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The Weeks | Dec. 11


There’s a new way for H-F residents to get involved and make a difference for environmental sustainability and justice.

The Southland Committee of the Nordson Green Earth Foundation met Saturday, Dec. 10, at Wiley’s Grill in Flossmoor. The foundation is fairly new. It was founded last year in Chicago with a mission of helping communities improve tree canopy. The meeting was the second for the Southland Committee.

Co-founder Dr. Sheetal Khedkar Rao said the foundation wants to promote community engagement, helping people come together and develop projects that fit their needs. She cited two projects the foundation supported in Markham, one a tiny forest at the Cook County Courthouse and one a nature nook at Markham Public Library.

Rao and the committee want to connect with other environmental groups in the South Suburbs and with community members who want to develop projects.

The committee has a good start. I didn’t catch the names of everyone in attendance, but Dave Ward, retired steward of Coyote Run Golf Course’s prairielands and a mainstay in local environmental action groups, was there, as was Car Notorangelo of South Suburbs for Greenspace and Tristan Shaw of Possibility Place Nursery in Monee.

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The first step in staying engaged with local government and local issues is knowing when the meetings are.

Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at Normandy Villa, 41 E. Elmwood Drive, Chicago Heights.

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Watch the livestream of the meeting here.
  • Highlights: The board will consider the 2022 property tax levy, the Property Tax Relief Grant and abatement of the 2022 levy adjustment. 

Homewood School District 153 Board of Education will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at James Hart School media center, 18220 Morgan St. in Homewood.  

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Highlights: The board will hold a public hearing on the 2022 property tax levy to start the meeting and will consider approving the levy during the regular agenda. The board will also consider spending $12,000 to hire a consultant to help with the five-year strategic plan.

Flossmoor Community Relations Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the village hall board room, 2800 Flossmoor Road. 

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Watch the livestream of the meeting here.  Meeting ID is 882 2229 2084 and passcode is  60422.
  • Highlights: The commission will discuss the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 16, 2023, plans for Black History Month, the new resident event on April 1, 2023, and community forum recommendations. 

Flossmoor Public Art Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the village hall conference room, 2800 Flossmoor Road. 

  • Read the agenda here.
  • To join the meeting remotely, call 1-708-335-5414 to join the conference call.
  • Highlights: The commission will discuss its MLK Day of Service project and 2023 fundraising ideas.

Homewood Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road. 

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Watch the livestream of the meeting here. Use meeting ID 980 4907 6232, password 830183.
  • Highlights: Homewood’s Southwest Tax Increment Financing District will expire at the end of the year. The board will consider a resolution to transfer its remaining funds, estimated at about $224,000, to the Downtown Transit Oriented Development TIF district. The board will also consider adding a tobacco license for 2138 Homewood Inc., owner of the new Go 2 Market Shell gas station at 2138 183rd St. and granting $2,190 in non-TIF financial assistance to Be Well Studios to help with costs of renovating space at 2023 Ridge Road.

Flossmoor Public Library Board of Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, in the lower-level conference room, 1000 Sterling Ave. in Flossmoor. 

  • Read the agenda here.
  • Highlights: The board will consider approving a $126,642 expenditure for furnishings in the youth services area plus a number of policy updates.

Ride for a cause
Holiday Lights Ride sponsored by GoodSpeed Cycles has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec 12. The ride was planned for Tuesday evening. The forecast predicts rain Tuesday night. Organizers note: “We plan, Chicago weather laughs.” Cyclists can meet at the bike shop, 2125 183rd St. in Homewood, starting at 5:30 p.m. GoodSpeed suggests each rider bring $3 to donate to Anew: Building Beyond Violence and Abuse. Donations can also be made here.

Toys for Tots: Kayla & Mara’s hot chocolate stand
The Winfrey sisters’ 19th annual hot chocolate stand at 1323 Hillview Road in Homewood will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16. The tradition started when Kayla and Mara Winfrey were aged 4 and 2 respectively. Their first stand raised $50 by selling cups of hot chocolate for 25 cents each. We did a story about the project in 2017. According to their website, they have raised $25,000 over the years, all of which buys toys for children in need.

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Longtime Park District Director sets retirement date
Marilyn Thomas reported last week that Homewood-Flossmoor Park District Executive Director Debbie Kopas has announced plans to retire at the end of June 2023. Kopas started with the district in 1991 and has been executive director since 2006.

