Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney said that Monday night's vote for a parking lot expansion at a local restaurant was good for the village. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney said that Monday night's vote for a parking lot expansion at a local restaurant was good for the village. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Park approves Wu’s parking expansion despite criticism 

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DONOVAN

Palos Park resident John Donovan tells the Palos Park Village Council to ‘do the right thing’ and vote ‘no’ for a parking expansion for Wu’s House restaurant. The council voted for the expansion.

By Jeff Vorva 

Many of the 70-plus people in attendance at Monday night’s Palos Park village council meeting went home in disgust after the council unanimously voted to allow parking expansion at the Wu’s House restaurant.

The expansion at the restaurant, located at 12300 S. LaGrange Road, has been a source of controversy since it was rejected twice by the village’s planning commission and Wu’s representatives came back with a third proposal that the council voted “yes” on.

After Wu’s attorney Marcia Owens made a presentation modifying previous requests, members of the public were allowed to speak. Twelve people stood at the podium, many denouncing the expansion because it will remove area trees, cause more garbage to pollute an area creek and other inconveniences to neighbors in the area.

Unlike some towns, Palos Park does not have a time limit on public comment, so there were some long speeches for the council to digest.

Resident John Donovan, who said he has been at every planning commission meeting on this issue, made his case and closed by saying the council should listen to the residents.

“This is about community and standing with our neighbors,” he said. “If you vote for this, you are voting against the people. You are voting against all of your residents. You are voting against the character of this town. You are voting against the environment. Just vote ‘no.’ Do the right thing.”

The council voted “yes” and Mayor John Mahoney believes it was the right thing to do.

“We represent not just everyone in this room, but everyone in Palos Park,” Mahoney said. “We are thinking about the fiscal responsibility and fiscal viability of this town. We have to think about it all.

“It’s not just about the majority in this room. It’s a lot of people that we are representing who are not here. We are speaking to those people and that’s what I’ve done for 16 years.”

Commissioner G. Darryl Reed said there were good reasons for rejecting Wu’s the first couple of times and for approving this proposal.

“It was a mess,” Reed said of the first proposal. “You couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. It was garbage. It was rightfully rejected.”

But that changed as Wu’s agreed to ask for nine less parking spaces, saving four existing white oak trees and saving two more trees, reducing the length of a retaining wall and other concessions.

“Absent of us asking them to raise the dead, make the blind see or the lame walk, there’s not much more we could ask of them. They have bent over backwards to accommodate what was requested of them,” Reed said.

This process has caused some ill feelings during the past few months between the residents and village officials and when Commissioner Dan Polk apparently laughed during Donovan’s presentation, the resident was not amused.

“That’s how we were treated at the plan commission, too. You see everyone snicker,” Donovan said. “If you listen to the audio [of the meetings], I hope you listen to how your government looks at you because you are a peon here. They are laughing at you. They are literally looking at you smugly.

“That’s a shame because everyone here has been respectful to talk to.”

Polk said this issue has not been totally respectful.

“I’ve served on this council for 16 years,” Polk said before casting his affirmative vote. “Sixteen years. At no time have I ever heard such denigration, such personal animosity to the citizens of the village of Palos Park or the council.

“That might work in Chicago, but we don’t play that way over here, homey. We respect people for what they bring to the party.”

Reed also chafed at what he called the “character assassination” that village officials, especially the committee members, have taken.

“There is no reason to behave like an idiot…these people are not paid,” Reed said. “They are an advisory board. They are your neighbors who come out of your houses and give up their free time to address concerns and bring those concerns to us.

“You may not like what they have to say. You may disagree with their opinions, but there is no reason for you to have the gall and the audacity to abuse them during a public meeting.”

There was also an interesting give-and-take between Reed and Ronette Leal McCarthy.

McCarthy is a resident who is opposing Commissioner Nicole Milovich-Walters for mayor in the April 4 election as Mahoney is retiring.

McCarthy stopped after a few seconds into her comments.

“Mr. Reed, did I say something wrong?” she said. “I come up here and introduce myself and Mr. Reed is shaking his head. I don’t know what he meant by that. Hopefully it wasn’t anything directed at me.”

Reed did not answer until later in the meeting before the vote was taken.

“When a Black man makes a facial expression and someone has the audacity in a public forum to ask him to explain himself…no,” Reed said. “It ain’t that kind of party, people.”  

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