Cook County

Tinley Park Residents Revolt Against Scheme to Sneak Low Income Housing Project into Community –

Tinley Park, IL. (ECWd) –

Residents of the Village of Tinley Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago) are up in arms and are revolting against the Village Board for attempting to sneak in a low income housing project into the community that angry homeowners believe will tank their property values. The issue here is that people feel the Trustees violated the public’s trust and that collusion and shenanigans were engaged in by Village employees to change the development code to set the stage for a housing project that area residents feel will not benefit their community.

The Village Trustees are being accused of allowing the Planning Director, Amy Connolly, to sneak through a change in the downtown zoning that opened the door for the low income housing project to be pushed through without a proper vote of approval by the Board on whether the community wanted or needed this project. At a lengthy 2/2/16 Village Board meeting (videos below), it was revealed that this change in zoning was hidden in a larger Village vote to forbid hookah and other unsavory businesses from opening up in Tinley Park’s downtown “Legacy District.” Village Trustees claimed at the meeting that they did not know what they were voting for when they voted to approve the zoning change because they thought at the time that the only thing they were voting on was preventing the hookah shops from being allowed to open in Tinley Park.

Three board members expressed anger at being deceived by the zoning change, which one Trustee said took away his vote and his ability to speak for the public in this matter.

The Legacy District is a part of town that Tinley Park has wanted to develop for over a decade, with the original intent to create a dense area of three or four story buildings with street level commercial retail (including high end shops, restaurants, and upscale businesses) and condos on the upper floors that would generate property taxes for the Village on the upper floors. Part of the Legacy District is a parcel of land called “The Reserve,” which was a centerpiece of the property the Village wanted to develop into an upscale pedestrian friendly area to attract vibrant development.

According to speakers at the 2/2/16 meeting, a series of boneheaded moves by Amy Connolly and others involved with the Planning Commission led to the opening of undesirable retailers like the Dollar Store instead of sticking to the higher-end plan for commercial development. Once the Dollar Store and its ilk opened, higher-end stores balked at opening up in the Legacy District, which retailers and developers then started to view as an undesirable area because of the proximity to the Dollar Store. Businesses that would have opened up in Tinley Park instead bought land and built in Orland Park, leaving Tinley Park pretty much screwed. Apparently, retailers do surveys of all the businesses in an area and a Dollar Store is a giant red flag for better retailers not to come to that area because a Dollar Store indicates an area is not desirable for the kind of businesses that end up paying lucrative commercial taxes like in better-planned communities.

The Legacy District plan has been a disaster for Tinley Park, according to angry residents who spoke out this week en masse. It is based on the “Legacy Code,” which was a scheme the Village Planning Commission came up with that spelled out the various zoning requirements for building commercial/residential mixed use buildings around a fancy roundabout (like they have in Europe) that would have formed a new heart for Tinley Park’s downtown. The Legacy Code was meant to be a fast tracking process where someone interested in building in the Legacy District could bypass board votes and just pick up the Legacy Code book and quickly build what they wanted, as long as it strictly met the code. At the time, the Village Board and Planning Commission told area homeowners this was a smart thing to do, because making building as easy as possible in the Legacy District would (they claimed) encourage retailers and developers to come to Tinley Park instead of going to places like Orland Park or New Lenox.

Recently, the Village Board gutted the Legacy Code by voting against going forward with the roundabout…which caused the whole plan to develop the plot of land known as “The Reserve” to go into flux. For all intents and purposes, the Village has seemingly abandoned the Legacy District concept and is now just letting any old thing be built, forgetting about its promise to homeowners to create an upscale area that would attract commercial tax revenue.

An opportunistic (and many may say shady) company in Ohio called Buckeye Community Hope Foundation saw a chance to slip in and take over “The Reserve” and evade the Legacy Code requirements for upscale ground floor retail with nice homes above that. Instead, Buckeye wants to build low income housing projects with no ground floor commercial retailers. Buckeye claims its rental office and its laundry facilities (which would be on the first floor and have coin operated machines for housing project tenants) would be the only retail they would build. This is not what Tinley Park residents were told would be coming to “The Reserve” plot of land or the Legacy District.

Tinley Park residents didn’t realize that changes to the Legacy Code were slipped into the anti-hookah zoning vote in March 2015 and that Buckeye now (coincidentally enough) had the green light to build the low income housing projects in what was supposed to be a fancy, upscale new part of Tinley Park that would compete with Orland Park for lucrative commercial development. The community only became aware of what was going on when the Chicago Tribune casually mentioned something about Buckeye a week or so ago.

