Duhig to Village Board: 'Be Wary of Advocate Christ's Expansion Plans'
Trustee Tom Duhig warns of "hidden costs" of Advocate Christ expansion to Oak Lawn taxpayers in terms of local economy and infrastructure.
Saying he wished he could have painted a “rosier” picture of Advocate Christ Medical Center’s most recent plans to expand its campus, Trustee Tom Duhig poked holes in some of the hospital’s impact studies before the rest of the Oak Lawn Village Board on May 8.
Duhig, whose fourth district encompasses the medical center campus, hinted that some of the methodologies Advocate Christ used to conduct its traffic, economic and water impact studies for its proposed 9-story inpatient tower omitted huge parts of the big picture.
Last year, the village gave its blessing for a similarly sized outpatient pavilion that is currently under construction.
“Whether you like the Obama Healthcare Plan or not, if you remember how it was presented to Congress, it was 'read 1,500 pages and vote on it in two days,'” Duhig said. “It was sort of the same kind of approach used on the Planning and Development Commission.”
Duhig warned his fellow trustees “to be wary” of the unknown.
“There are a lot of hidden costs that we’re dealing with and trying to get our hands on,” he said. “I’m not convinced we have a good plan in place.”
Following planning commissioners' 5-2 vote last week to continue the public hearings until their next meeting on May 21, Duhig said that some Advocate Christ’s economic impact studies painted too “rosy” a picture of the expansion’s effect on the local economy.
The Oak Lawn Police Department has indicated a strong possibility that it may have to hire three full-time police officers. New equipment designed to fight fires and pull off rescue efforts in taller buildings may also need to be purchased for the Oak Lawn Fire Department.
Referring to the Cook County Administration Building fire in October 2003 that claimed six lives, Duhig continued, “I know [Advocate Christ] has one of the best architects and construction companies working on this project but try to tell the people that lost their friends and relatives at 69 W. Washington St. where people died in the stairwells.”
Duhig also blasted the medical center’s traffic studies conducted by the hired traffic-engineering firm KLOA in Rosemont. The first traffic study did not include Keeler Avenue from 93rd Street to 95th Street. A second study did not take into account residents on the south side of 95th Street.
“All of the residents from 95th Street to 99th Street were pretty much ignored and taken out of the study,” Duhig said.
Advocate Christ’s nine zoning variance petitions also suggest zero-setback for the 170-foot-tall tower; in other words, the building would bump up against the sidewalk. The medical center has submitted a request to widen Kostner Avenue to accommodate increased traffic.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen to snow plows going down Kostner Avenue with pedestrians on the sidewalk,” Duhig said.
Village taxpayers could face increases in their water bills as well. Last year, the medical center consumed between 5 million and 10 million gallons of water.
A new underground lift station would need to be installed at cost of $400,000 to $500,000 to minimize the medical center's impact on the village sewer system, as well as new a traffic signal light at 95th Street and Kilbourn Avenue at about the same cost.
The medical center claims that the addition of new parking garages to the campus will lessen traffic on area streets.
With the medical center’s expansion will come the increased need for medical office buildings and clinics on 95th Street between Pulaski Road and Central Avenue—termed one of the hottest medical corridors in the country.
Duhig warned village board members of “incrementalization” by taking properties that could be developed for retail use and turning them into non-sales-tax generating medical offices.
“What’s going to happen to the mom-and-pop stores that make this village great,” Duhig said. “Are the small businesses going to get eaten by the doctors offices and people coming with MRI machines? There hasn’t been any long-term planning by the hospital.”
Village officials have asked Advocate Christ for additional impact studies before planning commissioners give their final recommendation and ultimately send it to village trustees for a vote.
“I work for the residents of my district and ultimately for all of Oak Lawn,” Duhig said. “If it’s good for my district it’s probably good for the rest of Oak Lawn, but if it’s good for Oak Lawn it’s probably not good for my district.”
Catch up on local government news: