The Tinley Park District is interested in purchasing the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center and adjacent Howe Development Centre, property which the village has long considered acquiring and redeveloping.
Park board members at a special meeting Monday asked the district’s newly hired law firm to notify the Illinois Department of Central Management Services of the district’s interest in the park to acquire state-owned land.
Tinley Park has also been in negotiations with the state to acquire the 280-acre site, northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street.
Village officials present at the meeting said they were taken aback by the move and claimed that Tinley Park had already invested resources in trying to buy the site and hire consultants. Village officials previously said they have reached a tentative deal with the state to purchase the property for $4.5 million.
Tinley Park Village Manager Pat Carr said park district officials had never expressed an interest in the property.
The property had once been considered for development as a harness racing track and casino.
Mayor Mike Glotz said plans the village is considering for redevelopment, including a sports complex, could bring in $7 million to $10 million a year in tax revenue for Tinley Park.
“We need to bring ownership together as a city,” Glotz said.
Glotz also said the site is not zoned to allow a park or other recreational use, which the village should change. The property is now zoned for uses such as offices and light industry.
“You can’t do anything with the property anyway,” he told park board members.
The state issued a notice of surplus properties, including the mental hospital, in late October, giving interested buyers until late November to express interest.
The village sent its notice of interest Nov. 3, said Paul O’Grady, the village attorney.
Park board member Lisa O’Donovan said the district is “moving forward with exploring our options” regarding the site.
“Our hope is to build a partnership with the village,” she said.
The Park District has had no discussions with the state about a purchase price and in January asked to meet with village officials about the property, but received no response, Bernie O said. ‘Boyle, Vice-Chairman of the Board.
O’Boyle acted as Chairman of the Board for the meeting due to the absence of President Marie Ryan.
Park District Executive Director Shawn Roby said the Park District is not committed to purchasing the property and it is just exploration at this stage.
“The board is interested in it,” Roby said.
The ultimate goal of redevelopment of the site carries a price tag of millions of dollars to address environmental risks on the property.
The village cited environmental issues such as contaminated soil, underground storage tanks, asbestos and black mold. There would also be costs to demolish dozens of buildings.
An estimate made several years ago put the cost of fixing the site’s environmental issues and razing dozens of buildings at $12.4 million, but village officials suspect the cost has risen.
The site is in a tax increase funding district, and property tax revenue generated in the district from redevelopment could be used to pay for these site preparation costs.
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Earlier this month, the Park Board approved two bond sales totaling $2.1 million, with the proceeds used to pay for the acquisition of park land, although it did not specify the site owned by the state.
Prior to the action over state property, the Park Board fired its attorneys, Peterson, Johnson & Murray, which is the principal law firm in the village.
Tinley Park has another firm, the Del Galdo Law Group, to represent it in negotiations regarding state ownership, according to Glotz.
Park board members named Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath as the new company.
The park’s board could have voted on the possible purchase of the land at its regular meeting scheduled for Wednesday and still fall within the Nov. 30 deadline to register its interest with the state.
Burt Odelson, manager of Odelson, Sterk, said Monday’s special meeting was needed to approve the law firm change before Wednesday’s meeting.
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