-appointed spokesperson for all of our neighbors,” Reilly said. “The owners of the home are doing nothing but acting in good faith and they have made several renovations to improve the overall value of their home, which will improve the property value of the surrounding homes in the area.”
  Reilly added he has also spoke with other neighbors who agree with his viewpoints and no one living on the same block as Staszek has any complaint with the heightened garage door. “Before their renovation, the garage was in very poor condition, if anything bringing down the value of the neighborhood, but now that renovation is complete the garage, even exceeding its regulated size, looks great,” he added.
  Ferrero made a motion to permit Staszec’s garage door to remain as-is at 10 feet but not to exceed 10 feet. “If there are no complaints from surrounding neighbors with the size of the garage door, we should let it stay,” she said.
  Szeszycki stood his ground, stating the ordinance should be changed to permit nine-foot garage doors, and Staszec should have to alter her existing door to match the city ordinance. He was overruled in the 6-1 vote among the council.

Heights faces certainty of losing Dominick’s

  • Written by Tim Hadac

What future will bring, however, still unclear

  Unease and uncertainty abound at 127th and Ridgeland in the wake of last week’s announcement that Safeway will close all 72 Chicago-area Dominick’s stores within the next few months.
  “This is not a good time to be unemployed, and I have to say I’m scared,” said Dave, one of several Dominick’s employees who spoke only on color 2cols page1 DR Dominicksexternalshot 101713Dominick’s has anchored the Indian Trails shopping center at 127th and Ridgeland for more than 30 years. A Dominick’s gas station was added about a decade ago. Photo by Tim Hadac.condition of full or partial anonymity. “Over the years, there have been so many rumors [about Dominick’s stores closing], we’ve learned to live with that and almost ignore it. So in that light, this [announcement] hit us like a bomb.”
  The Palos Heights Dominick’s had dodged bullets in the past.
  In 2004 Safeway shut a dozen Dominick’s, including its Oak Forest store on 159th Street and an Oak Lawn store near 111th and Cicero.
  In 2007, doors were closed at 14 Dominick’s, including the Crestwood store near 131st and Cicero and the Bridgeview unit at 89th and Harlem.
  In 2011, Safeway closed the Dominick’s in Orland Park, near 151st and La Grange Road.
  “I’ve worked at Dominick’s for years, and I’m not looking forward to losing all my seniority and starting at the bottom of the ladder in some non-union grocery store — if I get a job, that is,” added another employee at the store. “This is not the type of news I was hoping for as we head towards Christmas.”
  The dozens of employees at the store — long represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 881 — have been working without a new contract for a year, according to Local 881 President Ronald E. Powell.
  While four Dominick’s stores — including the one on Bell Road in Homer Glen — are being purchased by Jewel/Osco, most locations are question marks at the moment.
  Regarding the Palos Heights unit and other stores with uncertain futures, Powell said, “We don’t know yet the status of those stores. But once we know who the new owners are, Local 881 will sit down and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that will be fair to the new employers and importantly, will fairly compensate the employees who will be charged with building the business.”
  Another Palos Heights Dominick’s employee called Powell’s prediction “posturing” and “cold comfort.”
  “If Aldi or Food4Less or some joe-blow warehouse store comes in here, we won’t even be in a union,” said the staffer as he gathered shopping carts in the parking lot. “I don’t think the union has done much for us — at least not that I can see.”
  Customers expressed disappointment and even anger with Safeway’s decision.
  “I’ve shopped at Dominick’s for 30 years. I rely on this place. I enjoy shopping here on Saturdays. This is my store,” said Palos Heights resident Joan Henkel. Ever since Safeway took over [in 1998], they’ve done nothing but tinker and mess things up.
  “They got rid of the Dominick’s [house] brands and brought in new items that nobody wanted,” she continued. “Two years ago, they completely mishandled the Just 4 U coupon program. Then there was that scandal where [coupon blogger] Jill Cataldo found all the outdated food sitting on shelves at Dominick’s. The only thing that stayed the same was the friendliness of the workers — and sadly, they’re the ones who will suffer most.”
  Echoing the assertion was Bill Davies of Worth. “[Dominick’s] used to have a slogan that ‘Our store is your store.’ I guess we learned that’s nothing but an empty advertising jingle. Where will I shop [after the store closes]? I have no idea,” he said.
  Beyond the fate of the employees and the convenience of grocery shoppers, the coming shutdown poses yet another dilemma for the Indian Trails shopping center, already struggling in a continued sluggish economy and pocked with vacant storefronts and the black eye of a still-shuttered Bakers Square restaurant on a high-visibility outlot.
  Palos Heights officials say they are on top of the situation.
  “We have already spoken with Dominick’s corporate [officials], and we will work with them to market the property,” said Palos Heights City Administrator Dan Nisavic. “We will also do some marketing ourselves. It’s early [in the process], but we are moving forward.”
  Nisavic predicted that the Dominick’s store and gas station will be sold off separately. He added that the impact of the loss of sales tax revenue from Dominick’s will not be felt until months into 2014. Last year Alderman Jack Clifford said Dominick’s was in the top four among sales tax generators in the city.
  Some customers tried to find a silver lining in the cloud. “It’s not good that we’re losing Dominick’s, but I don’t think everyone needs to be so glum,” said Patti Quasny of Palos Park. “Hopefully, this is an opportunity to get an upgrade. I hope the people in charge [in Palos Heights] get on the phone with Mariano’s or some other top-quality company and get them in here. It can be done, I think.”

