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  • Megann Horstead

Proposed plans for Providence transportation hub withdrawn


Potential plans for Providence Catholic High School’s transportation hub faced opposition from dozens of community members during a Feb. 27 meeting of the New Lenox Village Board of Trustees.

The matter was last reviewed at their Feb. 20 meeting, at which time the approval of an ordinance’s first read connected to the project was due.

Providence is seeking a special use permit to use R-1 zoned property located at the corner of Gougar Road and Ferro Drive to construct a transportation hub. The plan specifies that “a maximum of 16 buses shall be parked within the designated parking stalls along the northernmost parking row” in the winter, and within the center parking row in the spring and fall.

It also includes plans for landscaping, an above-ground fueling tank and an exception to Village codes allowing a modular trailer to be housed on the property until July 31, 2019, at which time an amendment to the special use is required.

Village staff has been working with the petitioners to clean up items residents in recent weeks raised concerns for. The conditions of the ordinance, though, remained unchanged since they were presented.

Attendee Todd Hyatt, of New Lenox, urged Village officials to consider the views expressed by members of the community in recent weeks and said the concerns persist.

“We want to be neighborly with Providence,” he said. “I think that they’ve done a nice job cleaning up that corner. It looks very nice. By adding the buses there, I think it takes away from the appeal it has.”

The Rev. Richard McGrath, president of Providence, was in attendance to speak on behalf of the request. He refuted the concerns that constructing a transportation hub will negatively impact the community.

“I appreciate the concerns of the community, but I ask that you understand we’ve always been excellent neighbors,” McGrath said, noting that Providence corrected a number of issues over the years pertaining to water drainage and park cleanup at the west campus.

Trustee David Smith said as a proud Providence alumnus, he’s torn after receiving dozens of calls from concerned constituents, and questioned why the high school won’t utilize the parking spot on Washington Street and Route 30.

“You have a parking stall up,” he said. “It’s the old gas station. It would be a perfect place for this. They come out, the buses would leave Washington [Street], make a right-hand turn and be at Providence in minutes.”

McGrath said the petitioners looked into that, but they see a number of issues, including parking, traffic flow and increased risk for vandalism.

Baldermann elaborated on a point raised by Smith, and said the petitioner must understand the current proposal, if denied, could not be revisited by the board for one year.

“This is just merely some well thought-out concerns that the residents and that the board appears to concur with,” he said.

This doesn’t prevent Providence from returning to the Village with a proposal for a new location if they should choose at a given time.

Providence Catholic High School withdrew their request at the meeting, and residents will be notified when a proposal returns to the board for another first read and consideration.

“This is not a board that… just because there’s a big showing goes in that direction, but it is a board that listens to both sides,” Baldermann said. “In this particular case, we think that both sides handled themselves professionally and as good neighbors, as they should.”

Mayor’s community forum on possible property tax freeze

Also at that meeting, Baldermann introduced the idea of holding a community forum to inform constituents of the proposed property tax freeze gaining traction among lawmakers across party lines in Springfield as they look to pass a budget.

Baldermann recently took a trip to Springfield to hear state representatives, senators and the governor speak, and said all indications are that they’re working to come to a budget deal.

Baldermann said he is working on getting representatives from all the local taxing bodies together to address what will happen if there truly is a property tax freeze.

“The grand bargain has talked about a two-year property tax freeze,” he said. “I can tell you that some of the local school districts—obviously, not just here but in the Lincoln-Way area—even if it’s a two-year freeze, could be looking at a $2 million to $3 million dollar loss. What that would mean to the services they provide, which then has direct impact on our communities, has a direct impact on home values, has a direct impact on so many things that we take fore granted out here.”

What’s more is Gov. Bruce Rauner is requesting a permanent freeze that can only be lifted by referendum, Baldermann said.

Baldermann intends to host an informational forum at 6:30 p.m., March 21 at Lincoln-Way Central High School and invite a property tax expert from Northern Illinois University to speak.

Baldermann refuted the myth that a property tax freeze will lead residents to see significant savings.

Baldermann took a moment to discuss how a property tax freeze would affect residents at the municipal level, and said though residents have seen increasing property tax rebates in recent years, those amounts would decrease.

Baldermann said the State of Illinois does not benefit from property taxes, and said lawmakers know they would need to introduce other proposed measures, such as service taxes, to generate new dollars.

“The minimal savings you could see from a property tax freeze could cause detrimental implications on our services, school services, parks and what not,” he said, noting that it’s important to inform constituents about what’s at stake.

Mayor introduces idea for small business commission

The Village is looking to set up a new commission focusing on small local business and confirm five appointments to represent the board as early as April.

“The purpose of it will be that these small business owners in our community, we try to work closely with them,” Baldermann said. “Our Chamber does a nice job, but we pass a lot of ordinances here that impact small business. A lot of them are residents, as well as business owners. I know that each and every one us cares deeply about their success.”

The Village’s website already looks to promote small local businesses. Forming the volunteer-based commission is another initiative the mayor hopes to implement to drive home the municipality’s commitment to serving the community.

Baldermann said he knows New Lenox has come a long way in its effort to demonstrate support for small local business, but members of the community have still expressed some concerns.

“What I would like to do is come to you in the next couple of meetings with the appointments for this commission,” he said. “They would meet quarterly with [the Economic Development Director] Nancy Dye and perhaps, [Assistant Village Administrator] Robin Ellis from time to time to talk about suggestions, ways that we, as a village board, can support small local business in particular.”

To serve on the advisory board, interested individuals must serve as a business owner in the community. They do not need to serve as residents.

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