The Village of Tinley Park is looking to move toward a lawsuit settlement with the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation who proposed to build The Reserve, a 47-unit residential unit for low-income individuals and families at the northeast corner of 183rd Street and Oak Park Avenue.
In November 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the Village for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act by not approving the affordable housing development in response to race-based community opposition.
Prior to that, Buckeye also filed a lawsuit against the Village addressing the same issues. During the Jan. 3 regular Village Board meeting, Mayor Dave Seaman commented on the settlement’s recent developments that have transpired within the last four weeks.
“We have skilled counsel representing us in these suits,” Seaman said. “I intend to listen to counsel advice throughout this legal process and then ask your duly elected trustees to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire Village.”
Last February, the Plan Commission tabled the proposal to build The Reserve. Committee action to approve the project would have given Buckeye the green light to move forward with construction.
Following Seaman’s request, Village Attorney Patrick Connelly spoke on behalf of the board members to provide an update regarding the pending litigations.
“As with most litigation, the parties recently had some informal settlement discussions, but those discussions were very preliminary,” Connelly said. “To the extent, there would be a proposed settlement offer by Buckeye that [the] Village would consider voting on. The public would be informed of the same prior to the board acting.”
The Village is defending lawsuits filed by both the U.S. Department of Justice and Buckeye. To add, the Village has until the end of January to file a responsive pleading to the department’s complaint.
Board Trustee Brian Younker said he would find it concerning if board members discussed the pending lawsuits outside of closed session.
“What happens in closed session should stay in closed session until the courts handle it,” Younker said. “To discuss this with residents or anyone else is absurd.”
Seaman noted the Village will keep the public posted as these matters go forward.
PAWS of Tinley Park may relocate to Mokena
At the same meeting, Tinley Park officials approved an amendment to a deed restriction for PAWS of Tinley Park. The measure intends to support the animal shelter – which is currently located at 8301 W. 191st St. in Tinley – and its effort to relocate to Mokena.
“We’re obviously sad they’re leaving Tinley Park,” Village Manager Dave Niemeyer said. “We understand they have space they can no longer operate in the current facility.”
A deed – which dates back to 1997 from developer Brookside Glen – limited PAWS’ “use of the property to an animal shelter with a right of entry and repossession in favor of the Village if ceased to be used as an animal shelter.”
Vice President of PAWS Terri Buckley said relocating to a different facility is warranted for a number of reasons but lists spacing and a new ventilation system as the priorities. The first being that “the current building is old,” Buckley said. “There’s a lot more animals to serve. We need more space.”
She explained further issues regarding the ventilation system do not create an ideal space to care for animals, especially considering the way illnesses can spread. As PAWS considers relocating to Mokena, the organization would still extend its services to Tinley Park residents, Buckley said.
A new addition
The United Gymnastics Academy, a Frankfort-based company, is to expand its business to Tinley Park. Tinley Park officials approved a special use permit for a commercial indoor recreation center, which allows the academy to use an existing 15,000 square foot space located at 6805 159th St. and transform it into a gymnastics training facility.
“It’s good news for us,” Village Manager Dave Niemeyer said. “We don’t like to see vacant buildings, and it’s a good use.”
Mike Kociolek, who petitioned for a special use permit, currently runs a gymnastics training facility in Mokena. He said it is important knowing he and his business partners were given the go-ahead to operate in Tinley Park.
“We looked at several locations,” he said. “Tinley Park really checked off the boxes.”
Kociolek explained they wanted to run a facility in a community with interest among youth, a sense of family and a good location. To add, the United Gymnastics Academy in Mokena already partners with the Tinley Park-Park District. Kociolek noted the Tinley Park location is expected to open as early as February.