Clash A-Brewin': Des Plaines IL Journal, 7/27/07

Pursuit Of Land Miffs Downtown Bar Owner;
Ordinance Gives Village Flexibility: Mayor

By Bobby Chilver

Without any discussion or hesitation, the Mt. Prospect [IL] Village Board quickly approved an ordinance Tuesday that would allow village officials to continue with the acquisition of property within the planned downtown entertainment triangle.

The village is now looking to acquire the property from 6 to 18 W. Busse Avenue. Those addresses are owned by Ye Old Town Inn restaurant owner Tod Curtis.

Curtis has proposed building a multi-use "Gateway Centre" on the site that would include restaurants and condominiums. The village has its own plans in mind, however, and officials have said the Gateway Centre does not seem viable.

"We have encouraged them to submit the plan but it was deficient in a multitude of ways," Mayor Irvana Wilks said.

The confrontation could create some fireworks in the coming months as both sides seem set on their own proposals.

Curtis and spokesman Frank Salato have taken offense to the village's attempts, saying they were originally told the village would not try to take over the property.

Curtis has been in business at the Busse Avenue location for close to 40 years now and said he sees no reason for someone else to profit from his property.

"After almost four decades of paying taxes, being law abiding, contributing to the community and working hard so my children and grandchildren can have more promising futures, the only rewards Mayor Wilks and the trustees feel I deserve is to consider taking a course of action that, if successful, will eventually profit someone other than myself or my family and will essentially steal the fruits of my labor from me and my family," Curtis said in a written statement sent to the Journal.

Mayor Wilks said, however, that she has had conversations with Curtis and his attorney, Richard Valentino, in which he indicated he would like to be bought out, but for a higher price than what the village is willing to pay.

"We've come the realization that he really wants us to buy him," Wilks said. "He wants us to make him a multi-millionaire."

She said Curtis had asked for a price around $3.5 million, which the village believes is too high.

Wilks said the village had an appraiser value the land in January. The village then sent a proposal to Curtis with that price on it.

Salato said Curtis' attorney, Valentino, did receive a letter from the village this January regarding possible purchase of the property, however, the property wasn't even for sale so the request was dismissed.

Tuesday's ordinance authorizes the village to use eminent domain, or condemnation, to acquire the property along Busse Avenue.

"It is becoming quite apparent Mayor Wilks has no qualms about using 'strong arm government tactics' to dismiss the hard work of others, jeopardize livelihoods, quash dreams and minimize a family's future," Salato said of the possibility of eminent domain.

Wilks, however, said the ordinance merely gives the village flexibility. Should the village apply for eminent domain, Curtis would be reimbursed the estimated value of the property based on a third party's appraisal.

"It allows for an unbiased entity to provide the fair price," Wilks said.

Des Plaines IL Journal: http://www.journal-topics.com