And that’s when the sheep hit the fan and all hell broke loose.

In just a few days, angry residents of Tinley Park had formed a Facebook group called “Citizens of Tinley Park,” which exploded to 3,000+ members in record time. See: https://www.facebook.com/groups/196478400706914/202208036800617/?notif_t=group_activity

On 2/2/16, the Village held its board meeting and angry Tinley homeowners packed the meeting to the rafters (causing the Village to have to setup several overflow areas and also for the first time ever film and stream a board meeting). The Village stationed police officers all around the meeting room in what appeared to be a the typical form of intimidation of residents, which we have seen with other public bodies. The Board did not like having so many people appear for a meeting and bristled under the scrutiny.

The Buckeye developer appeared to drop threats if the Village didn’t give them what it wanted and allow the low income housing project to go through. It turns out that this same developer was involved in lawsuits in Ohio when communities fought against property value lowering housing projects that Buckeye blighted their areas with. Many Tinley residents got the impression that Buckeye is a like a swarm of locusts that moves from one place to another causing property values to drop with its housing projects…and Buckeye now has Tinley Park in its sights. The Buckeye developer was caustic, brittle, and inflammatory: one of the first things out of his mouth was an accusation that Tinley Park residents just didn’t want low income families to move into the area. This felt like dog whistles and code words calling Tinley residents bigots when in actuality the community is upset about the duplicitous way in which the Village of Tinley Park made the zoning change that has opened the door for Buckeye to build the low income housing projects in the Legacy District without the previously required commercial first floor retailers.

If Planning Director Amy Connolly had not pushed through this zoning change in March of 2015, it seems that Buckeye would never have been able to build the low income housing projects it wants to build. In what cannot possibly be a coincidence, Buckeye started the paperwork to build the housing projects a month or two after Connolly secured the change to the Legacy District zoning. Many angry residents asked angrily what Connolly is getting out of this deal and why she hid the zoning change in a larger Board vote that Board members thought was just about preventing hookah shops from opening up in the Legacy District. This feels a lot like how business is done in Washington, where riders and amendments are tacked onto unrelated legislation in the hope of sneaking them through in a defense spending bill or the like.

Angry residents wondered aloud if there was collusion between Amy Connolly, the Village Planning Commission, and Buckeye to change the Legacy Code zoning ordinances in a sneaky way (so that the public would not notice) to set the stage for Buckeye to then swoop in with this project. Buckeye then seems to have planned ahead of time to accuse anyone who opposes the project of being a bigot who doesn’t want low-income families moving into Tinley (and then threaten a lawsuit if the developer doesn’t get its way).

What’s not said is that Tinley Park already has a glut of apartments available that are aimed at low income families. Tinley Park has a surfeit of affordable housing. According to figures released at the Board meeting, 37% of the housing in Tinley falls into the low income range. A realtor came forward during the meeting and said that Tinley Park already has far too many rental units and this makes it hard to sell a home in Tinley, as buyers do not want to live in areas that have too many rental units. Homeowners in suburban areas do not want to buy property next to rental units. Many Tinley residents who have been trying to sell their homes for years have given up and turned them into rental condos or rental homes. This has only added to the problems. According to angry homeowners at the Board Meeting, the last thing Tinley Park needs is more rental units.

The Buckeye developer also had to admit at one point that the rents he intends to charge for the low income housing units he wants to build would be higher than rents in apartments that already exist in Tinley and are empty. So, wrap your head around that. The low income housing project would charge higher rents than existing open apartments in the area. So, how can Buckeye claim there is a community need for new low income housing when Tinley Park property owners already have too many rental units available (and at lower prices than what Buckeye would rent its units for)?

Something sure is fishy here. Tinley Park residents demand answers to several questions:

• What was the timeline for when Amy Connolly and the Planning Commission decided to sneak through that zoning change which ultimately benefitted Buckeye’s low income housing project?

• Who is going to make a big profit from low income housing being built in an area that was supposed to be upscale instead of the commercial/residential mix that the Village originally intended for the Legacy District?

• Why is Buckeye (an Ohio company with a checkered past when it comes to angering communities with its housing projects) targeting Tinley Park in Illinois?

• This current project is one of seven or more low income housing projects that Buckeye apparently envisions wanting to build in Tinley Park…but who decided that this is the direction the Village of Tinley Park should go?

• How much damage will this do to property values in an already oversaturated market in Tinley Park where residents have trouble selling their homes and realtors say there are already far too many rental units?