Catalyst Consulting/Calumet Country Club controversy continues
On Nov. 22, we published a story that offered Catalyst Consulting principals Vince Bass and Jerry Lewis an opportunity to explain their vision for the redevelopment of Calumet Country Club.

“We’re attempting to get facts out to the community at-large,” Bass said.

Well, members of South Suburbs for Greenspace, an organization formed to oppose industrial redevelopment of the 105-year-old golf course, took issue with some of Catalyst’s facts and with the way the consultants’ views were presented in the story. We’ve reported before on the group’s objections to Catalyst’s plan. On Saturday, we published a letter to the editor from SSG co-founder Liz Varmecky citing the problems the group has with Catalyst Consulting’s claims.

I want to offer a couple of clarifications about the story and the criticisms of it.

First, the story was written by Carole Sharwarko, and normally a byline means getting credit and/or blame for anything in a story. But in this case, I don’t think Carole should be the one thrown under the bus. It should be me.

She took an assignment from me to meet with the Catalyst representatives and find out more details about their plans. She’s an experienced and talented reporter, and in this case as always, she did a fine job of fulfilling the assignment.

There are two claims made by Catalyst in the story that I should have flagged, though.

One is the assertion that the new development plan will have half the warehousing space that a failed proposal from Diversified Partners would have included.

Unless the Catalyst plan has changed dramatically since this summer, warehousing would be about 50% larger than under DP’s plan, according to documents obtained by SSG from the village of Hazel Crest. DP’s proposal to Homewood, which was rejected by the Board of Trustees in 2021, included several options for building configuration ranging from 500,00 to nearly 700,000 square feet of warehouse space.

A video depiction of the Catalyst project on the firm’s website shows about a dozen buildings in the industrial center of the development. The square footage of each is not listed, but in a July 11 memo to the Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry and Village Manager Dante Sawyer, Village Attorney John Murphey cited a plan by Catalyst that showed more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space.

Catalyst is interested in differentiating its plan from DP’s, and it is different, to be sure, but warehousing is still the heart of the project.

Also, Lewis said, “There is no increase in truck traffic” for residents near the development in the Catalyst plan. His explanation was that truck traffic would be limited to Dixie Highway. If successful, that plan would mean little or no increase in truck traffic on 175th Street and the Governors Park neighborhood, but it doesn’t seem to account for traffic past the residential neighborhood on the east side of Dixie Highway in East Hazel Crest.

If there is a way to move freight in and out of a million square feet of warehouse space without increasing truck traffic, that would be an amazing feat.

I recently offered Lewis and Bass kudos for their efforts to present their plans to the community.

Now we could use more details and documentation, including the verification of the warehouse size and operation, release of a traffic study that characterizes the expected volume and control of truck traffic, flood control measures, ownership and financing aspects of the project, status of permitting with the Army Corp of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Business development roundup
I recently sat down with Bridget Wachtel, village manager of Flossmoor; Scott Bugner, Flossmoor building and zoning administrator; Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld; and Angela Messaros, Homewood economic development director, to get a fairly comprehensive look at the various development projects that will be changing the business landscape in Flossmoor and Homewood in coming weeks and months.

Flossmoor could see two additions to Governors Highway, a cannabis dispensary and a hospice center. In 2023 in Homewood, the Hartford Building downtown should be finished and Wind Creek Casino construction will get rolling. Check out the stories for more on projects big and small.

Homewood Brewing breaks ground
One of the key new developments in Homewood is the construction of Homewood Brewing’s restaurant and brewery at the former home of Bogart’s Charhouse on Dixie Highway. Homewood officials with owners Carmella Wallace, Brian Wallace and Robert Lauderdale held a groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 2. Excavation work continued this past week. The establishment is expected to open early in 2024.

Thomas Photographic prepares for move
Nick Ulanowski filed a report on Angela and Colin Thomas’s plans to move their photographic services business from the east side of Dixie Highway to the west side, keeping the shop in the Southgate business district but opening up more space and more parking for the business.

Homewood Police Association helps SSHS
The Homewood Police Association raised $260  that was used to purchase food, cleaning supplies, and blankets for the South Suburban Humane Society. Anyone interested in donating this Christmas season can drop their donations off at either the Homewood or Matteson South Suburban Humane Society locations. 

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