Oak Park denies day care proposal
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:49AM
OAK PARK — Village trustees have turned down a proposed early childhood education facility on South Marion Street.
Oak Park trustees voted 4-2 against the plan on Monday proposed by Oak Leaf Academy. Applicant Jo Ann Gantar had hoped to get the green light for the facility at 206-208 S. Marion St., but concerns about potential traffic snarls at pickup and drop-off times, which could affect surrounding businesses, ultimately derailed the plan.
“I’m sorry to have taken you so far through the process and not have this done,” said Village President David Pope, had voted against the project.
“I’m sorry you won’t have a wonderful facility for children in your community,” Gantar shot back tearfully as she and about 15 supporters left Monday’s meeting.
Though Oak Park’s Plan Commission initially unanimously approved the project, its chairwoman, Linda Bolte, expressed doubts about its feasibility, even if Gantar rented five parking spaces south of the building.
Economic development staff, including Business Services Manager Loretta Daly, said an early childhood education center does not fit Oak Park’s Greater Downtown Master Plan. The village envisions a space that has evening and weekend traffic, as well as daytime use.
“Staff looks at this as an incredible business,” she said. “It doesn’t bring the highest and best use.”
Rachel Rettberg, an early childhood educator and project supporter, testified during Monday’s hearing that having families come to Oak Leaf Academy would attract foot traffic to surrounding businesses.
However, Nancy Nemetz, a leasing agent representing the owner of Millbrook Apartments, said the village had worked hard to create an attractive business district.
“South Marion did not undergo this $5.4 million face-lift for a day care to take away the parking spaces,” she said. She also noted that the YMCA operates a day care about one-half block away from the proposed Oak Leaf Academy site , while the Oak Park & River Forest Day Nursery is also nearby.
Pope asked whether Gantar had considered any other sites in Oak Park. She and Melissa Lumpkis told trustees they had met with Sarah Faust, president of the Oak Park Development Commission. However, no other sites met the state’s requirements for first-floor access, exits per classroom and square footage.