The scandal involving the Legacy Code Zoning Change and the Buckeye Low Income Housing Projects is compelling viewing, especially for how foolish the Village Trustees appear when trying to cover their backsides and justify their actions. All of them claimed they had no power and had no control and could do nothing to stop the housing project and all of them wanted to ignore the collusion and shenanigans that seem to have happened in secret to set the stage for this mess.

See for yourself here:

Part 1 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAAHsSBx3Hw

Part 2 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL3Po7p_7O8

Part 3 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb8cnffNA1Q

Part 4 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NXFSHDYzmk

Part 5 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzeGd99sYM0

Part 6 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_3L3HWDvbw

Part 7 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLedGTuxPU4

Part 8 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1dbHYW99a8

RECAP = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O9vIpfd8eQ

TinleyPArk

Tinley Park Planning Director Amy Connolly

 

33 replies »

  1. This isn’t journalism. It’s speculative and inflammatory assumptions being made by a group of NIMBY’s that do not have all of the information. Affordable housing is not the devil; sometimes it is the only way that seniors or young people can afford to stay in the communities that they’ve lived in and loved. It seems to me that Buckeye is a non-profit, mission based organization. Implying that the developer bought out anyone from the village is ridiculous. You guys are going to waste a lot of time and money- both private and tax payer dollars- to find out that you can’t legally regulate based on the demography of some future tenant group. I’m rather doubtful that this proposal would have been concerning to the citizen group if it come out of the gate without any of the negative connotations that affordable housing has. Knee jerk reactions about retail being preferred rather than required is also insignificant. Ultimately, the Plan Commission could decide to hang their hat on the absence of retail and deny the project, but any successful district with access to transit will have a mix of uses. This whole thing is a trainwreck.

    • Tom, I believe you fully do not understand the scope of this issue. As I stated earlier it’s the manner of how this was done that is alarming. Secondly, I understand the need for affordable housing. However, homeowners are fed up with paying high property taxes to augment the loss of revenue from commercial business. Orland Park residents enjoy lower property taxes due to the commercial tax revenue. I have three adult and married children who all cannot afford to live in the area they grew up in. Why? Property taxes drive the cost of housing up making it unaffordable. WE do not need anymore residential housing we need commercial business to generate badly needed revenue. You may have deep pockets but those you speak of do not and will be forced to move. Many seniors homes are paid for it’s the taxes that continue to bury them. If our community had a better established commercial base I would gladly support this effort but it does not. WE have an imbalance between residential to commercial. A realtor made this point at the meeting to the board.

    • With all DUE respect, the people investigating this whole fiasco from the ground level upward include professionals such as real estate agents, real estate appraisers, trades workers, insurance agents, mortgage professionals, lawyers, accountants, & other professions. Evaluations of existing rental & for-sale TP properties were done. The results showed that there was ZERO actual need for this project given that over 30% of available housing in TP already falls under the level of “low-income” housing.

      Your inflammatory dog whistles of secret bigotry float about as well as a submarine with screen doors. Were this a LEGIT “low-income” housing project, there would be no history of emails between the developer & TP staff regarding amending the code to fit their needs to avoid public scrutiny. Furthermore, were it legitimately built out of a concern for people, it would be built WAY closer to either of the TP commuter train stations, & likely the larger of the two. Of course, Buckeye doesn’t want to pay for the remediation work that building on the available land within WALKING distance of the larger, newly-refurbished station. That would cut into the MILLIONS of dollars of profits they expect to make from selling the tax credits.

      This has ZERO to do with demographics: multiple working-class folks, including minorities, have attended various meetings and voiced their objections. This is about an out-of-state shady profiteer trying to sully ANOTHER town with real estate projects designed to maximize the tax credits they can sell to profit while the public subsidizes their fraud & deceit.

      This “group of NIMBY’s”, as you say, are the people who bought homes, paid taxes for years, & built the fabric of this community. They are also those who work their butts off to rent a space in this town b/c of the very fabric that exists & they contribute to it as much as they can.

      Buckeye? They’re carpetbaggers at best; corporate bullies who try to intimidate others with legal action & prepared talking points designed to utilize division-based identity politics to suck the tax blood money away from communities like TP.

      The only possible demographics involved here are shady corporate vultures & dishonest public-sector workers.

  2. I feel sorry for the people who feel this is an issue of bigotry. This not the issue. We are trying to encourage more big business in our town for growth. We do not want to see the demise of our town because big business sees us as an undesirable area to set up shop because of too much low income housing in the area. In case you have not read the articles , we have a pretty good percentage of low income housing already. Why would you want a company that wants to charge higher rental rates and does nothing to help encourage business ? They want to fly in under the radar and just set up shop before anyone knows what is happening . Pretty terrible way to do business. Sounds like a losing proposition in my book.

