Many residents of Farragut Ave spoke out against the zoning petition
Board tables vote to deny zoning change of single family home to multi tenant unit on Farragut & Cumberland
The Norridge Zoning Board held a hearing on a zoning petition July 1st by an owner of property at Cumberland and Farragut Avenues, on the far northern part of Norridge’s boundaries.
The petition would change the zoning classification of the 5235 Cumberland property from a single family home (R-1) to a multi family (R-3) unit.
Many Farragut residents came out to oppose the petition, citing several concerns including sewer issues, parking and traffic.
Historically, the Village Zoning Board has shown itself to be a been a rubber-stamp farce, packed with patronage job political hacks, who never hesitate to throw local residents under the bus to support the political leadership’s diktats… no matter the cost to the locals.
This time, however, the Zoning Board actually stood by local residents, voting to recommend the Village Board deny the R-3 zoning change.
The decision, however was not upheld by the Village Board. At the July 24th Village board meeting, the board chickened out, not supporting or opposing the petition, instead tabling the vote until a future meeting.
The board members who could be bothered to show up, that is. Interim mayor Daniel Tannhauser failed to attend the meeting. Also missing was trustee Donald Gelsomino.
The remaining trustees voted in 85-year old trustee Ursula Kucharski an temporary President Pro Tem. Kucharski seemed out of her element as she painfully stumbled through the meeting agenda.
The delayed vote seems an attempt to find some reason to approve the zoning change over both the zoning board’s, and local residents’ objections.
No doubt they’ll find a way to ram this multi-unit monstrosity down the throats of the good residents of Farragut… just as they did the gas station a few months earlier.
Recording of the July 24 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 25 minutes)
Chmura’s tax-and-run final budget shows $2.1 million property tax levy for 2020, up from $1.6 million in 2019
Buried under the announcement of Norridge Improvement Party regime leader James Chmura’s departure as Village President effective June 30th, was a line item of the Village property tax levy for 2020: $2.1 million.
That’s a 32% increase from 2019’s $1.6 million, which itself was a 35% increase over 2018’s $1.2 million levy.
Village trustees rubber stamped Chmura’s last tax increase budget without a single comment… as per usual.
Chmura will leave office in 2019 with the Village property tax levy 110% higher than it was when he took office in 2013.
The Village levies property taxes under it’s “home rule” authority, which does not require a referendum for increases beyond the rate of inflation.
The tax levy will not happen until after a formal hearing is held later in the year, followed by another Village board vote. The likelihood of NIP politicians opposing it? Pretty slim.
Why the sudden departure?
James Chmura has given various reasons for skipping out before the end of his term.
But the timing of his departure, right after shoving through two HUGE property tax increases, shows he doesn’t want to deal with the fallout from the decisions he’s made.
In an interview with the Chicago-based Tribune, Chmura denied health related reasons for his exit.
Anyone who has observed James Chmura over the past few years knows that his health has seen significant decline. His stated reasons for leaving are his choice, but it doesn’t sound very credible.
Nobody could blame Chmura for leaving on health grounds.
Given his visible health related issues for the past two years, the better choice would have been to leave in 2018, so his replacement could have been… elected… in April this year.
Now, the NIP regime will be able to appoint a new mayor and a new trustee, both of whom will enjoy the power of taxpayer-funded incumbency… giving them an unfair advantage going into the 2021 local elections.
New trustee Bill Larson did the same thing when he refused to resign his Park Distinct commissioner seat in 2018, despite knowing he was running for the Village board; his replacement will also be appointed.
Can’t even be bothered to be elected. A pattern of NIP contempt for democratic principles.
We can’t say we’re going to miss Chmura… his misdeeds will be felt in our Village for a long time.
He leaves a Village suffering from a crime epidemic, appalling zoning decisions that have and will continue to surge crime further, big tax increases… and the Village Board being slowly conquered by people who’s loyalty is to Chicago… rather than Norridge.
Sam Palazzo becomes Board President, Frank Tribuzio as Vice President and Renzo Berardi as Secretary
New board members Sam Palazzo, Frank Tribuzio, Renzo Berardi, Lou Mezzano and incumbent Mike Bellafiore are sworn in.
