Friday, April 21, 2006

A Town We Call Home

The Wilmette developers of the Green Bay Rd. property held their open house today. I stopped by about 4:30 and there were already people there checking out the displayed plans and talking to the developers.

I asked Mike Earl, Wilmette Village Manager, if a TIF was in the works. He said there are "no discussions at this time". I said that was kind of a non-answer, and he repeated his words. I remarked that a TIF would not be a good thing for the schools.

I took some pictures, which attracted the attention of the developers, Wilmette Village Center, LLC. I was finally able to talk to Mr.Pochter, who had not returned my call. He said he had been out of town. Mr. Pochter said prior to buying the old Ford property they had a firm drill holes down to 35 ft. at regular intervals, through the foundation and across the entire property and found no evidence of underground tanks or any motor oil or paint spills.

Mr. Pochter did confirm that a tank had been removed on Tuesday, March 28th. He said it was a water tank. I asked him why then, would people have noticed fumes to the point of dizziness from some distance away, and even the next morning which I smelled myself, and had fuel smells coming from near their sewer line. He said once the water tank was removed they found a fuel tank underneath it. He also said the water table was high on the property.

In a previous post the Illinois EPA inspector, speaking generally about the possibility that the fuel could have leaked into the sewer line, told me that sewer pipes are put in a trench with gravel and are designed to have water migrate to it, they are not designed to be waterproof. He said if there was a spillage the fuel would normally travel along the trench until it could find a place to migrate in, and as it floats on top of the water it would flow in fairly easily. Depending on whether it was gas or diesel would affect flammability.

According to Mr. Pochter the fuel tanks are being removed tomorrow with the State Fire Marshall present.

I asked Mr. Pochter why the existing pile of debris on site was not covered, as I had understood EPA rules were that if there was some contamination, debris should be covered until it was safely removed. He said there was no contamination. But I had reported there was an incident report filed with the State Fire Marshall. Earlier post. Here is the EPA site for general information. The EPA incident report number is H2006-0342. Anyone can file a FOIA request.

I asked Mr. Pochter about reports of public urination by workers on the site in view of mothers and children going by. He said it was a subcontractor and having read my blog, asked him about it and the subcontractor said they had used facilities. (As we talked we were standing in the village hall board room/training room looking out the window at the development site.) I said, well then where are the port-a-potties? I didn't see any then and I don't see them now.

Mr. Pochter said I was short-sighted and why couldn't I see the benefits for the village? I said I wasn't a fan of 5-story buildings in an older village and I didn't believe the revenue projections
of the project.

While I was there I also spoke to one of the existing small businesses on the block who said that if he were to relocate to the new building his rents would just about double, and he probably could not afford that. Where will these dream retailers come from?

To their credit, the developers in their public statements, Wilmette Life 3/23, claim that they do not like the idea of eminent domain to grab the private property of the mom and pop businesses on the entire block, against their will.

At last week's local boards dinner and presentation sponsored by the League of Women Voters and held at the Park District's Lakeview Center, in front of assembled representatives of the Park Board, Library Board, and District #39 and New Trier School Boards, Village President Chris Canning, in response to a question about the proposed Green Bay development said: "Versinos' (the Wilmette Bike Shop) property would look pretty funny next to a 5-story building".
So here is one rendition of the new monumental building, front and back:

And here is another:

The next step is going before the Village Plan Commission.

Well, many of us happen to like our low-key, low-slung, pedestrian friendly village architecture, our mom and pop businesses, passed on from one generation to the next, our little league baseball, kids' soccer and hockey sponsors. That is what makes Wilmette unique. That is why we moved here.

That is what makes a town home.

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