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Environment

County Board Vote on O'Donnell Park Stalls

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The county board lobbed the issue back and forth Thursday; only to defer a vote until its December meeting.
Rounds of public hearings don’t seem to shake off concerns about the county selling off the park and parking lot near the lakefront to Northwestern Mutual.

Supervisor Gerry Broderick is not convinced. He described the plan to sell it to NML as flawed and the process as lacking transparency, “to see the possibility of future commercial development of this park was intentionally- or worse yet, inadvertently left open; either way it hardly inspires confidence in those who drafted it.”

Broderick wanted to send the proposal back to the economic development committee for further study. Just last week, the committee moved the O’Donnell case before the full board.

Constructive debate teetered early on as Supervisor Tony Staskunas stepped to his microphone, “wow, what a shock! Supervisor Broderick is trying to slow the train down, derail the train and kill the deal, what a shock!”

Staskunas urged the board to vote, “there isn’t going to be any more information that comes out in committee; there isn’t going to be any new information offered as part of the vetting process. Everything is out on the table that needs to be on the table in order for us to make this decision today.”

Supervisor Michael Mayo wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion, “We can vote for it – I’m voting no! I have no problem telling people I’m voting no.”

He insists the proposed deal would “give away” prime real estate overlooking Lake Michigan. Despite O’Donnell’s sorry state, Mayo balked at the proposed sale price - $14 million. “you know it’s location, location, location – and that puts value on that property.”

Supervisor Pat Jursik attempted to lay over the matter. She has repeatedly said she does not oppose handing O’Donnell over to Northwestern Mutual, but wants to make sure the public retains access to green space.

Jursik is not convinced the proposed arrangement would preserve the parkland atop the parking garage, “that’s a pretty significant question and I’m not sure that we are getting the straight answer on that “

After a confusing jumble of amendments and debate, the board took a short break. It seemed to result in the clearing of heads – and likely behind-the-scenes conversation.

When the supervisors returned, they voted overwhelmingly to postpone a decision until December 18.

Whether acrimony recedes over the future of O’Donnell Park remains debatable.

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