Tinley Park officials are prepared to bury the hatchet and move forward.
On April 18 at the regular Village Board meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a settlement agreement totaling $2.45 million with Buckeye Community Hope Foundation.
The settlement follows a lawsuit filed in April 2016 by Buckeye, an Ohio-based nonprofit housing developer, who proposed to build a 47-unit multifamily residential building known as “The Reserve” at the corner of 183rd Street and Oak Park Avenue.
According to The Junction’s previous reports, the lawsuit claimed the Village of Tinley Park allegedly denied Buckeye to construct the development. In a 5-0 vote, the Board closed the chapter on the longstanding dispute, and Tinley Park residents were not shy to display their thoughts regarding the matter.
“If we went to trial and won, the end result would be that Buckeye could not build the proposed development,” Trustee Brian Younker said. “The cost to defend this case through trial and potential appeal would be well in excess of $1 million.
“By settling, we paid several hundred thousand dollars less than the cost of defending the case through trial. We received the same result and without the risk that comes with any trial.”
All throughout, Tinley Park officials maintained that they did not violate the law, and Buckeye developers were only required to build its project with first-floor commercial units.
The Village now turns its focus to additional litigation related to this case with the U.S. Department of Justice and former planning director Amy Connolly.
Village Attorney Patrick Connelly stressed the Village is doing everything it can in response to her allegations.
“The Village’s motion to dismiss is still pending,” he said. “There’s investigation being conducted by [the Department of Housing and Urban Development].”
During public comment, Tinley Park resident Bill Byrnes said he supports the outcome of the lawsuit.
“The bottom line: I’m in favor of the settlement for a couple of very good reasons,” Byrnes said. “The last thing you want to do in the business of litigation is put … your hands in the control of the jury. Most cases that are filed in the court system less than 5 percent actually go to trial. The last thing you want to do is actually turn this matter over to a jury and have them decide your fate.”
Byrnes said he likes to think the Village could have won had the case gone to trial.
“The main thing is it’s done,” he said. “We don’t have that hanging over our heads anymore in the Village. Hopefully, we can get a move on with the real estate issues in this town as far as homeowner sales and moving some of these empty properties.”
However, Michael Paus, of Tinley Park, disagreed.
“I think the fact that Buckeye gets a $2.45 million check when the Village of Tinley Park did not do anything wrong that is what I was opposed to,” Paus said. “If we had done something wrong, then maybe they should get money, but we’re following our code.
“If we’re following our code, we’re not doing anything wrong. So, the people of Tinley Park, which I am one, it’s my taxpayer dollars that are going to be expended to pay for that. So, I’m just looking out for the taxpayers of Tinley Park, who are being punished when they did nothing wrong.”
Per agreement, Buckeye will not seek to build its proposed development and will dismiss the lawsuit. The Village is to pay Buckeye $75,392 using General Fund balance. An additional $648,608 will be paid through Tinley Park’s legal settlement fund held by the Village’s insurer, Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, and the remaining cost of the total $1,690,000 is to be paid by IRMA using its own fund.
Trustee Kevin Suggs was absent from the meeting.
Round it up
A brief recap of Tinley Park Village Board action April 18
• The Village of Tinley Park adopted its fiscal year 2018 annual comprehensive budget with a total of $157,400,214 in expenditures.
• Tinley Park officials amended its municipal codes to terminate the Main Street Development Trust Fund. At this point, money generated will be used to create a downtown plaza.
• The Village also inked an intergovernmental agreement with Cook County. It stipulates that Tinley Park is anticipating 100 percent reimbursement of the costs for 175th Street construction, which is estimated to cost $482,562.