Wilmette activist Gail Schecter: Why do property owners get any rights?

Just when we thought all possible damage had been done – i.e. enshrinement of 1960s collectivist policies into Wilmette’s comprehensive zoning plan and the Pyrrhic victory of the Mallinckrodt development project financed by the taxpayers of Wilmette (thankfully emerged recently out of bankruptcy) – up pops our very own seasoned welfare housing advocate to take on the deliciously blank property the village is about to develop on the footprint of the old Ford Dealership on Greenbay Road.

Here’s the pitch Wilmette President Chris Canning and Schechter fellow travelers received prior to this week’s Village Board meeting:

Dear Wilmette friends and advocates,

We have an opportunity to advocate for affordable housing in Wilmette. The site of the former Ford dealership, vacant for nearly 7 years and ultimately purchased by the Village in 2011 for $3.765 million, was finally sold to a developer for $4 million. This developer, Lexington Homes LLC, is proposing to develop a mixed commercial development that would include 110 housing units. Now the Village begins a long of evaluating the proposal and considering public input.

You can voice your support for affordable housing at the site by attending Village meetings and speaking out during the public comment period (the Village Board meets tonight, in fact, at 7:30 – the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month), or you can send a brief e-mail to the Village, care of President Chris Canning: canningc@wilmette.com. I attach my own letter on behalf of Open Communities to the Village.

This is our chance to make sure those housing units are not all “luxury” units. And this is our opportunity to support the Village in expanding affordable housing for families and people with disabilities; all of the Village’s affordable units (in four building, rental and condo) are for seniors.

Fortunately, thanks to years and years of collective effort across the spectrum – Wilmette residents, religious leaders, elected officials – the Village has several documents in place that make affordable housing a priority, including an affordable housing plan, downtown master plan, and the Comprehensive Plan.

Information on the “Sale and Redevelopment of 611 Green Bay Road” is on the Village’s web site.

If you would like to work with me on a more organized effort, please contact me and we can get together – and perhaps revive “Wilmette Citizens for Affordable Housing.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you how sad I feel about the New Year’s Day passing of Mimi Ryan. It was she who called me here at the Interfaith Housing Center back in October 2001 when Loyola University announced it would sell the Mallinckrodt campus, and she urged me to organize an affordable housing effort because the late Rayna Miller would have wanted us to do so. Mimi and I worked together for all these years – on Mallinckrodt, on the Wilmette affordable housing plan, on advocacy around the Ford site when it was first vacated, on pulling together “Wilmette Citizens” through the St. Francis Xavier Peace & Justice Committee… And so it goes: I write to you because Mimi Ryan would have wanted us to advocate. Thank you and peace, Gail”

Located near the site (formerly 529 Greenbay Road) of the old Central Hotel, an historic, crumbling second-story residence building for the needy (demolished in the 1980s), the vacant lot seems ideal as a cause celebre for Gail Schechter as she takes a break from her attacks on private ownership in Winnetka. One of her earliest fellow travelers, Mimi Ryan, summarized their credo at a meeting of the Park and Village Boards during the Mallinckrodt negotiations:

I don’t believe we have, you have, a responsibility to provide market-rate housing for people in this community,” said former village trustee and MUM [Mixed Use for Mallinckrodt] member Mimi Ryan. “I think we do have a moral imperative to do something really good with this building. The rates are too high. . . To me it gets down to the bottom line of why you have to have $3 million or $4 million back from that building. I don’t understand that. Why can’t it be less? Then the developers, whoever they are, might be able to put in some more truly affordable housing.”

Even in the Age of Obama, not everyone is hoping to change everywhere into the European Social Democracy model. Kelly O’Donnell, a New Mexico-based radio host, today took up America’s Founders’ arguments in a blog on rule of law and property rights:

But what factors allowed America’s stunning growth in economic power in such a short period of time? This economic success was driven by a firm Rule of Law regime which supported the Constitution’s unique defense of private property. . . Yet, if the government takes away the rewards of ambition, leaving behind only the risks, then productivity will fall precipitously.”

Read the rest here. If we cannot change things in Washington, maybe we can still hope to keep our freedoms intact here in Wilmette.

Cross-posted at Conservative Brand.

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