Village to pass Worth Days off to park district

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The village of Worth wants to get out of the Worth Days business.
  Trustees on Tuesday night agreed that the Worth Park District is better suited to sponsor the annual festival.
  “I’ll contact (Park District Director) Carlo (Capalbo) and let him know that that’s the direction the village wants to go,” Mayor Mary Werner told trustees.
  Werner said she met with Capalbo about one month ago, and the park district is open to taking over Worth Days.
  The annual four-day festival has been held for nearly six decades, but trustees believe the work required to make the event a success requires too much on the part of village employees.
  “I think it’s time for the village to get out of the Worth Days business,” Trustee Mary Rhein said.
  Trustee Colleen McElroy agreed and said the park district is better equipped to hold the festival.
  “They’re in the business of recreation,” McElroy said.
  Currently, the park district has a role in the festival running the children’s attractions, McElroy said.
  The fest has a $70,000 budget and has broken even for the past three years, Werner said. The 2013 fest is expected to do the same, she said. The financials for this year’s fest have not yet been released.
  “I feel pretty confident the village broke even again,” she said.
  Turning the festival over to the park district does not mean the village won’t stay involved. Instead, village officials and employees will continue to volunteer at the event, McElroy said.
  The 2014 edition of the festival will be especially significant as it will be part of the village’s 100th anniversary celebration, Werner said.
  The village is planning a series of events throughout the year to celebrate its centennial, similar to neighboring Chicago Ridge, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014.

Hot hoops topic in Oak Lawn to be delayed by park board until November

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Oak Lawn residents who support the removal of basketball nets at Little Wolfe Park will have to wait until next month to voice their concerns to the park board.
  Park commissioners delayed until their Nov. 11 meeting a decision on the controversial issue to allow more time to examine activity at the park at 107th Street and Laramie Avenue.
  “We’ve been doing a lot of research into what’s come up,” Commissioner Mary Margaret Wallace said.
  The investigation includes park district staffers passing by the park several times each day to track who’s using the facilities, including the basketball courts, Wallace said.
  Commissioners also are keeping an eye on the park, the site of an Aug. 14 fight that led to two arrests.
  “It’s hard to get a correct sampling because kids are back in school,” Wallace said.
  The fight took place near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School.
  Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
  There have not been additional incidents at the park since the Aug. 14 fight. Police have significantly stepped up patrols at the park since the incident, Police Chief Mike Murray said.
  The issue gained momentum at the park board’s September meeting when Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan called on the park board to remove the two hoops at Little Wolfe.
  Quinlan, who lives near the park, was joined at the meeting by about 30 of her neighbors, many who supported the proposal.
  She told commissioners that the fight was not an isolated incident. She said the community dealt throughout the summer with inappropriate behavior. The poor conduct led other patrons, such as parents with young children, to avoid the park, she said.
  Quinlan’s comments that many of the basketball players were from outside the community led some to brand her a racist, an accusation she denies.
  Last week, the issue was discussed on a Chicago talk radio station after stories appeared in other Chicago media outlets. Quinlan refused the radio station’s request to appear on the show.
  Quinlan said she continues to receive calls and emails about the issue, and has referred residents with questions and concerns to the park district.
  Wallace said a petition to lower the hoops to eight feet to accommodate young children was not feasible due to cost.
  But she said the district should consider other options to make the park more attractive. Among them are removing one hoop, which would put an end to full-court basketball games, and adding a swing set for toddlers in order to attract families with young children.
  Attracting more people to the park might help lessen inappropriate activity, Wallace said.
  District officials said they were unaware of problems at the park other than the Aug. 14 fight until Quinlan raised the issue.
  Park Board President Sue Murphy added that the district cannot prevent people from using its facilities.
  “Parks are not private property,” she said. “This is not a gated community. People can play where they want in public places.”

