Setting the record straight on Riverside art fairs

I would like to set the record straight regarding Riverside art fairs.

The Riverside Arts Center sponsored two juried art fairs, which replaced the non-juried art fairs sponsored by the Riverside Recreation Department.

The change in sponsorship resulted from a request by a member of the Chamber of Commerce, who informed me that the intention of the chamber membership had been to sponsor “fine art” fairs, and, in their estimation, the fairs had turned into predominantly mediocre, non-juried “craft fairs.”

In short, the change from non-juried to juried attracted artists rather than just craftsmen and, in my estimation, resulted in a more professional art fair.

After two successful efforts funded by village businesses, the board members of the Riverside Arts Center envisioned a larger and, hence, more expensive fair, and decided to approach the village board for money.

A meeting was held with the then-president of the village board, and a request was made for $4,000. The village president said, “No.” If he gave the Riverside Arts Center money, he would have to support the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as well. Go figure!

Ruth Freeark

Ruth Freeark is president of the Riverside Arts Center.

Hiring law firm a conflict of interest for PEP board?

The newspapers have had many recent disclosures about cronyism and influence peddling at the federal, state and local levels. While seemingly innocent at face value, these practices lead to potential white-collar fraud.

The PEP Party of Brookfield, as the majority party on the Brookfield village board, has hired the law firm of Durkin, Ramello and Storino to be the exclusive law firm for the Village of Brookfield. The projected legal fees for fiscal year 2005-06, according to the recently approved budget are approximately $265,000, although that figure is likely to be eclipsed based on legal costs recently.

The PEP Party owes $23,028.59 to this very same law firm for legal work done for their party (See Illinois State Board of Elections, Campaign Disclosure, Committees, Peoples Economy Party D-2 Semiannual Report).

How can the Brookfield village board not accept this as a definite conflict of interest? The possibility of overcharging to balance this debt makes this a real and definite concern. This from the party that waved the flag of honesty in village government and no back room deals and no payback deals.

Wilfred “Wil” Brennan

Riverside’s trouble managing development

Over the past two years three significant development projects have been proposed in the Village of Riverside including Delaplaine Crossing, a new residential complex; expansion of the commercial part of the Arcade Building; and Village Center, a new mixed-use property at the site of the Henninger Pharmacy property. Each of these projects has been encumbered with problems related to questionable management by the village authorities.

The Delaplaine Crossing project at the intersection of Delaplaine and Burlington clearly shows the ineptness of village administration. An Aug. 4 article in The Landmark (“Permit snafu costs Riverside $45,000”) referred to a potential lawsuit related to issues of building permit fees. Since the article was published, the village has returned $45,000 in building permit fees along with a waiver of any and all permit and inspection fees related to this project. What kind of misstep by the village management would result in a waiver of all fees for building permits and inspections?

During the review of plans for the Arcade Building revisions, the village took the position that additional new parking spaces were not required. The newly adopted commercial zoning code for the B-2 district requires 30 commercial parking spaces for the planned project. With the threat of potential litigation by a village business owner, the village reversed its position and had since notified the developer of the need to meet the code requirements for parking.

The zoning code includes an option for payment in lieu of provided parking, which appears to be the option most attractive to or feasible for the developer. The Plan Commission recommended a fee of $5,000 per parking space to the Village Board of Trustees, which passed a resolution on this matter. The zoning code then requires an ordinance to be passed acknowledging the variation and recognizing a credit to the property for payment made in lieu of parking provided.

Since the payment in lieu of provided parking is a variation as stated in the zoning code, specific procedures mandated by State of Illinois statute must be followed which includes a hearing by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Since this project seems to be proceeding, it would appear village management has chosen to either ignore the state stature requirements or is unaware of them.

Legal implications for this project notwithstanding, one has to wonder where the village could provide 30 additional parking spaces in downtown Riverside to accommodate the need that will be created through this development, or how it could do so with the modest $150,000 in revenue that would be realized from the payment in lieu of parking provided which it has allowed (most experts estimate a cost of $15,000-$20,000 per parking space).

The third project is the Village Center development planned for the Henninger property. It was granted a variation from three stories to four through a variation procedure on Feb. 13 and was based on the use of a public right-of-way, which is an alley that provides access to residential and commercial property.

The proposed building would be built on the alley, which the village claims to own. Can a building be built on a public right-of-way, or was this the only way the village could grant a variation to allow the developers to proceed with their proposed plan?

While each of the projects presents serious questions about the village’s management of development projects, there are certain issues that cannot be overlooked. Where are the scheduled impact fees developers will pay for the infrastructure and service enhancements (schools, fire, police, sewer, water, parks, streets, library, parking) that will be necessary to support the projects? Has the village chosen to encourage development without regard to the resulting increased expenses related to infrastructure and services? Are taxpayers going to be expected to subsidize these developments?

Nicholas J. Cariello

Stop D95 facilities nonsense

Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95, the same district that says it can’t balance its education fund without higher taxes, is setting the stage for huge expenditures on building improvements.

Board members have been spending freely on consultants, and they already have in hand one proposal outlining up to $22 million in building modifications. The proposal is a pie-in-the-sky laundry list of changes and upgrades, many of which are overpriced and absolutely unnecessary. There’s even talk of tearing down one or both buildings and starting over.

Parents and taxpayers have the opportunity?”and the duty?”to stop the nonsense. The board will hold three community forums, the first at S.E. Gross School on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. Pack the auditorium and let the board know that we don’t need $22 million in building upgrades. Remind the superintendent that the cornerstone of our kids’ education is good teaching, not fancy buildings.

Brook Park and S.E. Gross are clean, safe structures that serve our kids well. Yes, it’s worthwhile to fix a few things and upgrade a few others, but common sense needs to be a big part of the equation. It’s insane to talk of $22 million upgrades. Talk of teardowns is beyond irresponsible. It’s time for District 95 parents and taxpayers to tell the board?”loud and clear?”to fix only what really needs fixing and then get back to the critical issues of academics and curriculum.

Ralph McDarmont
LaGrange Park