  3. I am having trouble deciphering the core issue that the people of Tinley Park are having with the low income housing. After watching most of the town meeting online, it seemed that people take issue with the fact that they were promised commercial buildings AND housing in this area, but that is not what they are getting. However, reading comments posted online it seems that people are more concerned with having to live near minority groups and poor people. So which is it? Or is it both?

    • Nice try with the “Why do they hate minorities and poor people” stale talking points.
      This issue as I understand it is that the zoning was for “Commercial required”, and was changed without going thru proper procedure to “Commercial preferred”.

      • Bigotry is not a stale talking point. It’s an issue that minorities and families living in poverty face. I think it is vital that the people of Tinley Park separate themselves from using that as a complaint, if they are going to be taken seriously. Some individuals at the town meeting brought up very relevant concerns that have nothing to due with race or class level. And those concerns deserve to be addressed. However, Buckeye is using the bigotry “talking point” against the people of Tinley Park. I think people need to watch what they post online. If construction is stalled, Buckeye may sue (as evidenced by: buckeye community hope foundation vs city of cuyahoga falls). Buckeye has used the Equal Protection Clause before. Posting racially charged or “classist” comments, whether intentionally or not will be used against the people of Tinley Park as a whole.

        • Claiming bigotry on everything someone doesn’t like IS a stale talking point.
          Here are some examples:
          “Quit raising school taxes.” – “Why do you hate children?”
          “Teach English in schools.” – “racist!”
          “We want school choice.” – “You just hate unions”
          “Quit teaching Islam as “history” to our children” – “racist islamophobe”

          • Please define stale and how that relates to this conversation. Your examples do not include anything about this conversation.

          • Be careful with your reply. ‘Valorie’ could be buckeye and could be baiting you into making inflammatory comments to be used as examples just as she so conveniently tried to warn you not to do.

        • As a long time resident it’s the manner of how this was done that is alarming. How is it that current board members didn’t even know what was buried in a zoning bill? Do they even read the documents to make informed decisions at board meetings? Secondly, I can’t help but wonder why the Ohio Company “Buckeye Community Hope Foundation,” didn’t directly petition the board for approval of building/renting etc. Clearly they didn’t seek this in an open manner as it was hidden within a document that clearly mislead as suggested. Our community is diverse and we take pride in being such. What residents can reasonably expect is a thorough investigation by necessary governmental agencies including at the Federal level. Anyone who thinks this is something other is badly mistaken. We do not appreciate our elected government making decision is secret that directly impacts residents and business owners. When elected representatives do as this seemingly appears it’s a violation of the public trust and due process. The boards zoning changes impact everyone especially residents who have paid to make this community what it is over a long period of time. We built the infrastructure, supported improvements, and worked hard with our neighbors to be a diversified community. I take serious offense to anyone indicating other wise especially an outsider who does not live here. Shame on them for making as problem from something that does not exist.

          • The board members claim ignorance, but they had to have known. If not, claiming ignorance does not make them look better. Because, like you said, do they read the bills that they vote on? I would be surprised if any of them got re-elected, based on how they are handling this issue. Buckeye is completely focused on building this housing structure, so they will say whatever they can to get it done. Buckeye may claim bigotry as an issue, but the company will have the examples to claim it as the issue using comments on here and elsewhere. They won’t acknowledge the sneaky way the board got their building approved, because that would not benefit them. It is an unfortunate thing for the people of Tinley Park. They will not get what they were promised by the board they elected. I know this was brought up during the board meeting, but why can’t Buckeye build in another area of the town? Someone at the board meeting pointed out it would have been cheaper to build just a few blocks away.

    • Absolutely agree, Valerie. TP is in need of better retail, but all this talk of “lowering property values” seems to be really about not wanting a certain class of people spilling in from some of the nearby towns. I can’t help but think that if this company was building an assisted living building there wouldn’t be any outrage over a small zoning issue.

      • You seem to be willfully ignoring the issue of that area being promised to have first floor commercial with residential above it until Amy Connolly did an end run around that and had the zoning changed from “commercial required” to “commercial preferred.” The issue is that the community wants that commercial space on the first floor as promised. That area needs first floor commercial. It is a food desert with no shops there for a long stretch. People were promised that commercial development, which the community has hoped would be restaurants and some kind of food outlet. Instead, this improper maneuver by the Planning Director has allowed a development with NO COMMERCIAL to go in that space. The issue has never been what sort of residential would be built but the fact that the COMMERCIAL space promised was done away with and the Village Board had no say in the matter (as they WANTED the commercial to go in that space with residential above it as planned). That parcel of land has been eyed for a specific kind of commercial/residential development for years to be a catalyst for a new southern gateway into the city. The Board intended for that to be a really special, showstopping development. And the Planing Director did not have the authority or mandate to do an end run around that and change the commercial/residential mix without the Board’s support. She did it anyway because she seems to feel rules do not apply to her.

