Hickory Hills Zoning Board approves development on old Sabre Room property

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

mike pryal photo 10-20

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Mike Pryal (at right) was among the Hickory Hills residents who got a chance to peruse development plans for the Sabre Room property at a community meeting on Oct. 12.

Following a public hearing on Monday night, the Hickory Hills Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve a zoning variance requested for a proposed mixed-use development on the site of the Sabre Room property at 8900 W. 95th St.

The final decision on the development, called Sabre Woods, is up to the City Council, which will consider it at its Nov. 10 meeting.

Hickory Hills residents had a chance to meet the property owners and development team, and ask questions about their plans, at two community meetings held Oct. 12at St. Patricia Parish Center.

“We’re very excited about this. We’re going to miss the Sabre Room, but we’re looking forward to something new. The name will live on as Sabre Woods” said developer Chip Cornelius.

“There is a tremendous amount of heritage there. Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby were among the people who performed at the Sabre Room. But, the economy, the health of the family took its toll and the decision was made to close,” said Jim Koziarz, representing the family of Arthur and Marie Muzzarelli, who founded the Sabre Room in 1949.

“We’re here to look forward. We made a decision to develop the 30-acre site in a comprehensive way, rather than hodgepodge. We developed this master plan with three primary components,” said developer Jim Louthen, president of Re-Town.

The senior living component, referred to Sabre Woods Senior Village, would include 20 single-family ranch homes, as many as 84 senior apartments and 120 assisted living units.

Louthen described it as “sophisticated senior housing.”

“We know there is a need for assisted living and going along with that is memory care,” he said.

Pricing for the senior residences will be market-driven, Louthen said.

The retail component, being called the “Shops of Sabre Woods,” will be facing 95th Street. No decisions have been made about exactly which businesses would be going in there.

“It is still early but we’ve set the bar very high as far as the standard of retail that we’re looking for,” Louthen said. “A very modern big-box store could fit right.”

The third, “civic component” of the property includes the possibility of donating a piece of the property for a civic building in the wooded, northwest corner of the property.

“We really believe in community,” said Louthen. He described it as a public-private partnership, but Mayor Mike Howley said afterward that the city has not been asked to come up with any money for the project yet.

Howley also pointed out that the property is currently zoned for residential, so if this proposal had not come along, a residential developer would have needed no variance to build a big subdivision that could result in overcrowded schools.

When flooding concerns were raised by area residents, Louthen said, “We know there were issues with flooding in the past. That will all be taken care of. This new plan accommodates drainage; we wouldn’t get a permit without it. We have to calculate the amount of rain that will fall and provide space for that,” noting that the site plans include several retention ponds. “We think that it is economically feasible, will generate jobs and is marketable and fits into the fabric and goals of Hickory Hills.”

“It’s a big piece of property, I think the development will be good for the community,” said Mike Pryal, after looking over the plans. Residents were invited to submit suggestions about the project. Pryal said his only concern was attracting the right businesses that will do well.

“We need some nice restaurants. We have three main retail strips in Hickory Hills, and there are already a lot of vacancies,” he said.

Chicago Ridge is making progress in its war against rats

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge officials are seeing some signs of success with their efforts over the past month to deal with a burgeoning rat population.

The first indication that the situation is improving was the announcement made at a rather uneventful Village Board meeting on Tuesday that Royal Palace banquet hall was cleared to reopen, after cleaning up a rat problem inside the building. The banquet hall at 6254 W. 111th St had been closed since early September, when an inspection found rat problems in the basement.

But on Tuesday, newly hired health inspector Peter Gianakas told the board that the facility passed the latest inspection with a 98 percent score.

“We want them to reopen as soon as possible and start making money again,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.

The rat problem “is abating” village-wide, said Tokar afterward. In addition to the baiting done by Guardian Pest Control, he said the new policy begun in September of placing dry ice in rodent burrows is working. As an example, he pointed to the Shell gas station property at 6358 W. 111th St., where 30 burrows were found in September. But over the weeks since the dry ice has been applied, the number of burrows has dropped steadily, with only three being found this week.

Trustees Bruce Quintos and Fran Coglianese agreed that there has been improvement with the rat problem. Quintos pointed out that Coglianese came up with the idea for the dry ice, after discovering that it was being done elsewhere. She also found a local supplier for the ice, which releases carbon dioxide into the burrows, causing asphyxiation.

“I feel like the ice woman,” said Coglianese with a grin.

