Updated, 11:05 p.m. Monday
Catcalls and shouts from unhappy Orland Park residents did not sway the village board Monday night, as both the development plan and for the project were approved.
But the approval did come with a new caveat introduced during the meeting. The Orland Park Village Board also unanimously voted to have village staff pursue ways to reduce the “debt and gap financing participation” of putting up $63 million in bonds to cover loans and incentives for the construction.
Trustee Brad O’Halloran was the lone dissenting vote on the redevelopment agreement and the financing plan for the apartment complex. He said he supports the project itself, but not the financing plan.
While a few residents voiced their concerns and misgivings about the project, it was the trustees who carried most of the meeting as they responded to and .
Trustee Kathy Fenton, who also chairs the development services committee, spoke at length, first firing back at people who criticized the village for not working harder to fill vacant business spaces, citing that less than 5 percent of Orland Park’s business spaces are empty. She also listed several businesses that set up shop in spaces left behind, including in the former Value City space, in Sports Authority’s old home, and Johnny’s Charhouse in the former Canoe Club building.
Fenton then described vacant spots that soon will be built upon, including the northwest corner of 144th Place and LaGrange Road, where will soon build a new plaza space.
“I am not a person to jump into things,” Fenton said. “If anything, I am a pessimist. But these are very proactive, not reactive, individuals sitting up here.”
Trustee James Dodge tackled the issue most talked about: whether residents will see the costs on their tax bills if the complex fails. He described simulations he asked staff to run 10 years down the line—when developer Flaherty and Collins is scheduled to have repaid the village’s investment.
“If Flaherty and Collins goes to hell in a handbasket, we, because we are the lender, step right in and control the asset, which will be more than the loan,” Dodge said. “We will have more than enough money in the home rule sales tax to make sure this never hits your tax bills.”
O’Halloran said he changed his mind on the financing plan for the project after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the United States’ credit rating because of “too much debt.”
“And here we sit to double out debt,” O’Halloran said about the financing plan. “It’s too much risk at this time.”
McLaughlin complimented staff and board members for the “tremendous amount of time spent over the last several years working on getting to this point.” He said he will work with staff to find ways to reduce the financial risk.
While some attendees clapped after the trustees spoke, others booed and called out while they were speaking, including one man who said, “Don’t treat us like a piggy bank.”