        • I am not willfully ignoring the issue or trolling, and I am not Valerie Jarrett. I was asking for clarification. You don’t consider the laundry provided to tenants as commercial?! (that’s me being sarcastic) That was Buckeye’s response to the woman that asked about commercial space during the board meeting. It is a shame that the board allowed this to happen (whether they were ignorant to what was happening or not). I think people need to stay on topic. It is hard to understand the real issue reading comments on this website and elsewhere, although you an mj provided succinct clarification. Buckeye will do and say whatever than can to make sure this building get built. Also, I was not aware of Alinsky tactics until this moment. I can’t use something I know nothing about.

      • I hope people would be just as upset. It is sad the way the board has handled the whole thing. I hope Tinley Park gets the retail it needs, and maybe Buckeye could build elsewhere in the city.

    • Is this Valerie Jarrett by any chance? Nice try using Alinsky trolling tactics, Val. Pretty amateur effort. Must be off your game.

    • The bottom line is stereotypes are usually true. Low income people and low income housing brings crime and low property value. It isn’t about minorities either, crime in low income neighborhoods happen weather it’s a black area on the west side of Chicago or an all white trailer park, am I wrong? Valarie, where do you live, why don’t you move in the low income housing building if your so comfortable with it.

    • When crime skyrockets Valarie you deal with it. Your right about low income people facing issues but why are those issues now 5 minutes from my home. Tell you what Valarie, you can pay me the difference between what my house is worth now and what it will be worth when Tinley Park becomes Markham.

  4. When the next election, get rid of the whole connivingm, deceiving bunch including the mayor, get residents in office who are not on the take. Tell Buckeye to kiss it, stand by your guns. That SLAAP lawsuit is just a scare tactic. Isn’t that right Megan?
    Shame on the planning commitee for trying to degrade the great town of TP. Who got paid off and how much did they get for selling your town down the tubes? Get rid of the commitee, all of them. Start over with new people.

  5. Can’t help but wonder, Is this related to AFFH? Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing? A plan to force neighborhood integration, both racial and economic… or If-you-like-your-neighborhood-you-can-keep-your-neighborhood.

    • I just made a sign for my front yard that says FIRE CONNOLLY. This is unbelievable. I just moved to TP from Lockport to be closer to work, but this isn’t worth it. 3 times higher taxes, and now this low income complex 12 blocks from me?! Cook county is worthless. I’ll eat the capital gains tax (or financial loss) on the house sale and get the hell out while I still might be able to sell.

  6. It’s Obama’s socialist plan to ‘make everyone the same’ by integrating all the immigrants and the poor into the better-off neighborhoods – via forced integration that’s paid for by all of U.S. taxpayers, of course. Only wealthy, political elites will be sparred the integration of their ‘special’ neighborhoods.

    • Yes! We Capitalist Corporate developers must
      impoverish you to enrich ourselves; get on our feet or get on your knees.

  7. Nothing bone headed about Amy, she knew exactly what she was doing. Underhanded, possibly illegal, possibly bribery involved but not bone headed.

  8. And the unethical law firm that recommends Illinois libraries protect the patron privacy rights of child p0rnography viewers and colludes with public entities to create situations that can be used as an excuse to arrest someone, and does things to keep the public from learning the truth about government malfeasance, is also the same law firm apparently advising the Tinley Park government that is apparently also keeping the public from the truth.

    My opinion about Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, LLC, as usual for online comments.

  9. Same Tinley Park residents that pay $13,000 in property taxes are also having their brand new thriving 8 year old high school closed due to politics and cover ups. Lincoln-Way North is right in some of these Tinley Park residents back yards. Way to take care of the tax payers!!! Sickening!!!

    • And if you think Ex-mayor Zabrocki didn’t know or have anything to do with this I got some great property for you to buy. I am so tired of hearing about bigotry, low income families, seniors needing a place to live. I have lived in Tinley form 42 yrs. I AM a senior, and I own my own home. We have 3 buildings for senior citizens in Tinley. Maybe if you spent more time investigating Buckeye you wouldn’t be so quick to chastise the rest of us with your insane views. Do your homework before you voice your opinions.

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