Kadner: Battle in Orland Park over access road
By Phil Kadner email@example.com November 19, 2013 7:32PM
A Mariano's grocery store is planned for property at the north end of Orland Park Crossing shopping center. If approved, it would join existing retailers in the center such as Charming Charlie. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 21, 2013 6:25AM
As I travel as a passenger in Mike Raymond’s car, he stresses that he wants me to understand something.
“We’re not opposed to the development,” Raymond said. “A Mariano’s grocery store would be a great thing. What we don’t want is an access road that would bring motorists trying to avoid LaGrange Road through our community.”
Raymond is president of the Orland Park Crossing Condominium Association, a townhouse-type neighborhood a couple of blocks east of the Orland Park Crossing mall, 143rd Street and LaGrange Road.
There is no direct access now from the neighborhood or the single-family homes nearby, Heritage Estates, to the shopping center. But a developer has proposed installing two access roads, connecting the community to LaGrange Road through 140th and 141st streets, as part of a plan to construct a Mariano’s supermarket and 231 rental units nearby.
Tom Mulvey, representing Heritage Estates homeowners, presented a village board committee Monday night with hundreds of their signatures on petitions protesting the access road plan.
“When the Orland Crossing mall was built, we were told by village officials that there would be no access to our residential streets,” Mulvey told me. “Now they want to put the access road in, and that will negatively impact our property values but more importantly jeopardize the safety of families who live in our community.”
Whenever residents living near a commercial area complain about development, it’s natural for outsiders to assume they’re taking a not-in-my-back-yard approach.
But there’s something to the complaints of these residents. They managed to persuade the Orland Park Plan Commission to alter the development plan, reducing the access roads from two to one, 141st Street. That’s preferable to two roads, but residents don’t want any access road, Mulvey and Raymond said.
On Monday night, the village board’s development services and planning committee voted to follow the plan commission’s recommendation. The full board is scheduled to vote on the issue next month.
“I don’t trust them,” Raymond told me. “They could still vote for the two access roads.”
Raymond and Mulvey contend that traffic traveling west on 135th Street already often detours south through their residential streets (where speed limits are typically 20 mph) to reach Orland Square Mall or as a shortcut to avoid congested LaGrange Road.
Through winding streets, making several turns, it’s possible to reach John Humphrey Drive, a major access road to Orland Square, from 135th Street.
Trustee Carole Griffin Ruzich said she has taken the shortcut to avoid backups on LaGrange Road in the past, but that since the intersection of 143rd Street and LaGrange Road was widened she hasn’t felt the need to do so.
“It’s just common sense,” Mulvey told me. “If you’re coming south on LaGrange and see traffic backed up and now there’s a new access road to take you around the bottleneck, you’re going to take it. That’s human nature.”
The developers of the Mariano’s and the apartment complex apparently want the access roads, claiming in part that they want local residents to be able to walk to the grocery store or drive to it without having to go several blocks out of their way.
“Sure, that would be easier for us,” Raymond said. “But we’re willing to take the time to drive around the block to keep our neighborhoods safe and residential.”
As Raymond drives me through his residential community, many homes have “No Access” signs posted in their windows.
But Karie Friling, director of development services for Orland Park, points out that when Raymond’s condominium complex was built, Orland Park made sure that residents had access to residential streets nearby. She said residents of the proposed 231-unit apartment complex deserve equal access to the community.
Friling insists that village traffic studies indicate that shoppers from outside the community will not use winding residential streets to get to Mariano’s when there’s a more direct access via LaGrange Road.
On Monday, village trustees expressed concern that public safety vehicles, such as fire trucks, would be hindered in accessing the residential community near Orland Park Crossing without the new access roads.
“That’s simply a ruse,” Mulvey said. “That’s never been a problem before. But we would have no problem with creating emergency access roads for that purpose only, if that’s the real concern. But that’s not what this is about.”
Most of the roads through the residential area seem designed for traffic no faster than 20 mph. If residents parked their cars on each side of the street in front of their homes, there would be just enough room for one car to get through the street.
People who live in Orland Park often take residential streets, back roads, to avoid traffic on LaGrange Road or 159th Street. Few outsiders, however, know those shortcuts.
Friling insists that rather than helping the proposed development, increasing access to LaGrange Road is in the best interests of the very residents who oppose it.
“That community has no direct access to LaGrange Road right now,” she said. “They deserve that option.”
She noted that the access road would help create a grid pattern of streets in the community.
I think all sides have valid arguments. However, with a Mariano’s and 230 new rental units, traffic on residential side streets is bound to increase.
Mariano’s officials said at a public meeting their stores frequently get as many as 500 cars an hour.
When village officials deny the obvious, residents know they’re not hearing the truth.