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April 18, 2024

Could Illegal Zoning Code Text Change Doom Buckeye’s Tinley Park Housing Project?

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On March 14, 2016


How one word could derail a $16 million tax-credit-heavy development project…fascinating.

In Tinley Park (a southwestern suburb of Chicago), we’ve been following the story of a citizen uprising against the Village Board and its Planning Department over a shady low-income housing project that a developer from Ohio (the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation) has been pushing to build against the public’s wishes. At Board Meetings, representatives from Buckeye have been hostile to Tinley Park citizens and have threatened a lawsuit if the Village does not allow Buckeye to do whatever it wants to do to Tinley Park. Bizarre actions by people connected to former Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki and his old guard cronies feel like the sort of classic Alinsky methods common to Chicagoland whenever the local machine wants to silence the public or scare people away from uncovering potential government wrongdoing. 

It has been amazing what citizen sleuths and watchdogs on the ground in Tinley Park have been able to uncover in FOIA production. New revelations could very well spell doom for Buckeye’s plans in Tinley Park…and it’s all because a single word crucial to Buckeye’s schemes was apparently not changed properly in a Planning Commission meeting.

If that text amendment change Buckeye’s controversial project depends on was indeed bungled and a proper public hearing (and even a proper First Reading) was never held for the text amendment change – and the exact language of the final change was in fact never published in the newspaper as required by law – then the text amendment change must be voided. That means the Tinley Park Legacy Code zoning ordinance in dispute would revert back to what it looked like before the change was attempted and Buckeye, which has been counting on that change for its project to go forward, would seemingly be blocked as its project was always noncompliant with the original zoning code.

One little word shoved into a zoning code improperly and possibly illegally could be undone and with it could collapse Buckeye’s whole house of cards.

At the 3/1/15 Village Board Meeting, a local citizen named Peter Kroner stood up during public comment and confronted Thomas Melody from the law firm Klein Thorpe Jenkins, and Mayor David Seaman about the improper and illegal changes made to the 2011 Legacy Code zoning ordinance on 9/3/15 that must be considered VOID. Kroner argued the following:

*8/2/15 = The Village of Tinley Park ran a legal notice in the Southtown newspaper stating that on 8/20/15 the Planning Commission would be voting on a text amendment to the 2011 Legacy Code zoning ordinance where the words “street level commercial required” would be deleted from the zoning ordinance and the words “street level commercial allowed” would be simultaneously added. This is critically important, because the word “allowed” is what was printed in the paper on 8/2/15. This means that the only zoning code text amendment change that the Planning Commission could legally vote on would be one that contained the word “allowed” in it, as was printed in the newspaper.

* 8/6/15 = The Planning Commission conducted a “First Reading” of the zoning ordinance proposed text amendment change that stated “street level commercial allowed” would be the wording added after “street level commercial required” was deleted from the Legacy Code.  

* 8/20/15 = The Planning Commission tabled the vote on the text amendment change that was announced in the 8/2/15 notice in the Southtown. The Commission was allowed to table this vote, but it would have had to then print a new notice in the paper announcing a new date for a vote and it would have also had to reprint the exact wording of the proposed text amendment change that would be voted on at the new Public Hearing for this text amendment, to be held at an upcoming Planning Commission meeting. The Village never ran any such notice of a new vote and new public hearing for a text amendment change to the 2011 Legacy Code zoning ordinance. 

* On 9/3/15 = The Planning Commission improperly voted to approve a text amendment change despite not putting a new notice in the paper announcing that 9/3/15 would be the date that the tabled vote from 8/20/15 would be taken up again. Also, the Commission improperly approved text amendment changes that used the words “street level commercial permitted” despite the First Reading of the amendment on 8/6/15 using the words “street level commercial allowed” and the word “allowed” (not “permitted”) having appeared in the 8/2/15 public notice published in the Southtown. This was all illegal.

* The words “permitted” and “allowed” carry different legal weights and meanings. They are not interchangeable and they are not one and the same. To date, no First Reading of any zoning ordinance change to the 2011 Legacy Code has ever been done that included the words “street level commercial permitted” and no notice was ever published in the paper with the words “street level commercial permitted.” This means that the 2011 Legacy Code zoning ordinance was NOT properly amended on 9/3/15 and the actions of the Planning Commission in casting that vote are VOID. 

* If the actions of the Planning Commission in this matter on 9/3/15 are VOID, that means that the subsequent vote by the Village Board of Trustees in October 2015 to enact the ordinance text amendment are also void. Thus, the 2011 Legacy Code zoning ordinance must revert and default back to how it existed prior to 9/3/15, since all changes made on 9/3/15 and later were illegal. 

If the Legacy Code zoning ordinance is legally once again back to reading “street level commercial required” then Buckeye’s proposed housing project (which does not include street level commercial) cannot move forward.

The bungling of changing one little word (“required”) to “allowed” but then switching mid-stream to improperly and illegally changing it instead to “permitted” could very well doom a $16 million public tax-credit heavy development scheme that only seems to have gotten as far as it did because of actions by Planning Department employees who played fast and loose with the zoning code text amendments.

And they would have gotten away with it too, if not for citizen sleuths like Peter Kroner and Freedom of Information Act requests! 



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1 Comment
  • Kyle
    Posted at 01:35h, 15 March

    Fantastic reporting. Keep it up.