Park district acquires Old York Road land for $1.55 million

Board approved on 4-2 vote; dissenters concerned about purchase price

Old York Road
(Elmhurst Titan file photo)

ELMHURST – After meeting behind closed doors last week, Elmhurst Park District officials have approved a plan to purchase a nearly 4-acre parcel of land on Old York Road for $1.55 million.

The park district’s board of commissioners, which met July 10, discussed the purchase proposal with Executive Director James Rogers and other staffers. Negotiations with True Homes LLC, owner of the property, reportedly took place in advance of the meeting.

Neither the board nor staffers discussed specific uses for the land, which is located at 0s761 Old York Road. But officials have frequently discussed the park district’s landlocked state, and property acquisition has been an ongoing goal.

The board voted, 4-2, in favor of the purchase at the quoted price.

Commissioners Kevin Graf, Patricia Morissette-Moll, Tim Sheehan and Vince Spaeth favored the purchase, while commissioners Mary Kies and Carolyn Ubriaco opposed it. Commissioner Doug Ennis was unable to attend the meeting.

Kies and Ubriaco were each vocal in their reasons for opposing the acquisition.

“In my career as a park district commissioner, I’ve never disapproved of purchasing Elmhurst Park District property,” Kies said. “This is too high for me. I would not be opposed to this if the price were right. But the price is not right.”

Ubriaco, meanwhile, said she would have preferred receiving information on what investments went into the property since True Homes acquired it.

“Other than the land itself, I’m not seeing any investment,” Ubriaco said. “I’d love to have this property, but my concern is the price.”

Spaeth, who serves as board president, conceded he, too, would have preferred a lower price tag, but lauded district staffers for doing their due diligence throughout the negotiation process.

“I think this has been vetted out pretty well,” Spaeth said. “I think we had hoped to get this for less, but it is what it is.”

The split vote is notable for a board that routinely is unanimous in its approval processes. Spaeth said he appreciated Kies and Ubriaco voting with their convictions and stated dissenting votes, at times, can be a healthy form of democracy in action.

Pointing to the complexity of this particular proposal, Spaeth said, “It isn’t always black and white, simple and crisp.”

Commissioners on July 10 also:

• Discussed commissioner travel expenses while reviewing what was to be a routine item under the consent agenda.

Board members in attendance did vote in favor of a plan to spend $3,904 to send Kies and Ubriaco to a conference in New Orleans in September. But Morissette-Moll questioned allocating funds toward a line item known as off-site institutes during some conferences.

“I’m just saying we should look at this in the future,” Morissette-Moll said. “I’m just trying to keep our expenses down.”

Kies defended the allocation of funds for such a purpose. “The information I’ve brought back from off-sites is tremendous,” she said.

Spaeth said conference spending will be added to a rolling list of future agenda items that will be taken up in the near future.

• Officially approved the district’s long-range Vision 2020 planning document, which was presented in draft form at a board of commissioners meeting June 26. A few changes – most wordsmithing-related – were incorporated into the document.

Spaeth suggested park staffers encapsulate some of the big picture points gleaned out of the report and post them throughout district property as a reminder of the importance behind the exercise.

Plans of sharing a brochure with residents served by the district are also in the works.

“I look at this as a tool or a roadmap,” Spaeth said. “I think this helps communicate that message back to our residents.”

Revised Draft Vision 2020 Plan by The Elmhurst Titan on Scribd