Advocate May Swap Service Fee for Senior Wellness Center
Oak Lawn Village Board battles over shift in game plan seeking service fee from Advocate Christ for public coffers to co-venturing with village on senior wellness center at Beaty property.
Oak Lawn Village Board members discussed—ad nauseam—a plan to explore partnering with Advocate Christ Medical Center on a new senior wellness center as part of a re-development plan at the former Beatty Lumber property.
The state-of-the-art senior wellness center would be built by Advocate and owned by the village, possibly as an alternative to paying an impact or service fee to the village’s general revenue fund as a cost of doing business in Oak Lawn.
As a non-profit, the medical center does not pay the village property taxes or other fees, such as building permits.
Oak Lawn trustees voted in December 2011 to begin negotiations with Advocate Christ for a service fee to help balance the village budget. The plan was modeled after an arrangement between Park Ridge and Advocate Lutheran General, which pays a service fee to Park Ridge.
Advocate Christ’s latest construction project, the largest in Oak Lawn history, calls for a 9-story patient tower and parking garage, although the plans have recently changed to reduce the size of the building. Another patient tower is currently going up on the medical campus facing 95th Street.
Oak Lawn trustees approved the medical center’s zoning, height and setback variances—with conditions--after an intensive review by the village’s planning and development commission, and an independent architecture firm over the summer.
The expansion is likely to place more wear and tear on the village infrastructure, as well as requiring hiring more police officers and purchasing additional emergency equipment.
According to a source on the planning and development commission, the village was poised to finalize an impact fee negotiated by the village manager, in which Advocate would pay the village $1.7 million over 40 months.
Plans for a co-venture took shape at a meeting with Advocate officials in September, attended by the mayor, village manager, the Beatty developers, and Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) and his business partner, Dennis Brennan.
Trustee Tom Duhig, whose fourth district encompasses the medical center campus, said that Park Ridge receives a monthly $50,000 service fee from Advocate Lutheran General.
“We approached the hospital and asked for the same type of agreement,” Duhig said. “I don’t think we were out of line. I think based on the expansion program and the additional resources that are going to be required by the village that it was something actually long overdue.”
Village Manager Larry Deetjen said he had “concerns” that the conditions Advocate agreed to, such as paying for a streetscape, traffic signal and beefing up infrastructure, weren’t going to be met.
“Those are all agreements that this board and planning commission agreed to,” Deetjen said. “In my opinion, there’s no negotiation, those were conditions of approval.”
“Are you saying someone from the hospital is not moving forward with the conditions they’ve agreed to,” Mayor Dave Heilmann asked.
“I have concerns that progress on all those fronts need to be documented,” Deetjen said. “I haven’t seen the progress of these.”
Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) said the board was “talking ad nauseam” about “generic references and visions.” Details of the co-venture were vague.
“It’s all subjective, nothing qualitative,” he said. “We have a responsibility to make determination based on upon information, not words like ‘vision’ and ‘better.’”
There was also banter about Advocate being exempt from having pay to building permit fees—estimated around $3 million—to the village.
“All these issues like lost permit fees are a ruse,” Streit said. “We could negotiate some fixed fee or we could work with the hospital to encourage a very successful development for the long-term future of the community that I and the mayor and others believe is in the best interest of the community. I guess we’re going to talk about this ad nauseam …”
Phelan brought up that a preliminary 2013 budget hearing, board members had discussed a possible 20- to 30-percent property tax increase. The village is also considering selling village-owned assets to help balance the budget.
"That is a massive hit," Phelan said.
Heilmann called for a motion to direct the village manager to follow through with the exploration of the senior center concept. The mayor added that the motion did not give the village manager “negotiating authority” but to report back to the board “on the progress of the exploration.”
Before the vote, Phelan and Duhig asked the mayor why Advocate couldn’t do both—pay an impact fee and partner on a senior center.
“No one is against a senior center,” Phelan said.
The village board voted 4-3 to continue discussions of a possible co-venture with Advocate.