Board members debated the various scenarios for a new Superintendent carried over from the previous meeting: sharing a superintendent, an interim superintendent, and hiring a search firm for a full time superintendent.
Recording of the April 23 2019 D-80 Reorganization Special Meeting (full video, 1 hour 1 minute)
Recording of the April 16 2019 D-80 Board Meeting (full video, 40 minutes)
Furious residents pack the Village board meeting to oppose gas station, but the board and its mayor pay them no heed, approving it unanimously
Residents attended in big numbers
On April 24th, the Village board room had more people then chairs to seat them (a rare occurrence). Most were there to speak out against a new 12 pump gas station on Irving Park Road between Ozark and Overhill.
It was for naught. The Village government, under the control of the Norridge Improvement Party, didn’t even allow them to speak before they voted unanimously to ram through the zoning petition for a 24-hour gas station with convenience store, video gambling, and liquor.
Prior to the vote, some residents tried to speak out, but were silenced by Norridge Police Chief David Disselhorst.
It was an appalling, disrespectful and more importantly – undemocratic – slap in the face to Village residents.
Strong residential opposition
After the vote, residents took turns raking mayor James Chmura over the coals, followed by loud applause.
A professional geologist for the state of Illinois, Renee Wawczak who has several years of cleaning up leaking gas station sites, expressed her concerns over the gas station proposal.
“As somebody who has cleaned up these sites” she said “They all leak”. Underground storage tanks can leak causing contamination of storm and sanitary sewers, and travel through these systems where they “can release vapors into homes and businesses”.
“The Zoning department has not done their environmental due diligence” Wawczak added.
Ann Chmura (no relation to mayor James Chmura), sent a letter to the Village trustees asking them to postpone the meeting and the decision, which James Chmura and the board confirm that they have received and read.
Ann Chmura and the residents affected only had two weeks to mobilize on this issue. “We were given the opportunity to voice our concerns way too late in the decision process”, Ann Chmura added.
Despite that, they were able to obtain 106 signatures for a petition opposing the development.
Ms Chmura also criticized the Village’s lack of communication on this issue, saying “I didn’t hear about this” until later, further objecting to “the lack of transparency” throughout the process.
Edelweiss’s attorney Sam Amirante echoed the comments of other residents, saying “We don’t want the Village to move too quickly … further studies need to be done”.
“Edelweiss has been there for over 50 years, it’s been a tremendous business in the community, people is Norridge love it, people from all over come to it.”
“If that gas station is allowed to be built without further study how a gas station does affect the environment, children, and a restaurant right across the street from it … those issues have to be addressed by this board … please act prudently and with concern for all our issues”, Amirante said.
Linda Cowski expressed dismay over the 24 hour gas station, and convenience store that sells liquor.
She also expressed concern about the video gaming, “it was never really said if there was going to be a separate room for gaming?”
Cowski said parking will be an issue, and the fact that the gas station property will be allowed up to two feet close to the alley.
She objected to the zoning board claiming the gas station would not decrease their property values.
James Chmura responded that the Village hasn’t agreed to the 24 hours. Video gaming stops at midnight, and liquor sales ends at 2AM.
“We also have to discuss the streets and the turnoffs [onto Irving Park Road and / or the side streets] with them”, Chmura said.
“Why do you need video gaming in a gas station?” Cowski asked. “It’s very lucrative”, Chmura responded.
Cowski also spoke of traffic issues, “The traffic is going to just be horrific. You don’t live here, you don’t understand.”
Danny Defelice said condos would be better than a 24-hour gas station.
“What kind of suburb do we want to be? Do we want to be a suburb that has slot machines at gas stations or do we want to be more of a Park Ridge where things are a little more restrictive?” Defelice said.
Edelweiss owner Walt Kosch expressed concern with the crime that comes with putting in a gas station, “We’re concerned as corporate citizens next door about that kind of situation.”
“We think it is going to bring in a different type of element into our business, we’re very concerned about that, as well as how it is going to affect our neighbors” Kosch said.
Travis Aguilera said there are 11 children on the 4000 block of Overhill and is concerned about children’s safety.
He also thinks parking will be made worse with the new gas station as the 4000 block of Overhill is already getting overflow parking for Edelweiss.
