Move forward with downtown parking lot

It is time to set matters straight with regards to the parking lot at 61 and 63 Burlington St. Recently, Trustee Mark Shevitz opined to the Landmark that the former board of trustees should have handled the construction so the new board would not have to deal with it.

Unfortunately for Mark, the world of governance is much slower than he would like it to be. The village board began discussion of the purchase of the property at 63 Burlington (white stucco) in January of 2007. The property was purchased in September of that year. 61 Burlington (gray frame house) was purchased in December 2007.

During 2007 and during the 2008 budget discussions the parking meter and parking permit rates, including debt service was discussed by the village board. The debt service was to cover the purchase of the property and engineering and construction of the lot.

The 2008 budget included dollars for the demolition of 63 Burlington and installation of a parking lot. This was delayed until we could secure the purchase of 61 Burlington to construct a larger parking lot. Throughout much of 2008, the village manager and staff were working with Cook County and the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency regarding these properties to determine if the village could receive grant dollars to demolish the houses.

These grant dollars could not be applied retroactively, so the village had to wait until the grant issue was resolved before removing the houses. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency would not allow grant dollars to be used to remove one of the houses. The village received a smaller grant than requested.

As part of the 2009 budget process (conducted in public workshops in fourth quarter of 2008), the village board reaffirmed the policy direction of building a parking lot on Burlington Street.

The goal was, and still is, to demo the properties, build a parking lot, and fund all this using debt funded by parking permit and meter fees. On March 3, 2009, the village board authorized the demolition of 61 and 63 Burlington St. using parking funds.

The next step in the process is to award an engineering contract, but that contract was tabled twice by the new village board in a vote of 4 to 3. It will now be looked at in September.

As many of your readers know, this has caused consternation amongst the business community, landowners in the business district and citizens who all want and need more parking. It certainly makes it harder to fill vacant stores in the area when the village board appears to hinder improvements in the central business district. Actions speak louder than words.

There is a final issue that the current board has failed to address, and that is the issue of the lot’s use. Will this be a commuter parking lot, an overnight parking lot or a free parking lot?

Once again decisions have to be made. If it is a commuter lot, then there may be grant money from Metra, and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad indicated that the village could use the 15 feet of land that it owns for more parking.

If we decide to keep the lot under village control, then we would not accept any more grants, and that is acceptable to me. But this needs to be openly discussed by the village board with input from the Chamber of Commerce and village residents. More decisions to be made.

Suffice it to say, we need the parking lot, and this village board needs to move forward with construction to continue improving Riverside’s central business district if we plan on filling vacant stores there.

We should build the lot now rather than wait for new tenants in the stores. A parking lot might be just what we need to attract more business to the central business district.

John E. Scully

John Scully is a Riverside village trustee.

Don’t forget the Riverside farmers’ market

I read your article about local farmers’ markets (“June brings farmers’ market season,” JoAnne Kosey, June 10). I wanted to let you know that Riverside will be starting its own farmers’ market on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. starting on July 15.

It will be in the parking lot next to Riverside Bank, 17 E. Burlington St. And, in fact, it seems that we will be sharing some vendors of other farmers’ markets that you mentioned (for example, we will also have the sister from the order of Notre Dame at our market).

I encourage you to attend Riverside’s farmers’ market when it opens on July 15 and, by all means, spread the word to others in Riverside as well.

We hope that ours opens as successfully as Brookfield’s did and, since they are on opposite days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), we don’t view them as competitors at all but as complementary markets that should reinforce one another.

Eric Kollman

Eric Kollman is a member of the Riverside Economic Development Commission.

Are violations enforced equally?

We moved into our home in Brookfield in 1949, over 60 years ago. In September 2006, I was handed a property maintenance violations notice for a safety issue. The violation was corrected. Please do the math; it took 57 years for the code inspectors to determine a safety violation.

I hope the code inspectors are dependable and fair in observing similar violations and that they follow through in proper order. I need only to take a walk in my neighborhood to observe several homes with the same type of violation as I had, but are presently not corrected.

Marjorie Braun