After sailing through three previous votes, the Palos Town Square development was killed Tuesday night with a razor thin margin.
Aldermen voted 4-3 not to approve the preliminary plan for the six-building retail development at Harlem Avenue and Route 83, effectively killing the project.
Developer Lagestee-Mulder planned to build a six-building development on the long empty corner that would possibly include a restaurant, auto repair shop and most controversially -- a bank.
The preliminary plan passed through the Planning Unit Development Commission, the Planning and Zoning Committee and an initial City Council vote. The plan would have to filter through the same process should the developer attempt to try again, a scenario that is unlikely.
At the last council meeting aldermen voted to approve the drafting of the motion to approve in a 7-1 vote.
The preliminary plan was just that. The council would have maintained the power to force changes or vote down the project outright should it have made it to the final plan stage.
"They didn't even give [the developer] a chance," Alderman Jack Clifford said after the meeting. Clifford appeared visibly frustrated with his fellow alderman after the meeting adjourned.
The vote was close. Aldermen Jeff Prestinario, Jeff Key and Jack Clifford voted to approve, while aldermen Bob Basso, Alan Fulkerson, Dolores Kramarski and Jerry McGovern voted 'no'.
Alderman Michael McGorgan, who had thrice voted for the plan in previous meetings, was absent.
For the most part the addition of another bank, proposed to sit at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Route 83, was the major sticking point for the dissenters.
"[Residents] don’t want to see another bank in town," Kramarski said. "I don’t think something is better than nothing."
Prestinario, who voted in favor of moving the process forward, also expressed apprehension about the placement of the bank. However, he felt that the exact location could be negotiated in subsequent steps along the final approval process.
Basso was critical of the entire process and voiced his concerns about the notion of approving preliminary plans without exact details.
"The more times we approve these stages the closer we get to that project looking exactly like it does on that preliminary proposal,” Basso said. "I don’t see any real connectivity to the canal, or to Lake Katherine."
Mayor Bob Straz countered that those were issues that have already been discussed and would appear on the next set of plans submitted to the city and would be discussed during the final approval process.
Straz also reminded aldermen that the land has been vacant for 12 years. After the meeting he remarked that banks are a common anchor for many retail developments because they provide a hearty injection of capital into developments and are often long-term well maintained tenants.
Theoretically, the developers could resubmit the plan for consideration, but it would have to move through all approval steps of the process once again. Straz was doubtful that would happen.
Patch will have continued coverage of the aftermath of the vote.
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