New North Park Village group OK’d
by BRIAN NADIG
The Chicago City Council at its March 13 meeting approved the formation of a North Park Village Commission that will consist mainly of city agency representatives and operate separate from the decades-old North Park Village Advisory Council.
The advisory council includes neighbors and representatives of civic groups and gives input on a variety of issues and activities at the 155-acre village, 5801 N. Pulaski Road, which includes a nature center and senior housing.
The advisory council’s functions will remain the same and will be unaffected by the new commission, said Alderman Margaret Laurino spokesman Manuel Galvan.
The 8-member commission will include mayoral-appointed representatives from city departments including fleet and facility management, housing, streets and sanitation, bureau of forestry, planning and development and police.
The commission also will include the alderman of the ward where the village is located (currently 39th Ward) or a designee selected by the alderman, along with the senior housing manager at the village and a representative of the Chicago Park District.
"It’s been in place for quite a while on an informal basis, (allowing) different city agencies to cooperate and keep in touch with each other, and the alderman thought it was very helpful," Galvan said of the commission.
"The alderman decided she wanted to formalize it so it won’t fall by the wayside with a new alderman and City Council," Galvan said. Laurino is retiring as alderman this spring.
According to the ordinance, the commission’s role will be to "plan, supervise and coordinate programs and projects that facilitate the preservation and maintenance of North Park Village, increase use of North Park Village facilities and attendance at programs and raise community awareness as to the historical importance and significance of North Park Village."
The commission is required to meet at least three times a year and to submit an annual report on "important problems, conditions or proposals pertinent to the development, maintenance and protection of North Park Village," the ordinance states. The village was once the Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex.
The advisory council plans to send a letter to city officials asking that the ordinance creating the new commission be rescinded. The council’s leadership team also has discussed the possibility of the council seeking an appointment to the commission if the city does follow through with its formation, said council chairman Don Hodgkinson.
At its March 20 meeting, some council members reportedly expressed concern that the commission could replace the advisory group and complained that they were not notified of the ordinance until after it was approved. The ordinance was introduced in committee on March 12 and approved by the City Council the following day.
Hodgkinson said that it is his understanding that a group of city agency officials has been meeting privately with Laurino for about 2 years in part to address maintenance-related issues at North Park Village but that the formalization of the group will require its meetings to be open to the public.
The advisory council usually meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of January, March, May, July, September and November in the Community Room in the H Building at North Park Village.
"If you have something that affects North Park Village, let us know about it," Hodgkinson said of the role of the advisory council, which was formed in the 1970s. He said that while the council’s decisions serve as only recommendations to the city and the park district, the advisory group is its own self-governing body and welcomes membership and input from anyone interested in North Park Village.
The May 15 meeting is expected to include an update on the Forest Playschool, which operates in the Walking Sticks Woods at the village. There reportedly have been complaints about debris and other issues related to the outdoor school, and Hodgkinson said that the council is forming a committee to make sure residents and school officials are "on the same page."
Meanwhile, the city is looking into transferring a conservation easement at the village to the park district, which would maintain the easement as open land. The nonprofit group Openlands is involved in the negotiations, according to Laurino’s office.
Hodgkinson said that he is aware of the easement issue and expects that the advisory council will be getting a report on the possible transfer once more details are available.