Village board vote allows hotel project to move forward

By Jane Charmelo
Lombardian-Villa Park Review Staff Reporter

The Lombard Village Board of Trustees on Thursday, Aug. 16, voted unanimously in favor of advancing plans to build a Hilton Tru Hotel on 22nd Street.
This, despite pleas from residents to reconsider, such as Clay Belongia, who said his biggest objection is that in accordance with the village’s comprehensive plan, “there should have been a transition piece.”
He cited nearby low-rise office buildings, adding, “It should remain that.”
The project, which came with a recommendation from the Plan Commission, is a 44,681-square-foot, four-story hotel with 96 rooms and 96 parking spaces. The petitioner sought to have the zoning changed from residential to office, and also to exceed the floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.35.
Other residents voiced their opposition, with Brian O’Connor saying one of his concerns involves the lobby.
“It’s very clear the lobby is extra large,” he said. “Some things are going to get out of hand” because there is no restaurant or bar with staff to oversee patrons with alcohol present.
He also expressed concerns over potential “fights and large parties,” in which the sounds would “spill over to our homes.”
O’Connor called it “a terrible imposition on property values and quality of life.”
He further cited his belief that the village demonstrated a lack of ethics, as Plan Commission member Steve Flint is the project’s architect, adding it is “a fatal flaw to this whole proceeding.”
“I’ve asked for the opinion of counsel,” O’Connor told the village board, adding that he believes there have been “ex parte” communications between Flint and members of the village staff and board.
Flint has reportedly recused himself from the proceedings during commission discussions and voting.
George Bedard commented, “I don’t think we’re being treated very fairly by this village,” and asked the village and Congress Knolls residents to get together for discussions about the Hilton Tru project.
Village Manager Scott Niehaus mentioned that while it might be “splitting hairs,” the contention that the Hilton Tru is the only hotel in Lombard that would abut residential areas is not entirely correct.
He said that while there are no hotels next to single-family homes, there are others near condominiums and the new apartments going up by Yorktown will be close to the Westin Yorktown Hotel.
“We do have hotels that are adjacent or near residential,” he added.
Trustee Reid Foltyniewicz commented that he is troubled that the village, village board, businesses and Plan Commission seem to have been “thrown under the bus,” adding that he believes all parties have been transparent.
Villa President Keith Giagnorio echoed the trustee’s sentiments, saying, “This board, this village, prides itself on a hundred percent transparency.”
“I, too, am extremely upset by those accusations” he continued, and called any collusion among the parties “ridiculous.”

In other business

• The Lombard Police and Fire departments held a swearing in of new and promoted personnel just prior to the board meeting.
New police department probationary officers included Aleksander Barylowicz, Laura Shemsiu and Melissa Flores.
Paul Nevara was promoted to lieutenant. He was hired in January 1991 and served in a number of capacities: patrol, detective, high school SRO, undercover drug agent, street sergeant and street lieutenant.
Sgt. John Cozzi was hired in November 2000 and was a Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA) class supervisor, and detective.
Sgt. Sheri Eakins started in February 2007 as a part-time front desk clerk, and was hired by the department in January 2003. She has worked in patrol, as a detective, middle school SRO and as the active shooter ALICE program coordinator for all of the schools.
From the fire department, Michael Heimbecker was promoted to battalion chief. He is a Lombard native and earned a bachelor’s degree in fire protection and safety engineering from Oklahoma State University.
After working as a fire protection engineer with the Mount Prospect Fire Department, he was hired in 2003 as a Lombard firefighter and later earned his paramedic license and in 2010 earned a master’s degree in fire service and homeland security management. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2013.
He has earned certifications through the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal, and has assisted other departments, serving as a fire inspector and emergency management coordinator.
Elmhurst native Gabe Suto was promoted to lieutenant. He was hired in 2008 after working with the Stone Park Fire Department as a part-time firefighter. He went on to earn his paramedic license and in 2012 joined the department’s fire investigation unit. He holds numerous state certifications through the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal.
• Several members of the food service industry spoke before the board, requesting that the village board reconsider allowing video gaming to be located in Lombard.
Stafa Amin of OverTime Sports Bar and Grill said it’s “not just the money we’re losing on poker machines” but also food and beverage sales, as the public patronizes establishments in municipalities that have video gaming.
Jeanine Gray of Punky’s Pub said she has statistics that show Villa Park, in June alone, gained $33,500 that “went to the municipality” (based, she said, on state gaming figures).
“We’re asking you to readdress this,” she added.
Theresa Brzezinski of O’Neill’s Pub echoed the sentiments, and said to the board, “I just ask that you give us a chance. I’m tired of seeing our customers tell us they are going five minutes away, six minutes away… Let us have a go at this.”
John Mitchell of Otto’s said, “I agree with everything these folks are saying. These folks deserve it. I deserve it.”


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