Village Goes on the Road to West Lincolnwood

Park Forest Village Hall

Village Hall went on the road last week, with board members and staff meeting in West Lincolnwood. (Photo: Wendy Heise)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Residents from the West Lincolnwood neighborhood were invited to participate in a neighborhood meeting at Indiana School last Thursday, August 21. Close to 75 were in attendance.

The meeting began around 7:00 p.m. with opening comments from Mayor John Ostenburg, who said the Village Board and staff have learned quite a bit from the neighborhood meeting program, “We hear a lot of good things that we need to hear as your elected officials, and it gives us the opportunity to address problems in ways that you think we should address them.”

In addition to Mayor Ostenburg and members of the village board, department heads were also on hand, as were detectives who were able to speak with residents privately about any concerns they might have had.

In his opening comments, Village Manager Tom Mick encouraged residents to call if they saw anything suspicious in their neighborhoods, citing instances in the past where “particularly brazen” individuals might pull a moving van up to a residence in the middle of the afternoon and begin stealing furniture.

“If you do see something, call,” Mick said.

According to Ostenburg, the West Lincolnwood neighborhood has been very stable.

“There is a little bit of a change that is occurring,” Ostenburg said, “and part of that is what’s happening with the economy. We’re fortunate in Park Forest that the foreclosure rate is not as high in our community as some of the others. It seems to be much higher in communities where there’s a lot of new housing, where people got into the homes that are $350,000 or $400,000, they had some questionable mortgages, no money down. And, now, they’re not able, because of the economy, to keep up with the costs of maintaining that home.”

“Because our housing is much more moderately price,” Ostenburg continued, “we’re not seeing as much of a problem as some of our neighboring communities. But there has been considerable increase just in the number of homes that are in foreclosure”

There are 619 homes in the West Lincolnwood neighborhood, according to the mayor. When the board held its neighborhood meeting in West Lincolnwood in September 2004, there were five homes in foreclosure. None of them were vacant. When the board held its last neighborhood meeting in the area in September, 2006, there were six homes in foreclosure. Four of those were vacant at the time.

“Where are we today, in 2008? Well, we’re seeing a significant jump. In this neighborhood, there are now twenty-six homes that are in foreclosure; of those twenty-six, twelve of them are either vacant or have been foreclosed on.”

Ostenburg said there are currently 26 rental homes in the West Lincolnwood neighborhood, two group homes. In 2006, there were 24 rental homes. Currently there are 15 homes that are subsidized, up from 13 in 2004.

Village Manager Tom Mick and Police Chief Tom Fleming also gave opening comments before opening the floor to questions.

One resident commented on the condition of the former Honda dealership at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Indiana Street. “It seems to be a problem. Residents are trying to keep their properties decent and presentable. There seems to be a problem with the upkeep of that property.”

The resident said more attention needs to be paid to cutting the grass and cited issues with garbage. She also said the sign at the corner of Indiana and Route 30 should be better maintained, with shrubs posing a problem for visibility.

Village Manager Mick thanked the resident and asked staff to attend to the sign. He provided some background on the property itself, saying that the Village of Park Forest gained control of that parcel effective January 2008.

“The property went tax-delinquent. The village had to take every avenue it could to secure the property. It’s part of a long-range plan for the Transit Oriented Development where we hope to have a real hub of activity serving the north end or our community.”

Mick said the schedule for cutting grass was every two to four weeks, but asked staff to review that time frame. With respect to trash pickup, Mick said it was unfortunate that, “in this day and age,” people still litter. “We do the best we can to maintain not only that area where people are dropping garbage, but all along the parkway along Route 30 and Western. Typically, we have community service pick that up. If we’re not doing that in as timely a manner, after the meeting we’ll get you our cards. Call us, and we’ll get on it.”

Another resident cited problems with traffic patterns around Indiana School when buses arrive, citing cases of parents double-parking and permitting children to exit vehicles for school street-side, in the path of traffic.

Police Chief Tom Fleming responded, “We met with the principal and assistant principal last week.” Fleming said he also asked one of his commanders to meet with representatives of the bus company and with staff. In the near future, Fleming said, the Department of Public Works would also be repainting crosswalks and curbs in front of the school to establish safer traffic patterns.

Another resident complained that some people park cars across sidewalks, blocking traffic. Tom Mick explained that blocking sidewalks is against village code, “We have a big enough problem with kids walking down the middle of the street, and we want to disarm their arguments when they tell us there’s too many cars parked across [the sidewalks].”

There were a number of other topics that were addressed. The meeting concluded close to 9:15 p.m.

The author is a trustee in Park Forest.