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The top 10 stories in La Grange for 2009

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By Joe Sinopoli, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
La Grange Suburban Life
Posted Dec 21, 2009 @ 01:07 PM
La Grange Park, IL — The top 10 stories in La Grange for 2009 reflect a community experiencing renewed life of a business district, the tragedy of an accidental death, the day to day issues of safety and security and the legal wrangling between government and the public.
The following is a recap of those stories that played an important part in the community in 2009.
— Compiled by Joe Sinopoli

No. 10
THE STORY Train station gets federal funding

WHAT HAPPENED La Grange received $500,000 in federal stimulus funding for the overall restoration of the Stone Avenue Train Station in August, a project that could cost more than $3 million between three phases. But those funds were contingent on the reconstruction of the platforms and shelters by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad/Metra. The railway has completed half of the construction needed.

WHAT NOW About $400,000 is bring funded by a grant from the West Suburban Mass Transit District, and another $200,000 was secured for the project in December. To begin its part of the restoration, the village must wait for the railway to finish its part. The second half of platform replacement is slated to begin this spring.

No. 9
THE STORY Gordon Park land sale controversy

WHAT HAPPENED Efforts by the Park District of La Grange to sell 2.82 acres of Gordon Park to Atlantic Realty Partners were blocked by a citizens group determined to preserving green space. The land is adjacent to the vacant Rich Port YMCA property at La Grange Road and Ogden Avenue, where ARP negotiated a deal with the YMCA to purchase the land for a mixed residential retail development. The YMCA subsequently backed out of the deal after a two-year delay in the courts.

WHAT NOW Opponents are pressing on with their lawsuit while Park District officials are trying to move forward with the plan, which would have resulted in the renovation of Gordon Park, despite the breakdown between the YMCA and ARP.

No. 8

THE STORY Village provides funds for La Grange Theatre rehab

The Village Board was approached by theater owners David Rizner and John Rot in 2007 about how the village could help secure the future of the theater. Last November, the board approved an agreement by a 4-3 vote where the village will provide $1 million in tax increment spending funds to renovate the theater. In effect, the village is purchasing an easement that preserves the facade of the theater. The owners must also honor a covenant that the theater remain in perpetuity until the time it ceases to operate. At that time, the owners are required to repurchase the easement for $1 million.

WHAT NOW Renovations have been completed and theater reopened.

No. 7
THE STORY Pawn shops not welcome

WHAT HAPPENED Berwyn resident Andrew Grayson took the village to court after village officials changed an ordinance prohibiting pawn shops in central business district. Grayson had already been issued a license to open a shop and had secured a lease to open the business.

WHAT NOW Grayson and his landlord individually filed lawsuits against the village at the end of October, to recover expenditures and loss of revenue. Grayson is seeking more than $50,000 and legal costs from the village. Attorneys will next meet in a hearing scheduled for Feb. 24. Grayson also is attempting to recover a security deposit and rent from Fifth Avenue Properties, for the store front at 71 S. La Grange Road in which he planned to open his business.

No. 6
THE STORY Arrests made in burglary wave

WHAT HAPPENED Between July 27 and 28, a total of nine homes were burglarized in an area north of 47th Street on Eighth Avenue, Seventh Avenue, Sawyer Avenue and Brainard Avenue. One house was reported burglarized Aug. 8 on East Harris Avenue. Three homes, two on Sixth Avenue and one on Sawyer Avenue, were broken into between July 17 and 18 as well.

WHAT NOW Police intensified patrols in the areas as a result of the break-ins. Five arrests were made of those involved in several of the burglaries and the investigation continues.

No. 5
THE STORY Bring your own liquor license

WHAT HAPPENED In April, the La Grange Liquor Commission heard from restaurant and bar owners who proposed establishing a “bring your own” license that would allow patrons to bring in their own beer or wine into designated establishments. They also discussed the occasional serving of wine or beer at special events held by boutiques, craft stores and meal-preparation clubs.

WHAT NOW The Village Board approved the licenses and other changes to the liquor code Aug. 10, and local businesses have begun to take advantage of the new rules. The first “bring-your-own license was approved for Knead Marketplace in October.

No. 4
THE STORY Business district flush with new eateries

WHAT HAPPENED Despite a sluggish economy, La Grange’s Central Business District got a burst of energy in the form of new restaurants and a few new shops. While the area had seen the exit of a few well-known, local eateries, by the end of summer four new restaurants opened, bringing the number to about 20 competing for customers in the business district.

WHAT NOW While some new business owners expressed a mild concern about the amount of competition from so many new eateries, most were encouraged at the growth downtown. Village officials see dining establishments as an important draw for the community and credit them with providing the foundation for the recovery of the business district.

No. 3
THE STORY “Kitchen Nightmares” TV chef take on Cafe 36

WHAT HAPPENED A struggling La Grange resident was selected to be on national television, and in January, made its small screen debut. Friends and family gathered at Carol and Terry Gilmer’s Cafe 36 on Calendar Court in La Grange Jan. 15 to view the premiere of Fox television’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” where maniac Chef Gordon Ramsay takes over a restaurant in trouble and puts it back on track. It was former sous chef Barney Smith, an outspoken critic of the restaurant's head chef, Pinto Das, who pitched the idea to "Kitchen Nightmares" to come to Cafe 36 — unbeknownst to the Gilmers.

WHAT NOW But the show did not go on. Despite Ramsay’s efforts, the restaurant closed.

No. 2
THE STORY Mansion owner, village at odds

WHAT HAPPENED Contractor Michael Tomasian and his family moved in April 30 after spending two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel and add on to his multi-million dollar home 124 S. South La Grange Road. He was served with papers in June for non-compliance, as neighbors complained about increased flooding in their yards. Tomasian maintained his revamped home wasn’t the issue.

WHAT NOW The village and Tomasian are now embroiled in a multi-point lawsuit for moving in without an occupancy permit, failure to install a storm sewer in his front yard and making illegal sewer connections. The suit also alleges his roof runoff is flooding neighbors’ yards.

No. 1
THE STORY Mother killed while crossing street

WHAT HAPPENED Countryside resident Cari Lyn Cook was struck by a sport-utility vehicle driven by a La Grange woman traveling east on 47th Street as Cook was crossing the street at Eighth Avenue with her two children, a 4-month-old son and 2-year old daughter. The boy was in a carrier worn by Cook while the daughter was in a stroller. The infant suffered a fractured leg.

WHAT NOW A comprehensive set of improvements related to pedestrian crossings has been implemented throughout the village, including pedestrian-activated flashing yellow beacons and advance warning pavement markings for motorists. Reduced speed limits on 47th Street were also put in place.

Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)

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