Aguilera also objected to the Village moving forward so quickly.
“We got a petition … you guys just keep moving forward … we don’t appreciate it” Aguilera said.
Flo Wawczak asked if an environmental study was done on the land – there was none.
“Do you know the Village of Norridge Motto? Community, compassion, care and hope. That’s what all these people want, myself included”, she said.
Christine Wawrzynowicz said her block has problem now with speeding, no parking. “All we know is that we can’t park in front of our street now”.
She also objected to liquor and gambling sales.
“I have lived here 20-23 years, I love this place… to tell you the truth now, I can’t wait to get out. And a lot of people feel that way.”
“Because it seems like you don’t care about us, you care about the almighty buck, and it’s not right” Wawrzynowicz added.
Daisy Aguilera objected to the zoning petition being approved. “The zoning was put in this Village to protect this Village, but in one false move the zoning was changed.”
“Every gas station in the world brings a bad element … motorcycles … hot rods”.
“This nice, quiet neighborhood … has become the City of Chicago” Aguilera said. “We are losing sight of the Village that once was”.
Anthony Kaldis said he didn’t feel a gas station is the right way to go.
Cindy Tullio has a child with severe lung dysfunction and is concerned the vapors from the gas station will further adversely affect her health.
Bob Mrozek, who used to work at a gas station his father owned, said a gas station “does bring an element that that is undesirable, especially as the nighttime comes”.
“Who lives near the gas station?” Mrozek asked. “Who wants the gas station?”
“Who doesn’t want it?” All hands in the audience went up, and he got a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, what the people want, isn’t something that interests the current crop of Norridge politicians.
The lady said it best: they are only interested in The Almighty Buck.
Recording of the April 24 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 1 hour 4 minutes)
Residents ask Village board to delay vote on 12-pump gas station with 24 hour convenience store due to environmental, noise, traffic concerns
Exron LLC is planning on putting a new gas station on the piece of Village-owned property on Irving Park Road between Ozark and Overhill, in a proposal unveiled at a zoning meeting held April 8th.
The property currently consists of the unused Joe Sieb community center and its parking lot, an undeveloped portion in the middle, and parking across from Edelweiss restaurant.
Exron wants to turn the entire property into a gas station with twelve pumps, and a convenience store open 24 hours. The store will have gambling and may even sell liquor.
The twelve-foot setbacks would be reduced to two and green space would be eliminated under the proposal, raising flooding concerns for a parcel that already has issues with standing water.
Part of the property is undeveloped
Despite the potential environmental impact underground gasoline storage tanks can have, no environmental study was done.
Local residents brought these issues to the zoning hearing on the 8th, but the zoning board failed to take any meaningful action on any of it.
The zoning chairman is required to ask several questions of the zoning board members prior to a vote, including if there is local opposition, or if it will affect local property values.
Incredibly, the zoning board answered “no” to both questions.
The message was clear: this zoning petition is to pass regardless of opposition.
Local residents opposed
In a letter sent to Village President Chmura and the Village trustees, residents asked the Village board to “delay the final vote on April 24” and to “instead hold public community meetings to inform us on the zoning request while also taking the time to listen to the community’s ideas of what to do with the vacant space”.
Edelweiss overflow parking
They are also concerned they will “not be able to complete a review of the information requested before the board meeting on April 24”.
This group of concerned citizens is correct. There is not enough time to do a thorough review of the proposal before the April 24 board meeting.
Even worse, because public comment at Village Board meetings is only allowed after votes are taken, the residents will not be able to speak to the Village board at all before the trustees vote.
Underground storage tank leaks
There have been incidents with gas stations and leaking underground fuel storage tanks in the area.
Harwood Heights has had three stations with leak issues:, the station at Nagle & Naragansett, the station at Foster & Harlem, and a repair shop that no longer sells gasoline at Lawrence & Olcott.
Norridge currently has five gas stations, and the Norridge Village Board should carefully consider any new gas stations in light of issues with underground storage tanks.
Lack of transparency and democratic process
The zoning board is just an advisory board packed with political appointees. It is the Village Board who has actual say whether or not to concur with the zoning board’s recommendations.
By not allowing residents to speak at the board meeting before the vote is to take place, the Village of Norridge is making a mockery of a proper democratic process.
