Garden City trustees should have brought boxing gloves to the Dec. 16 village board meeting where heated words sparked even more heated words in a battle of resolutions.
Despite a four-part resolution introduced and unanimously passed at the Oct. 21 board meeting, which detailed exactly how the board planned on moving forward with St. Paul's, Mayor Barbara Miller and trustees Peter Bee and Jon Segerdahl brought three more resolutions to the table. Sparks began flying after Mayor Miller introduced her resolution.
Mayor Miller's reads as follows: "Whereas the St. Paul's property, consisting of 48.3488 acres, more or less, was acquired by the village on Nov. 12, 1993, by eminent domain, and; Whereas, the property is and should continue to be enjoyed by the residents of the village for park and recreation purposes, and; Whereas, questions as to the use of the property have arisen and have prevented the property from being fully utilized for park and recreation purposes. Now, therefore, be it resolved that the St. Paul's property, as fully described below [in meets and bounds of property] shall be dedicated as parkland."
Mayor Miller, whose resolution surprised trustees as well as the public, explained her reasons for bringing it forth. "Residents keep questioning this. The more I think about it and the theme I keep hearing from the public is that that land, that valuable land, should remain in public domain," she said. "I become very disturbed when I hear trustees talk about possibly selling that land. Like everyone here, I too have my opinion about this ... I feel very strongly that that property, all 48 acres of it, should remain in public control."
According to Village Counsel Gary Fishberg, the property has never been designated "parkland." Rather, it's been impacted by a public trust, as a result of a court case brought forth by residents. Mayor Miller, along with trustees Peter Negri, Jon Segerdahl and John Watras voted in favor of it while trustees Peter Bee, John Mauk, Robert Rothschild and Gerard Lundquist voted against it. Mayor Miller, as per the village's Community Agreement, voted again in order to break the deadlock. Her resolution passed to the dismay of some fellow board members and residents. An act of legislature is now required to change the 48 acres from its new parkland designation.
Russell Matthews, executive vice president of the Albanese Development Corporation, told Mayor Miller that her resolution effectively foreclosed on any kind of private use option. "No credible developer is going to risk the time and resources necessary to respond to an RFP that really has no hope of being implemented," he said. "It would be a waste of the village's resources to invest any more money or time to develop an RFP."
Further, Matthews said incorporating a private use would now be impossible. "I can't imagine, [Senator] Kemp Hannon, giving what you've done tonight - blindsiding the board and the public - passing home rule legislation now."
Resident Bob Bolebruch of Kenmore Road, said he understands both sides of the coin and reminded trustees to follow the path they unanimously agreed to take. "After months of being deadlocked, you made a decision to go down a certain path, whether or not that's a path that maybe some of you have reconsidered," he said. "The bottom line is that you made a decision to take this path, you complete the path..."
Disappointed the resolution passed, Bolebruch added, "I truly believe in my heart that you really have no idea what you've just done. There are tremendous restrictions with parkland. In addition to that, you talked about giving absolute control to the residents but yet there was a comment made that if this has to be changed it must now be changed by an act of legislation."
Trustee Mauk, who vehemently disagreed with the mayor's actions, let her have it. "Once again, I think this is very disingenuous of you to introduce a resolution at this time after Mr. Bee had circulated his resolution to all of us," trustee Mauk, who later apologized for losing his temper, said. "You talk about your dismay about not being able to do anything when, point in fact mayor, you have been one of the biggest obstacles in moving forward with St. Paul's. You can pass all the resolutions you want in this regard but you're not facing the facts and you're not being fair to the rest of this board and you're not being fair to the public.
"The vote and its implication is contrary to views of many in this community," trustee Mauk continued. "There are two obstacles we face when doing anything satisfactorily to St. Paul's with respect to public use - we are absent of a plan and we don't have the means to finance."
Mayor Miller reiterated her stand. "I think I have a right, regardless of what you're saying here, to say that this is what I believe it should be. The whole 48 acres should remain in the village's and public's control," she said.