When the meeting was opened to public comment, a resident of the 10800 block of Oxford Avenue told the board that she was still dealing with a rat problem on her property. The woman said she has found evidence of a new burrow close to her siding, and wants to get it baited.

“I’m very scared,” she said, expressing fear that rats will get into her house.

Another resident of Marshall Avenue praised Public Works Director Stan Barwock for working with railroad officials to remove rotted railroad ties that were providing shelter for rats. She also said dog-walkers seem to be paying attention to recently installed signs warning them to pick up dog waste or face fines.

Tokar agreed that the signage is working, and approved the purchase of 25 more signs that will include details of the possible assessment of $100 fines.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed the possibility of enacting an ordinance limiting the number of video gaming cafés in the village. Oak Lawn recently enacted an ordinance capping the number at the two cafés already open. Tinley Park and New Lenox also have passed similar limiting ordinances, and village attorneys have been asked to draw up an ordinance modeled after them.

“It might be ready to be voted on at the next meeting, or possibly the one after that,” said Tokar.

'Coffee with the Mayor' program starting in Worthcoffee

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Worth Mayor Mary Werner would like to share a cup of coffee with residents.

During the Worth Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Werner said a new initiative has been introduced called “Coffee with the Mayor,” which she plans to hold on the first Saturday of each month. The first session is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Village Hall.

“I feel like this will give me a chance to interact more directly with our residents. It is much easier to talk in person with an individual to answer their questions or address their concerns than it is to try to answer questions through emails,” she said.

Werner believes that residents will feel free to stop by the Village Hall to have a cup of coffee with her and share their thoughts about the progress of the village.

“I am really looking forward to it,” she said.

The mayor also announced the appointment of Mike Maddox to the position of building inspector with a term to expire on May 1, 2017. He replaces Ken Koester, who held the position of building inspector for many years. He and his wife, Lynne, relocated out of state in August.

In other action, the board approved an ordinance to increase the number of Class B liquor licenses in the village from nine to 10. The increase will allow the Worth BP Station to sell packaged liquor.

Also approved was an ordinance amending the Village of Worth Municipal Code to adopt the 2014 Chicago Electrical Code to promote the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Worth by establishing clear, uniform electrical guidelines enforceable throughout the village.

Village Clerk Bonnie Price announced that trick-or- treat hours for the village are from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31.

The board adjourned into executive session to discuss personnel and real estate issues. According to Village Attorney Greg Jones, no formal board action was anticipated.

Trustee Colleen McElroy was absent from the board meeting.

Hickory Hills approves plan for electronic recycling

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Residents in Hickory Hills can soon look forward to the availability of an electronic recycling program as early as December, following a discussion by the city council at the Oct. 13 meeting.

Ald. Brian Fonte (3rd Ward), chair of the Health and Environmental Control/Recycling commission, reported to the council that after reviewing several proposed recycling programs over the last several months, he recommended that the city move forward with At Your Door Recycling with Waste Management.

In June, the council heard a presentation from Mike Morley, municipal marketing manager with Waste Management, in which he outlined the details of the At Your Door Recycling program. He reported that it was a simple program in which a resident wishing to dispose of electronics, paint, cleaning chemicals, oil or gardening or pool chemicals, could call At-the-Door Recycling and set a date for pick-up.

Fonte stated that the program could be tried for a year to see if it was effective and then the city would have the option to either continue with it, or discontinue it, if it was not satisfactory.

Council members agreed to move forward with it and to establish a timeline as soon as possible. Fonte reported later that it is tentatively scheduled to begin in December. Residents will be notified of the actual start date.

The service costs $1.25 per month, or $15 per year, for existing Waste Management recycling customers. The billing will be done through the city, using the water bills mailed to residents. A customer can call and schedule pick-ups as many times during the year as needed.

In other business, Mayor Mike Howley proclaimed Nov. 7 as Color the World Orange Day to raise awareness of a rare nerve disorder named Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

“Our city is joining a number of other communities, including Evergreen Park and Hometown, in this effort,” he said.

He also announced Halloween trick-or-treating hours will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31.

Purchase of a 4x4 pick-up truck with a snow plow, was approved for the Public Works Department at a cost of $28,600.

Also approved was the hiring of Julio Ayahla for a full-time position in Public Works.

A business license was approved for Chicago Group CA, LTD, an import, export and general merchandise facility at 7667 W. 95th St.

