Red Seal removes signature line for official on controversial plan
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Chicago Tribune by Irv Leavitt
Red Seal Development, with a project under fire from Mission Hills and western Northbrook residents over flooding concerns, dropped from the development's drainage plan a signature line for an openly suspicious governmental official.
The Village of Northbrook's engineer has indicated a willingness to accept the drainage plan for Provenance, a planned 137-unit development. The village plan commission recently said it will follow the village engineer's lead. The only governmental body left publicly criticizing the drainage is the Northfield Township Road District, led by Pete Amarantos, who says his agency is charged with primary oversight.
But Red Seal, while accusing Amarantos of bias against its project, has removed his agency's signature line from its legal plat of survey.
The plat of survey is the legal document describing the 44 acres of land and what's to be built on it. It must be filed, with the approval of various governments, or the project can't be built.
Amarantos says he won't allow the plat to be recorded without his oversight.
An early version of the plat, published by Red Seal in June of 2014, eight months before the project was approved by the Cook County Board, had a place for Amarantos' signature. The most recent version, however, does not. And for the first time, there's a space for the signature of Northbrook Village Engineer Paul Kendzior.
Northbrook Village Attorney Steve Elrod said it was he who insisted the recording of the plat require the signatures of the village engineer and several other village officials, to protect the interest of the village in drainage and other matters.
He said he was not involved in the road commissioner's signature line being taken off the plat.
"My concern is the Village of Northbrook and the Village of Northbrook only," he said. "Paul Kendzior needed to be on there all along."
As for Amarantos, he said his approval is required.
"There's only one representative of the unincorporated people of Northbrook," Amarantos said Aug. 27, referring to his district. "I don't know what the next step is. I expect to talk to my attorney. That's one of the reasons I'm elected, to protect the people of this area."
A Red Seal representative said there would be no comment on the plat, but relayed a statement from Red Seal CEO Todd Fishbein.
"The original draft plans were sent to Mr. Amarantos on several occasions over the past year – first in February, as well as revised versions in March, April and July," the statement reads. "During this time, Mr. Amarantos never once provided Red Seal with any review comments or shared any concerns on any of these plans. Instead, Mr. Amarantos shared his comments with Northbrook and they have been addressed in the recent plan revisions."
The statement said Amarantos had "clearly aligned himself with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the zoning for Provenance" and said he was trying to use his position to "tactically delay and attempt to derail" the project. "
Amarantos has denied any bias in the matter. He said he is only trying to protect his constituents living in unincorporated areas by making sure they don't experience flooding.
"I'm not here to kowtow to a developer," he said. "My fiduciary responsibility is not to him, it's to the people out in the area that floods. His timeline, I have nothing to do about it. I make sure that everything is done appropriately."
Before the Cook County Board's February vote, Amarantos had said that he and the township's engineer, Dan Creaney, felt the project would cause flooding, saying "it's going to be a mess. Red Seal has not addressed any of the concerns."
Fishbein also noted in his statement that the new stormwater plans find the water routed outside the Mission Hills system, and the roads in Provenance have been changed from public to private status.
Last month, Kendzior and Northbrook Building and Planning Director Poupard said the water route changes are largely an effort to get the job done without the easements and connections to the current system that Mission Hills has yet to grant. Red Seal has sued for them, but there has yet to be a result in court.
Poupard also said that a Red Seal lawyer told him that the private roads were an effort to avoid the purview of the road district. Red Seal declined comment. Amarantos said he still had to sign off on plans no matter the status of the roads.
Officials said issues involving road commission oversight of projects in unincorporated areas may be difficult to untangle, because few large developments have occurred there in recent decades.
"I have no idea," said Robert Provenzano, who has been commissioner of Maine Township for 17 years. "It's never come up. We've never had a development."
Cook County Board community liaison Mary Beth Hoerner said that she was confident, however, that the road commission's oversight status would not change with the roads' status.
"Frankly, it's not clear that putting in a private road relieves the obligation to be overseen by a township road commissioner," Steve Lenet, co-author of the current Cook County zoning code, said.
Lenet, called by opposition lawyers, testified about Provenance at Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals hearings.
Lenet also said that changing the status of the roads may be seen as a "major change" in the plan approved by the county board.
"They would have to go back to the county and start all over," he said.
Hoerner said she doubted that the road change would be seen that way by the commissioners, but added that Commissioner Peter Silvestri, R-9th, was now looking into the issues. Silvestri heads the county board's building and zoning committee.
Northbrook's Kendzior had to look up the plat to find out that there was now a place on it for him to sign, he said.
"I do know that I'm on there, but I don't know why the road commissioner isn't," he added.
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