Next up: contamination examination

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Page-5-3-col-eyesoreChicago Ridge officials found a buyer for the abandoned truck terminal but the property’s future depends on testing for contamination in the coming months. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

Chicago Ridge finds buyer for abandoned truck terminal but

soil testing must be done before development starts

A developer with experience building the biggest commercial properties in Chicago Ridge is ready to take on his next challenge in the village.
Ken Tucker of Structured Development, located in Chicago, is the point person for the potential development of the abandoned Yellow Freight trucking terminal.
Tucker was instrumental in the development of both Chicago Ridge Mall and Chicago Ridge Commons, Mayor Chuck Tokar said.
“He’s got the Ridge experience,” Tokar said.
But specific plans for and area on Harlem Avenue village officials have called an “eyesore’’ have not been made public and there needs to be testing for contamination done before moving forward with any plans.
Yellow Freight abandoned its truck terminal about five years ago. Since that time, redeveloping the Harlem Avenue terminal and some adjacent property has been the village’s top priority.
To that end, the village recently partnered with Structured Development to create the Ridge Creek Joint Venture Partnership.
The village purchased the property from Yellow Roadway Corp. for $14 million. The purchase contract is contingent on the condition of the property, Tokar said.
The village board also approved an ordinance that designates the Yellow Freight property and the adjacent land as a tax increment financing district. The TIF district is bordered by Harlem Avenue, the Tri-State Tollway and Southwest Highway.
But bringing a developer into the mix is an important step, Tokar said.
“The village is no longer the one holding the contract of purchase,” he said.
Structured Development will spend the next several months performing due diligence on the property, including taking soil samples and conducting detailed market studies.
Testing Services Corp. of Carol Stream is performing soil borings and will prepare an environmental report within the next several weeks, Tokar said.
While the 75-acre trucking terminal is mostly covered with concrete or asphalt, a garbage dump once existed adjacent to Stony Creek, so the possibility for contamination exists.
Additionally, Tokar recently learned that some of the land south of 103rd Street was used as a dumping ground for debris that accumulated after the 1967 tornado.
But the mayor is encouraged by Tucker’s belief that the terminal and adjacent land can be developed.
Marketing studies will help determine the businesses best suited for the development, but Tokar believes that the steady stream of traffic on the tollway—estimated at 270,000 cars daily—is the key selling point.
“You just don’t know what is going to be appealing to the market,” Tokar said.
But he envisions big things for the parcel.
A mixed-use development that would feature family entertainment options, such as Dave & Buster’s; a multi-level, heated golf driving range similar to Top Golf in Wood Dale or an indoor skydiving facility similar to iFly in Naperville and Rosemont all are under consideration.
The development also could feature shops, restaurants and condominiums or townhomes, Tokar said. Hotels, a conference center or an venue for entertainment also are under consideration, he said.
The shuttered Aldi, located at Harlem Avenue and Southwest Highway, and the long-closed Nikobee’s restaurant at the northeast corner of 103rd and Harlem, are included in the district. Additionally, Burger King, the Blue Star Motel, the Glendora House reception hall and a storage facility, all located north of 103rd Street, would be razed to make room for new development.
The TIF district enables the village to float bonds that would finance construction of a mixed-use development at the Yellow site and throughout the district. In a TIF district, real estate tax revenues yielded by properties that increase in value are used to fund improvements within the district, or as an incentive to the developer.


Another black Sabbath: Three doctors die in Palos Hills plane crash one week after two nuns and a senior die in Oak Lawn car crash

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Page-1-Plane-possibliltyPhoto by Jeff Vorva Local police and federal officials work the scene Monday morning.

Palos Hills resident Michael D’Alessio was on his computer Oct. 5 when he started watching video of the fatal car crash in Oak Lawn that claimed three lives.

One week later, he and his family were up close and personal with a tragedy a lot closer to home.

A plane crashed in a small field in the 10100 block of 86th Court in a residential area Sunday night claiming the lives of three doctors from Kansas in the plane.  No one from the area was injured and no major damage occurred to any of the houses.

Police say they were dispatched to the scene at 10:40 p.m. D’Alessio lives a block away and said he was able to survey some of the wreckage before police arrived.  It marks two Sundays in a row that a major accident in the area claimed three lives.

“This is back-to-back tragedies,” D’Alessio said. “It’s crazy.’’

Sunday’s plane crash claimed the lives of 34-year-old Tausif Tehman, 36-year-old Ali Kanchwala and his wife, 37-year-old Maria Javaid. Rehman was a neurosurgeon and Kanchwala was a pulmonologist who both worked at a hospital in Topeka while Javaid was a cardiologist in Kansas City, Kan.

National Transportation Safety Board officials and local police said that the Beechcraft Baron took off from Midway Airport and was heading to Lawrence, Kan., and crashed at approximately 10:40 p.m. Official said the plane was near vertical when it crashed into the field.