The Village of Norridge should table this vote until a future board meeting, to give the neighborhood most affected by this development, as well as the greater community as a whole, a chance to consider and weigh in.
Edelweiss restaurant is also a stakeholder as they use the gravel portion of the lot for extra overflow parking.
Not only will it impact the local community, but it will also impact traffic on Irving Park Road.
Even if you’re not opposed to putting this development here, consider the following: if they can put a 12-pump gas station with 24 hour convenience store in this neighborhood (as they put a 24 hour X-Sport in another neighborhood)… they could put anything in your neighborhood.
Next, it moved into Radisavljevic contesting Mezzano and fellow candidate Molly Dec’s election petitions, resulting in both candidates being thrown off the ballot.
Undeterred, Mezzano and Dec returned as write-in candidates. But, it seems Radisavljevic’s ego demanded he continue grinding his axe against Mezzano.
The “anonymous” package
In February, Mezzano received a package in the mail from an unidentified sender, containing a t-shirt.
The shirt had an old mug shot of Mezzano (from a “reckless conduct” case that was not prosecuted/charges dropped), with the caption “vote for me”.
According to redacted police records, Mezzano filed a complaint with the Norridge Police Department, and a subsequent investigation produced US Postal Service surveillance video footage identifying Radisavljevic as the sender.
Radisavljevic was contacted about the incident by a Norridge detective, and while agreeing initially to meet with the detective, he referred subsequent requests to his attorney. Eventually, the parties agreed on a day and time for Radisavljevic to come to the police station.
At some point Radisavljevic contacted Norridge police chief David Disselhorst about the incident, who referred him back to the detective assigned to the case. It is not clear why Radisavljevic reached out to Disselhorst.
On April 3rd at 9AM, Radisavljevic and his attorney came to the station, where Radisavljevic was read his Miranda rights, and chose to invoke his CONUS 5th amendment right to remain silent.
He was then charged with disorderly conduct, with a court date scheduled for 4PM, May 2nd at the Village Hall.
District 80 board should take action
The next District 80 board meeting is this Tuesday, April 16th at 7PM. Although Radisavljevic is on his way out, the current board has the opportunity to send a message that such conduct is unbecoming an elected official.
Radisavljevic should be removed as Board President. He should have been toppled years ago, however attempts to remove him in 2016 and 2017 failed with only two voting in favor each time.
But now with this criminal incident hanging over him, we don’t see how Radisavljevic can cling to any shred of legitimacy by continuing.
The District 80 board could, at least, censure Radisavljevic for trying to intimidate one of his opponents.
Destruction of recordings
On the April 16th board meeting agenda is a motion to destroy recordings of closed sessions older than a year and a half.
Although the Open Meetings Act allows for such action, there is no valid reason why it needs to be done at this time.
Deleting the recordings now, right before a new board is seated, would give the distinct impression that the outgoing board leadership has something to hide.
The board should remove or censure Radisavljevic, and vote NO to destroy the recordings.
The current District 80 board, by and large, has rubber stamped just about anything Radisavljevic has put in front of them.
The majority has been complicit with some of the worse financial mismanagement of the district occurring in the past decade… and a few have even enabled some of the deeds against Mezzano.
As such, we don’t expect any meaningful action to be taken against the board president by the majority, or that the recordings will be spared… but it would be great to be pleasantly surprised for once.
Board debates interim superintendent vs potential sharing with other Districts; charity criticizes outgoing superintendent for blocking fundraising
District 80 needs to have a Superintendent in place by July 1, the first day of the new school year, but the ad hoc committee charged with moving forward with the search of a new Superintendent has not yet made a decision on how to proceed.
The committee sent communications to the local districts asking if any of them were willing to share their Superintendents in an interim capacity. District 79 outright refused, and District 234 was willing to have a conversation after the election.
Other options is to ask search firms to look for a new Superintendent, however the lack of time may make it difficult to find a replacement before the deadline.
Norridge Schools Foundation (NSF) VP (and District 80 board candidate) Lou Mezzano, speaking at the board meeting, questioned outgoing Superintendent Paul O’Malley why he had not responded to communications regarding a fundraiser for the school, and why a NSF fundraiser request to be held at the school had been denied.
