Editor’s note: This Reader Forum article was submitted by Rommy Lopat of Lake Forest and was originally submitted as a comment on a previous GazeboNews article. Reader Forum articles represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of GazeboNews. We encourage you to comment on this article, but please include your full name per the GazeboNews comments policy.
Also, GazeboNews checked with Community Development Director Catherine Czerniak, who confirmed that Whole Foods is indeed still a possibility in Lake Forest; the city has not received a written withdrawal from the Shiner Group.
By Rommy Lopat of Lake Forest
An update to the Whole Foods issue in Lake Forest: At the July 31 Lake Forest Plan Commission meeting, Community Development Director Cathy Czerniak stated that the “Conway Market/Whole Foods” shopping center is an “active petition” for two reasons: one, the City Council only proffered advice to the developer but did not vote and 2) the developer has not officially withdrawn. In fact, Czerniak said the developer is “in discussions”. She did not say with whom.
Having watched this process over many months, I continue to regret the City’s handling of the situation. Allowing any developer or property owner to contemplate the demolition of a landmarked house and clear cutting of 400 trees is unconscionable, not to mention cramming so much building onto a way too small space. (Imagine a Whole Foods, four single-story 6000 sq ft homes, and a 350 car parking lot in a space the exact size of Forest Park!).
The planning process is woefully inadequate. The Route 60 Corridor’s Comprehensive Plan needs updating, and the City Council needs to be apprised of what is in the plan. All of our “gateways” look sorrowful (thistles, weeds, buckthorn, construction debris) and need attention, but this one is arguably the most important to preserve in its greenness.
The Special Use that allowed an office building on the Whole Foods site should have been revoked long ago. (imagine if you got a permit to build a new house and garage. You build the house but not the garage, then sell the property, all of which happens years after the permit was granted. The new homeowner would have to get a new permit to build the garage, but in this case, the landowner apparently does not have to start from scratch. Why?) The problem is that the traffic and other studies compare the shopping center to an office center rather than to existing conditions, skewing the results significantly.
And needless to say, having two Plan Commissioners recuse themselves, making a quorum tougher to obtain, for the duration of the process is not fair to developer or public: a full panel of opinions is needed. And the Plan Commission has no one on it that is familiar with landscape or sustainability techniques (which would include keeping all stormwater on site as per LEED building standards).
Much needs to be and can be improved before this petition sees the light of day. Again.