For the first time, after two town hall meetings were held earlier this year seeking input from residents and several months of review by the village’s Economic Development Commission, Worth Village officials presented a long-awaited Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Master Plan at the Nov. 1 board meeting.
Created by the Chicago-based Farr Associates Planning Group and partly financed with a $75,000 grant from the Regional Transportation Association (RTA), the plan’s core was centralized on the area surrounding the Metra station on Depot Street.
Mayor Mary Werner presented the plan for discussion, seeking approval to move forward with preparation of an ordinance accepting the plan, but it was not an easy sell.
After a lively, and at times heated, discussion on the pros and cons of the plan, it appeared that the trustees were not going to reach a consensus. However, after Village Attorney Greg Jones reassured them that the Master Plan is not a binding document but is basically a guideline for future development, the trustees agreed to move forward with preparation of the ordinance.
Trustee Colleen McElroy, board liaison to the Economic Development commission, agreed with the attorney’s statement that the Master Plan is to be seen as a guide.
“This was originally a long-range plan for the Metra station area, not for the whole village. The concept was to increase ridership by attracting young people to the TOD mixed-use development, where they could have an apartment, walk to the train, shop and dine, etc. The idea was to create a place,” she said.
“They lost me at the public hearings when they talked about apartments,” responded Trustee Pete Kats. “If this plan is for apartments, I am dead set against it. I don’t want this board to be stating we are for apartments.”
His statement was in reference to conversations circulating through the village that a four-story building with retail space on the first floor and apartments on the remaining floors was to be located on the current site of the Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post.
“It is not a perfect plan,” said McElroy. “I think we learned some things about our zoning that we are working on, but it was never the intention to get rid of, or relocate, the American Legion building. That idea has caused a huge buzz.”
Trustee Kevin Ryan said, “People said they wanted a change, but when they were presented with change, they said they didn’t want it. But this is just a plan and we have to start somewhere.”
Ryan also suggested that the board consider bringing someone on staff, experienced in economic development and who could attract developers who would be willing and able to fund a development project.
“I hope our residents come and talk about this with the mayor at her Saturday Coffees,” said McElroy. “The town is not ready for change.”
Werner reiterated that the proposed Master Plan is a starting point.
“We are land-locked, but we can do infilling to improve our village. We can start on improving 111th Street,” said the mayor. “We have recently had some businesses come to us with plans for improving the exteriors of their buildings. This is a long-range plan.”
In other matters, the board approved a waiver of conflict of Interest that will allow Village Attorney Greg Jones to act on behalf of the village regarding a lease of property from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to the Worth Park District.
The waiver was necessary as Jones’ firm, Ancel Glink, is also the legal firm representing the park district, with another attorney handling the account.
Also approved was an ordinance amending the Worth Municipal Code to adopt the 2017 Chicago Electrical Code.
A schedule of the Worth Board meetings for the calendar year 2017 was also approved.