O’Malley responded that the District 80 board of education’s policy on this matter is fundraisers “should not disrupt the school day”.
NSF President Fiona Tanny and the board discussed the NSF possibly coordinating fundraiser activities with the PTA/PTO to take place during a “fun day”.
The teacher union has requested District 80 hire a dean of students for the 2019-2020 school year, claiming it as a necessity. O’Malley responded that “this board’s philosophy is, and has been very clear … we do not want to add to administrative staff”, asking the board what “it would be willing to give up especially from the student’s side, in order to have a dean”.
Board member Jennifer Paoletti wanted an explanation as why the school needs a dean. Board President Srbo Radisavljevic suggested hiring a dean would require an increase in class sizes (which are already high) due to the school’s financial situation.
Recording of the March 19 2019 D-80 Board Meeting (until closed session, 45 minutes)
My name is Adam Chudzik and I am a write in candidate for Norridge Trustee. The retirement of two trustees created vacancies for the Norridge Improvement Party in the April 2nd election, which the NIP quickly filled with two officials from the Norridge Park District. There were two challengers that filed to run for trustee offering the community a choice. That choice was taken away from us when Norridge employee Melissa Poulos objected.
Poulos was represented by the Norridge Improvement Party lawyer at the hearing. The hearing officers were made up of Norridge officials and the hearing was conducted at the Village Hall. Both challengers withdrew rather than to go through the costly expense of appeal. It was then that I decided to file the necessary paperwork with the Cook County Clerk’s office to be eligible to run as a write in candidate, offering the community a choice.
My ideas are simple
I support term limits, no pensions for elected officials, official recording of Open Meetings, and living within our means. I am against spending $15 million for a new police station and oppose bringing red light cameras to our village. I support repealing Norridge’s “Home Rule” authority which gives Norridge officials unlimited power to tax without voter approval.
Missing are the candidates making the most “noise” around town right now: Sam Palazzo, Renzo Berardi, Molly Dec and Lou Mezzano.
The four have only been attending their own events including a fundraiser in February, a decision which smacks of partisan politics and outside influence.
Appointee-candidate Frank Stoffel opened partisan hostilities when he accused the then-five candidates of being a Norridge Improvement Party puppet slate… an accusation the four remaining candidates have done little to dispel.
Do Palazzo, Berardi, Dec and Mezzano feel they are too good to attend the non-partisan candidate event on the 20th?
The PTO/PTA forum will go a long way to erasing the outside partisan nonsense that has infected the District 80 board race.
It will also allow the four candidates to make their case to the public about many of the good ideas they have only recently started publishing on their candidate Facebook page.
But if these four candidates aren’t willing to show up to a local candidate forum, as readily as they hang out with Chicago political operatives… then we have to ask: are these four too good to be the right people for District 80?
Feller has been everywhere in Norridge the past few weeks, and appears to be personally directing the operations of Chicago backed candidates… snapping photos as he goes.
Norridge Village Trustee race
One candidate seemingly with deep roots to Chicago politics, is 25-year-old Norridge Village Trustee candidate Jack Bielak.
Like Feller, Bielak is a Cook County employee, and there are dozens of photos of him hanging around with both Avino and Feller.
It seems Bielak is unable to go anywhere in Norridge without Avino and / or Feller in tow… as if Bielak was their marionette.
Last year, Feller was seen at a Norridge Improvement Party fundraiser.
According to campaign disclosures, the Norridge Improvement Party is taking money from Avino, who in turn is being funded by… Robert F Martwick, the state rep who, as a property tax appeals attorney, profits off high property taxes.
Martwick and Avino seem to make part of the conduit through which Chicago money is surging into Norridge races.
In a Facebook post a few weeks ago, Feller posted what he said were the candidates he and Frank Avino are supporting for Village Trustee: Bielak and Bill Larsen.
Notably absent from the Avino/Feller endorsements is Donald Gelsomino. Last time we looked, Gelsomino is running on the same “Norridge Improvement Party” ticket as Larsen and Bielak.
Perhaps it means Gelsomino’s loyalties aren’t to Chicago, then? There is a reason he wasn’t endorsed.