It's faith first as church celebrates 125th anniversary

  • Written by Joe Boyle

peggy mcclanahan right photo 10-20

Photo by Joe Boyle

Rev. Peggy McClanahan, pastor of Pilgrim Faith Church in Oak Lawn, has been serving the congregation since 1994 and is preparing for the 125th anniversary of the church with a celebration planned for Oct. 30.



Rev. Peggy McClanahan just had a good feeling. Her first contact with Pilgrim Faith Church in Oak Lawn had gone smoothly.

“I think the first telephone interview I had went well on both sides,” said McClanahan. “There was something I felt very good about and I think they did, too.”

McClanahan soon became the new pastor at Pilgrim Faith and has been leading the congregation since 1994. It does take time to be appointed because the congregation has to go through a thorough process before deciding on a new pastor. The congregation then has to take a vote. McClanahan was greeted enthusiastically by church members.

She finds that it is hard to believe that it was 22 years ago that she arrived at the Oak Lawn church. She has developed a variety of programs and has made the church more inclusive. This year, a lot of her energy has been spent on organizing events in celebration of Pilgrim‘s 125th anniversary. The grand finale will conclude with a festive anniversary celebration beginning at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at the church, 9411 S. 51st Ave.

The worship service will be followed by a homecoming luncheon. McClanahan said the church’s many ministries and the people involved in them will be recognized. Reservations for the luncheon are required by Monday, Oct. 24 to finalize food orders. Reservation can be made by calling (708) 422-4200.

McClanahan’s journey to Pilgrim Faith began in her native Oklahoma, where she received her education. She was a pastor for a church in Ames, Iowa for five years and Pierce, Neb. for seven years before arriving in Oak Lawn.

Pilgrim Faith was founded as First Congregational Church of Oak Lawn on Oct. 31, 1891 by a group of 14 residents meeting in the Simpson farmhouse, the building that now serves as the Homestead Barr at the corner of Southwest Highway and Central Avenue. Rev. Edgar Libby was the first pastor and within a year the congregation completed their first building on 54th Avenue, just north of 95th Street.

In 1916, the growing congregation completed a larger building on 51st Avenue, which is the present church location. That structure was replaced with a brick building in 1949, with a larger sanctuary and Christian education wing added in 1955.

In the 1960s, after the Congregational Church became part of the United Church of Christ, the Oak Lawn congregation changed its name to Pilgrim United Church of Christ. Faith United Church of the Brainerd community in Chicago merged with Pilgrim in 1970 to form Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ. Faith United Church had been a merger in 1947 of St. Luke’s United Church of Christ of Englewood and Brainerd Congregational Church.

McClanahan said the church has introduced a variety of program since, including the first preschool in 1966 and establishing the first food pantry in the community in the late 1960s. The Pilgrim Faith Pantry continues to serve residents who are in need every Tuesday and Friday.

The pastor said the church was also instrumental in the formation of Oak Lawn Family Services in the 1960s. In 1979, Pilgrim Faith and Christ Hospital established a Wholistic Health Care Center at the church, which was cutting edge at the time in treating patients with both medical and counseling care.

In 1998, McClanahan led the efforts to help South Suburban PADS establish a network of homeless shelters in Oak Lawn and surrounding communities. She said that Pilgrim Faith was one of the first three sites to open and continues their commitment to serving those who are homeless and providing meals and shelter on Thursday nights.

“I really think that the food pantry is the heart and soul of the church,” said McClanahan. “I definitely will continue the pantry and our commitment to the community.”

McClanahan is receiving more assistance from church volunteers and even youth organizations.

“It’s something that does wear on you after a while,” admits McClanahan, but added that it is important and plans to expand the PADS program.

McClanahan said there is constant activity at the church. Pilgrim Faith is home to a variety of scout groups, eight Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon groups, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Southwest and Genesis Counseling Center offices.

The church also provides a wide range of ministries, which are open to everyone, McClanahan said. The programs include vocal ensemble, handbell choir, Sunday School, Bible Study, three youth groups, Vacation Bible School, retreats and camps for all ages, a senior adult organization, and men’s and women’s groups.

McClanahan said that she wants the church to welcoming, including diverse ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, abilities and personal situations. In 2015, the church voted to be intentionally open and affirming and welcoming to gay, lesbian and transgender persons of all racial and cultural backgrounds. The church is also currently active in interfaith dialogue and mission with the local Muslim community.

“I think at this point our newest initiative is reaching out to the LGBT community,” said McClanahan. “Some of these people have not been treated well by other faiths.”

As far as the immediate future, McClanahan said that Pilgrim Faith does not have any concrete plans as of yet.

“Where we go beyond this is up to God,” she said.