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Elmwood Park Public Hearing Next Step in Walmart Process, Probably in September

Planning Commission members voted to recommend that the Village Board set a public hearing date about possibly amending Elmwood Park's land use plan.

A public hearing that could help determine whether or not Elmwood Park amends its land use plan will take place but probably not until September.

The village's Plan Commission on Monday night voted to send a recommendation to the Village Board for a public hearing so residents can voice their opinions about amending Elmwood Park's comprehensive plan.

At the center of the issue is a proposed Neighborhood Market where the former Kohl's building stands at Lathrop and Durand Avenues. Walmart's site plan includes as well as the three-acre residential lot directly south. Because that parcel, owned by the Heinrichs, is zoned for residential, Walmart is asking Elmwood Park to rezone it to commercial to make way for the new grocery store.

A public hearing is required when a rezoning, and, in this case, a consideriation to changing the comprehensive plan, is requested.

Because the public hearing requires 30 days notice, should the board at its Aug. 9 meeting approve scheduling the hearing, the earliest one could take place would be the middle of September.

Plan Commission member and Trustee Peter Clouthier asked why the village can't just send Walmart's plan back to them since it doesn't meet village requirements.

"We do it for all sorts of other things, like a shed, and to me, this is no different," he said. "Walmart's plan doesn't comply with our land use plan, doesn't comply with our zoning, and violates a village ordinance that points to how it would change the character of the neighborhood."

But Pat Tierney, also a commission member, said Walmart's application was done according to village requirements so Elmwood Park has to either hold a public hearing or ask Walmart to withdraw their application to address the shortages Clouthier listed.

"I'm not advocating for or against Walmart, but I want the process to move forward," he said. "I want to hear from the public."

After Brad Jaeck made the motion for a public hearing about amending the land use plan and it was seconded, Tierney asked if Jaeck would be willing to amend his motion to include the possible rezoning of the Heinrich property, but Jaeck said no.

"We need to take this one step at a time," Jaeck said.

If a change to the village's land use plan is approved, there would have to be a second public hearing about rezoning the Heinrich's property.

Resident Leif Peterson said he was pleased to see movement on the Walmart issue, blaming Village President Audrey Viau for not getting the company's application in front of the Planning Commission until the board forced her hand.

"This is a long process, but it's not the fault of the Planning Commission or the people gathered here," he noted. "All this time, the information has been in the president's hands and she's done nothing with it until the board voted to make it happen. I think we're taking the right steps and we're taking them slowly."

Where the public hearing will take place remains up in the air. One person mentioned having it in the gym on the grounds of the Taylor Home property while someone else suggested asking Concordia Lutheran for use of their facility.

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