Jackie Vita of Pine Street said she would have supported parkland in 1992 and would support it now. "I am a pie in the sky dreamer," she admitted. "That is what this village is built on. I support the preservation of a dream. That's why I live here." Furthermore, Vita commended both sides of the board for sticking to what their vision for St. Paul's is.
Because trustees had no previous knowledge Mayor Miller planned on bringing her resolution forth, former trustee and resident Eileen Collins alluded to that in her comments. "During my first two years on the board ... Bob Schoelle gave us some very good advice that I try to live my life by - no surprises. It seems to me, from sitting here, that Peter circulated a resolution in advance and everybody had it - no surprises. Maybe the other two resolutions, in fairness to the village, should have gone out to everybody. Now I know that you don't have to do it that way. But I did find that, even with Mayor Benack, who I did have many a disagreement with, I always tried to do no surprises. I think you need to try and do a little more in the no surprises area."
Collins, having served under seven previous mayors, added, "Trustee Mauk and Mayor Miller, you cannot always have the last word at every meeting. The citizens should have the last word. Truthfully, this debate doesn't have to be in vain. This can all be a good thing, what happened here tonight, if you can look forward and work for the good of the village."
Trustee Bee's resolution, which he circulated to fellow residents in advance, is as follows: "Whereas, in relation to the possible development of the area of the St. Paul's property commonly known as the "10-acre building site" (the "site"), this board did previously, on Oct. 21, unanimously resolve to have Request for Proposals for the development of the site prepared with professional assistance upon the receipt of a "Needs Assessment" from staff describing village public use needs which could be met by preserving some public use space at the site; and; whereas this board has, on Oct. 29, now received the "Needs Assessment" from staff, it is therefore resolved that the village administrator forthwith take such steps as are necessary and appropriate for the drafting of a "Request for Proposals," utilizing professional assistance, consistent with the prior unanimous resolution of this board.
Trustees Bee, Lundquist, Mauk and Rothschild voted in favor of the resolution while Mayor Miller and trustees Segerdahl and Negri voted against it. Trustee Watras abstained from voting. As a result, the resolution failed.
The board also voted on a third and final resolution trustee Segerdahl brought forth during last Thursday's meeting. The resolution, which trustee Segerdahl said builds upon the four-part resolution the board unanimously passed at the Oct. 21 meeting, is as follows: "With the intent of continuing to move forward with the "St. Paul's issue" and with the intent of further clarifying and delineating the four-part resolution on the future of the Historic Main Building recently passed by the board of trustees, I offer the following resolution: 1. Needs Assessment: A more expanded and thorough needs assessment be developed with community input. 2. RFP: The board of trustees request village staff to draw up a RFP (Request for Proposal) for the joint public/ private use of the Historical Main Building at St. Paul's subject to the following provisions: The village maintains ownership of the building and land. Private use not to exceed the footprint of the present Historic Main Building and be contained to those portions not designed as "public." Private use shall indicate property needs sufficient to accommodate parking. The public use portion is defined as the entire first floor and the chapel portion of the second floor. 3. Stabilization: The board of trustees authorize an expenditure of money from existing St. Paul's Building Maintenance Fund code, for the purpose of authorizing an architect to draw up the plans and specification for the stabilization of the Historic Main Building per Sullivan & Nichols' cost estimate analysis."
Trustees Segerdahl and Negri and Mayor Miller voted in favor of it while trustees Mauk, Bee, Rothschild and Lundquist voted against it. Trustee Watras, again, abstained from voting. As a result, the resolution, too, failed. However, trustee Watras wanted to change his vote to "yes" for the sake of "moving forward." After some discussion with Counsel Fishberg and a check of the rulebook, it was determined that trustee Segerdahl's resolution could be "reconsidered" or "renewed." To reconsider, the resolution must be worded slightly differently and voted upon again. To renew, the resolution must be voted upon again at a different meeting. The next board of trustees meeting is Thursday, Jan 13. It is possible trustee Segerdahl's resolution will be discussed and, perhaps, voted upon again at that time.