“Dr. Rehman and Dr. Kanchwala were extremely valued, highly skilled and beloved members of our staff,” said Randy Peterson, president and chief executive officer of Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka said in a statement. “We are heartbroken. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these individuals and the staff who worked closely with them. These physicians were deeply committed to their patients and to bringing the best of care to our community. We also extend our deepest sympathies to the Providence Medical Center staff for the loss of Dr. Javaid.”

Officials are speculating that the pilot, Rehman, may have been looking for a spot to land the craft that would not have injured anyone.

Members of the Palos Hills community breathed a sigh of relief that it didn’t claim more lives.

“Everything was contained to an empty wooded lot between two homes,” D’Alessio said. “This whole area is a densely populated area. It’s unfortunate that there was a loss of life but it could have been much, much worse.’’

He then pointed to an apartment complex area along 86th Avenue and said, “Could you imagine if it crashed there? We were very lucky.’’

D’Alessio had an earwitness account of the tragedy.

“I was asleep and I was awakened by the sound of a prop plane decelerating,” D’Alessio said. “It was r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r and then there was a split second of silence and then boom. I said, ‘a plane crashed.’ I just knew it.

“I ran outside expecting to see smoke and flames and fire and hysteria and there was nothing. It was just quiet. I said that we had to call 911. I didn’t know if I was dreaming. Our neighbors were looking around. We saw some activity and ran to the scene. There was wreckage all over the place. I happened to be standing next to a seat from the plane.’’

His wife, Sue, was up watching television when the crash occurred.

“I heard it and I felt it – you could feel it in the house, it was so low,” Sue D’Alessio said.

Their daughter, Amanda, said she posted on Twitter that it sounded like a car crashed near their home. Then she found out what really happened and posted a few photos online of the wreckage. The Stagg student soon started hearing from various television stations and news outlets asking her for her photos.


Have a cigar

  • Written by Kelly White

Worth mulls amending smoking laws to accommodate cigar and hookah bars

“No smoking” may become a term of the past for Worth.
The village is debating amending its no-smoking ordinance to permit cigar and hookah bars to open up shop.
The board has been in deliberation for more than a month adjusting the smoking ordinance for more than a month, in hopes of coming to a decision at the next village board meeting Tuesday.
According to Illinois state law, the state allows smoking to take place indoors if 80 percent of a company’s revenue comes from tobacco or tobacco related products. Worth would have to appeal the local ordinance to adhere to the state’s smoking law. If the village decides to move forth with the process, businesses looking to open up cigar or hookah bars will then need to obtain a special-use permit. There would be a public hearing prior to obtaining the special-use permit where residents would be allowed to attend and voice opinions, as well.
“As a village, we have to put out special criteria that would be stated in the special-use permit,” Mayor Mary Werner said at the Oct. 7 board meeting. “Any businesses permitting smoking indoors would not endanger public health, safety or morals.”
Some board officials said issues of building structure, parking, hours of operation, noise and crowd control would also be addressed in the special-use permit that tobacco shops must follow in order to keep their place of business up and running.
One trustee disagreed with debating changing the smoking ordinance.
“If we change the ordinance, there may be a number of businesses looking to open up in Worth,’’ Trustee Mary Rhein said. “We don’t want these places of business opening up all over the community, and how to we say yes to one business and not to another?”
Werner informed the trustees and residents the number of special-use permits issued to such businesses will be closely monitored and limited.
“Just as we limit the number of liquor licenses here in town, we will also limit the number of special-use permits issued for indoor smoking,” she said, “If we approved every liquor store license, we would have so many liquor stores competing with each other and not bringing any positive revenue to the town. We would limit the number of special-use permits in the same manner. I think it would be very difficult for 10 cigar bars to survive in such a small community, just as it would be for 10 liquor stores.”
Besides having to obtain a special-use permit, Trustee Rich Dziedzic suggested the idea of having business owners go through an approval process, as well, from the economic development board, along with the public hearing process of the special-use permit to take place in an open forum for residents. The economic development board will be able to take into further consideration whether or not the business will be negatively impacting the health of the general public and of the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Right now, it’s no smoking and I feel we should keep it that way because it is overall a great thing for the public health,” Rhein said.
In other Worth news, the Worth Police Department swore in two police officers at the meeting, Justin Meister and Matthew Susnis, both from Worth. The board is still in discussion over who will fill the vacant police chief position since the retirement of Police Chief Martin Knolmayer on Oct. 3.

