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Protest echoes outside Homewood meeting

Protestors hold signs in the meeting room’s windows and chant during the Homewood Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The rally was organized by South Suburbs Greenspace over Concrete, which opposes the redevelopment of Calumet Country Club. (Andrew Burke-Stevenson/H-F Chronicle)

Despite protests outside, a Homewood village board meeting was uneventful Tuesday as another portion of a controversial settlement with an Arizona developer was approved.

Chanting and car horns could be heard from a protest arranged by South Suburbs for Greenspace over Concrete as the board approved a resolution consenting to the disconnection of the land where the former Calumet Country Club resides, should the village not meet its end of an out-of-court settlement. 

Liz Varmecky protests the redevelopment of Calumet Country Club at Homewood village hall during the board of trustees meeting Tuesday, Feb. 23. Varmecky is one of the leaders of the opposition group, South Suburbs Greenspace over Concrete. (Andrew Burke-Stevenson/H-F Chronicle)

The protest stayed outside village hall. SSGOC said members believed they weren’t allowed into the building due to the message at the top of the meeting agenda citing Governor JB Pritzker’s executive order that allows municipal meetings to be conducted via video conferencing due to COVID-19. 

Village Manager Jim Marino said the meeting was public and the doors were open.

“(A Homewood police) officer was outside the west entrance and he advises that no one attempted to enter the building, nor did anyone inquire as to whether the meeting was open to the public,” Marino said.

Over 50 letters and emails were received as public comments and share with Mayor Richard Hofeld and the trustees and will be part of the minutes, according to village officials.  Portions of several letters were read during the meeting. They urged the board not to approve the development citing environmental and traffic concerns. 

Homewood agreed to the settlement with Diversified Partners last month to prevent the land from being disconnected from the village and annexed by Hazel Crest. Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry has since said he does not support the development after previously saying he was neutral. The developer plans to construct a distribution warehouse. 

As part of the agreement, the village will still need to rezone the property and approve a TIF district for the area before a May deadline. The resolution approved Tuesday is only a formal acknowledgment of that. 

A planning and zoning commission meeting that has twice been paused will continue Thursday at 1 p.m. That body makes a recommendation to the village board, which has final approval of zoning issues. 

In other business, the board approved an amendment to a contract for a study of traffic on 183rd Street. Residents have raised concerns about speeders along the road since a fatal crash last summer. 

The amendment adds four extra blocks to the study, from Dixie Highway to Park Avenue, for an additional $17,000. The total cost of the study is $153,550.

The board also reappointed four residents to village committees. Daniel Wentworth was reappointed to the ethics commission, Tom Grant and Bill Woelfel to the rail committee, and Anthony Daugina to the storm water resource committee. 

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