Not only is the 38th ward eyeing Norridge, a Chicago Democratic operative from the Debra Mell campaign in Chicago’s 33rd ward was one of those who filed an objection against the two candidates opposing the Norridge Improvement Party in April.
Perhaps we need to start calling their political party… the Chicago Improvement Party.
Chicago moves in on fire, school races
Other races where Feller and Avino are involved in is the Norwood Park Fire Department trustee race (where Avino is also a trustee), and our favorite elementary school district: District 80.
Santoro even had a fundraiser for her campaign… but if you look at the ballot, she’s running unopposed… which raises the question: who is she really raising money for?
Feller, Avino, and their pal Jack Bielak attended a fundraiser held for the four District 80 candidates Renzo Berardi, Sam Palazzo, Molly Dec and Lou Mezzano.
An image shows Palazzo in a photo with Feller, apparently taken at the Norridge Improvement Party golf fundraiser in 2018.
Somebody with an open mind would give Palazzo the benefit of the doubt that he may not have known who Feller was or what reasons Feller had attending a fundraiser for a “Norridge” political party.
But just yesterday, we had a photo of Avino going door to door with three of the four candidates, including Palazzo… and the 33rd ward Chicago Democratic operative.
The photo included Andrew Cichon, who had his own fundraiser, even though he too is running unopposed for fire trustee.
Cichon’s mother in law owns “the Tavern” talked about in Feller’s FB posts.
If you need to bring in all this Chicago muscle and money, how much local “support” do you actually have?
Local races need local people
Norridge and Harwood Heights both have low turnout due to low voter interest in local elections.
Some of the reasons for this as stated by voters, has been low opinions of candidates running.
No good candidates, or any candidates at all, makes Norridge and Harwood Heights look like it’s ripe for the taking.
It’s too late for 2019, but we strongly encourage you to consider running for one of your local races in 2021: fire trustee, school district, Village trustee.
Because if you don’t, Chicago will surely find a few more local Quislings to put in your place… and their loyalty to the independent Villages currently called “Norridge” and “Harwood Heights”… will be suspect.
Paul O’Malley has tendered his resignation from District 80
Departing Paul O’Malley to get nearly $50,000 bump in base salary; ad-hoc committee formed to look for new superintendent
Superintendent Paul O’Malley is leaving District 80 for greener pastures… the kind of green that goes in your wallet, that is.
O’Malley’s new contract shows his $171,000 base salary increasing to $220,000, further rising to nearly $240,000 when you include District 53 paying his portion of the Teacher’s Retirement System contribution.
O’Malley’s is replacing a retiring Superintendent who gave her notice in September of last year. O’Malley, however, has only given District 80 a few months to find a replacement.
Rumors are swirling that current District 80 Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Palmer may be offered the Superintendent position at District 80.
The District appointed an ad-hoc committee consisting of current board members Tim Ludston and Pasquale Biondo plus candidate Sam Palazzo that will head the initial search for a new Superintendent.
Outgoing Board President Srbo Radisavljevic recommended the District think about sharing a superintendent with other school districts such as Ridgewood, Union Ridge, Pennoyer, or Schiller Park District 81.
A parent, Nicole Rusak, asked the board to look into some greater challenges for “overachieving” students, by providing an accelerated program; these statements were also echoed by Fiona Tanny.
Tanny asked the board to take seriously her petition, signed by hundreds of people including the D-80 teacher’s union, that has urged the board not to hire a new superintendent until after the election.
Recording of the February 19 2019 D-80 Board Meeting (until closed session, 32 minutes)
Candidate Sam Palazzo was not challenged and remains on the ballot for a 4 year term. Kevin Moore withdrew according to withdrawal paperwork posted by Norridge News.
Palazzo, Dec and Mezzano face opponents Frank Tribuzio and Mike Bellafiore who are on the ballot.
For the 2-year unexpired term, Renzo Berardi faces incumbent Frank Stoffel, who despite pulling his Facebook pages down, has not withdrawn as of this writing according to the Cook County candidate filing page.
With four seats open for 4-year terms, because of the removal/withdrawal of the three candidates, at least one of the write-ins will win by default.
Other candidates have expressed interest as write-ins, and the deadline to submit a Declaration of Intent to be a Write-in form is tomorrow, January 31st by 5PM.