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook - Oak Lawn bosses learn that waving runners home is no breeze

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


COLOR - Jeff  It is too easy to poke fun here.
  Way, way too easy.
  When Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and her clerk Jane Quinlan volunteered to coach third base at Saturday’s first Battle of the Burbs charity softball game and one of their decisions almost maimed another mayor, the columnist in me had jokes filling throughout my head.
  There was plenty of fodder for comparing that decision to the decisions they make to run their town. All in good fun, of course.
  But then I started thinking about the one time I had to coach third base for my son’s Orland Youth Association game and some of the conversations I’ve had in 2003 and 2004 with Cub third base coach Wendell Kim (who some Cubs fans will say was the worst third base coach ever) and all jokes are off.
  Setting the Saturday night scene, the Battle of the Burbs was a 16-inch softball game between area mayors (they called themselves the BigHitters) and area police and fire chiefs (they called themselves GunSmoke) at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. The chiefs won, Lawn Clerk Jane Quinlan and Mayor Sandra Bury almost got Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg injured by sending him home during Saturday night’s Battle in the Burbs. They learned that coaching third base is no easy job. Photo by Jeff Vorva
  Bury and Quinlan, citing that they weren’t the best athletes around, volunteered to coach third base and if enthusiasm were the criteria, these two could be in the hall of fame.
  With runners at first and second in the first inning, one of the mayors got a clean hit and the runners were off to the races.
  The dynamic duo in the third base box windmilled their arms and cheered as Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin raced home with a run.
  Then the dangerous duo waved home Harvey mayor Eric Kellogg.
  Uh, oh.
  The ball came in to the catcher while Kellogg was trapped between third and home. He put on the brakes to retreat back to third and slipped and fell. He got up and ran out of the base path to avoid a tag and was ruled out.
  This is a guy who was more athletic than most of the mayors as evidenced by him doing a bunch of pushups near the third base dugout the following inning. A tough guy.
  Lucky for the third base coaches that it wasn’t one of the other brittle-boned bosses who took the tumble or there could have been an ambulance called in. Broken hips were waiting to happen.
  What some people fail to realize is that the job of a third base coach can be pretty stressful.
  Many years ago, I was called into duty for my son’s Orland Youth Association playoff game and let me tell you that it’s a lot easier to coach third base from the press box or the stands than it is from the third base box. I don’t remember making any big mistakes because I always assumed correctly that these kids were not good enough to throw and catch the ball so I was safe there.
  But when I did hold up a stop sign and a kid ran through it and was easily safe at home, I felt bad that a kid who hadn’t turned 10 had better sense than I did.
  That brings us to the man known as “Wavin’ Wendell Kim. He may not be as unpopular to Cubs fans as Steve Bartman in that era, but he’s right up there.
  Kim used to tell me about how much homework and research he had to do on opposing outfielders and knowing his own players’ health to make a bang-bang, split-second decision. And yes, sometimes he would get it wrong for all the world to see.
  “Certain things you can’t control,” he said during a one-on-one interview with me for a feature for what was once known as the Daily Southtown in 2004. “If a runner makes a wide turn and I’ve already sent him from second base — it’s too late. If he makes a sharp turn, he makes it by two steps. It’s not all up to me. I can just send him because I know the speed of the guy. But if he makes a wide turn, that’s tough. You’re losing two or three steps. That could cost you the game.’’
  You need thick skin to be a third base coach.
  “I’ve already had a .38 (caliber gun) to my head,’’ the 53-year-old Kim told the media after he gaffed during a game against the White Sox and referring to an incident when he was in his 20s and a group of thugs thought he had given them up to the police. “That’s worse than anything I’ve ever known. This is still a game.’’
  So, Bury and Quinlan deserve a salute for their work at third base and let’s give thanks that Kellogg’s bones didn’t turn into Rice Krispies.

Better Battle ahead
  Battle in the Burbs raised about $4,000 for Special Olympics and the event drew roughly 300 people.

  Officials were happy with those numbers because they admitted they hastily put this event together in three weeks. They said that next year, with better planning, there should be more participants, more fans and, more important, more dough going into the charity coffers.

Jiggles and Jerry
  My favorite excerpt from a press release this week comes from our pals at Advocate Children’s Hospital. Complete with fun puns:
  “Witches, goblins and ghouls will invade the Zhou B. Art Center in Chicago at 6 p.m. Saturday when Advocate Children’s Hospital hosts its 15th annual Hearts for Hope Halloween Bash.

  In fact, the ‘spooktacular’ night will be anything but ‘bash’ful as guests arrive decked out in their most creative costumes and evening attire to raise funds for the growth and expansion of Advocate Children’s Hospital — Oak Lawn. The event promises to be a scream, organizers say.
  The evening of tricks-and-treats will include special guest emcee Jerry Taft, meteorologist for ABC-7 Chicago.
  Partygoers will glide, bump and jiggle throughout the night to music by the Ron Bedel Orchestra, which guarantees to get guests on the dance floor, grooving to the variety of musical genres the band performs…”
  It’s been awhile — maybe even never — since I saw anyone gliding, bumping and jiggling all night. But tickets for this bad boy are 225 bones (see, I can do the Halloween puns, too) apiece so there better be a lot of jiggling going on for that kind of scratch.
  Visit for more of the gory details.