Senate Bill 16 controversy set to explode

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Expect fireworks at Conrady’s town hall meeting

Taxpayer anger appears to be building a head of steam this week over proposed state legislation that may result in the loss of millions of dollars in state aid to local public schools, cutbacks that include layoffs, and significant local property tax increases—all in the name of fairness.
That anger may burst like a factory steam whistle next week at two town hall meetings designed to examine the projected effects of Senate Bill 16, the School Funding Reform Act of 2014.
The events are set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Conrady Junior High School, 7959 W. 97th St., Hickory Hills, and 6 to 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 23, at Sandburg High School, 13300 S. La Grange Road, Orland Park.
Steve Walker, a resident of Hickory Hills, used a parallel from folklore to illustrate his take on the situation.
“I get angry when I read about the bill’s supporters calling where I live ‘a wealthy school district.’ I mean really, are they kidding?” he asked. “They seem to think they’re Robin Hood doing a good thing for the poor, but I’m here to tell you: I’m not the Sheriff of Nottingham. People in my town struggle to pay our bills, just like everyone else.”
Maria Hernandez said that she and her family “moved to Palos Hills seven years ago, in large part because of the good schools—but now we’re going to get cut like this? It makes no sense at all to me.”
“We’re getting fleeced in the name of fairness,” said Orland Park resident Dianne Brady, one of several local taxpayers who spoke Saturday outside the Jewel/Osco near 131st Street and La Grange Road. “Look, I’m all for poorer school districts receiving more state funds, but not at the expense of my children. Rather than change the way we slice the pie, why not work together to make the pie bigger?”
The featured speaker at the meetings will be Robert Grossi, Bloom Township treasurer and president of Crystal Financial Consultants, which provides financial advisory services to school districts throughout the state. A number of elected officials, school board members, school administrators, parents and other taxpayers are expected to attend.
The event is open to everyone living in School Districts 117, 118, 127, 135, 140, 146, and 230.

SB 16, which passed the Illinois Senate in late May, is expected to be considered by the state House of Representatives as early as January, according to the bill’s opponents—although SB 16’s supporters have scoffed at that and pointed to the spring session of the General Assembly.
The bill’s principal sponsor is State Senator Andy Manar, a freshman Democrat from Central Illinois elected in 2012 with support from the Illinois Education Association. A teacher by training, Manar is the former chief of staff to Senate President John Cullerton.
Manar describes SB 16 on his website as “a proposal to streamline the current hodgepodge of funding sources into one funding formula that would account for school districts’ funding needs. Today, only 44 percent of the state education spending is balanced against a local district’s ability to pay.

Winner and losers
In its current form, passage of SB 16 would mean annual state aid losses of approximately $7 million for Consolidated High School District 230, which features Stagg, Sandburg and Andrew High Schools.
Other Southwest Suburban schools would suffer losses, as well, including approximately:
• $1.4 million each for Palos School District 118 and Worth School District 127
• $1.9 million for Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123
• $1.6 million for Alsip-Hazelgreen-Oak Lawn School District 126
• $839,000 for Oak Lawn Community High School District 229
• $839,000 for Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124
• $364,000 for Atwood Heights School District 125
• $330,000 for Chicago Ridge School District 127-S
• $312,000 for Evergreen Park Community High School District 231
High School District 218 would see an annual gain of about $934,000 in state aid under the proposed re-formulation, but Palos Heights School District 128 would lose about $574,000.

Schools weigh in
Several local school officials have weighed in with expressions of concern.
SB 16 is a “disastrous” proposal that “would negatively impact class size and educational programs at each of our three schools,” wrote Palos School District 118 Superintendent Anthony Scarsella in an open letter to the community. 
The proposal “provides no additional funding for K-12 public education,” he added. “It merely redistributes the current inadequate pool of state resources. Senate Bill 16 pits school district against school district, community against community, and parent against parent as we all chase the same few state dollars that exist for K-12 education.”
In a letter penned by Palos Heights School District 128 Superintendent Kathleen Casey and signed by her and the school board, SB 16 was rapped because it “does not take into account those districts that have been financially responsible and maintained balanced budgets. It penalizes half of the school districts in the state for being in counties that limit annual property tax increases.
“SB 16 is strongly opposed by special-needs advocacy groups that feel it will negatively impact special needs education,” she added. “It does not ensure funding will end up in the classroom of the recipient school districts to improve student achievement. SB 16 may be modified to also include a shift in pension costs to local property taxpayers. 
“The loss of these revenues would have dire consequences on our educational programming and staffing,” Casey continued. “This bill would require significant cuts or else force the district to seek additional local funding through a referendum or increase in fees.”

Dems vs. GOP
Political support for SB 16 has mostly fallen along partisan lines, with support from Chicago area and downstate Democrats and opposition from suburban Republicans.
Notable exceptions to that include 18th District State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes a number of suburbs. Earlier this year, he broke ranks to vote against the measure.
Also bolting the Democratic Party on SB 16 are 35th District State Representative Fran Hurley and 36th District State Representative Kelly Burke.
Burke said she finds the proposed legislation “troubling” and that the re-formulation is flawed in that it assumes that local school districts “are wealthy, when they are not, for the most part. They are middle class.”
She also said that SB 16 merely doles out more state aid to certain school districts without requiring accountability regarding how the funds will be spent.
In a standard response to constituents who asked, 14th District State Senator Emil Jones III—who voted for SB 16 last spring—noted that the bill “is by no means perfect and will not become law in its current form.”
He added that the kind of education a child receives should not be dictated by “the ZIP code where he/she lives.”
Beyond politics, Jones added that the proposed legislation has “started a debate we are having now on how to better educate all of our students and prepare them for the future.”


  • Written by Jeff Vorva

jv taljk Jeffs Col Impressions