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Attorney General: Cary did not violate Open Meetings Act with Pedcor talks

Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com
A women wears a no Pedcor sticker while attending the Cary Village Board meeting Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The Village Board voted to consider whether to rescind an ordinance that allowed Pedcor Investments to build a $18 million affordable housing apartment complex at First and Pearl Streets. The motion to rescind failed to a 3-3 vote.
Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com A women wears a no Pedcor sticker while attending the Cary Village Board meeting Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The Village Board voted to consider whether to rescind an ordinance that allowed Pedcor Investments to build a $18 million affordable housing apartment complex at First and Pearl Streets. The motion to rescind failed to a 3-3 vote.

CARY – The Illinois Attorney General's Office has determined the village did not violate the Open Meetings Act when the Village Board had a discussion and a vote on the planned Pedcor Investments apartment complex.

In a letter written by Assistant Attorney General Shari West of the Public Access Bureau, the Attorney General's Office said there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate the Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act.

Jim Cosler, chairman of the Cary Matters Political Action Committee, complained the meeting room was too small to accommodate the large crowds at the July 1 and July 15 board meetings.

During the July 1 meeting, residents turned out to complain about the board's decision to allow the Pedcor project to go forward.

At the July 15 meeting, a board vote to rescind that decision failed.

Cary Matters has been against the planned 60-unit Garden Place Apartments at First and Pearl streets. It has organized large turnouts at village meetings, started a website, conducted an online petition drive, placed billboards around town and ran a letter campaign to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

However, Pedcor's apartment complex project last week was awarded low-income housing tax credits by IHDA to allow the property to be marketed as affordable housing and be financially feasible.

In Cosler’s complaint, he provided affidavits from people who said they could not get into the board room on July 1 and July 15 because it was too crowded.

Village Administrator Chris Clark in response to the complaint said there was an adjacent break room people could spill into, and there was an overflow room where people were provided an audio feed of the July 15 meeting.

“Although some members of the public were unable to be present in the boardroom, the board took reasonable steps to attempt to accommodate the overflow,” West wrote.

The Attorney General’s Office said the boardroom provided adequate space for previous meetings where the Pedcor project was discussed, and attendees had the opportunity to participate in the public comment portion of the meetings.

Although Clark did mention at the July 1 meeting the possibility of relocating the July 15 meeting, “it appears that the subject was not discussed at that time,” West wrote.

The Open Meetings Act calls for meetings to be held at specified times and places that are convenient and open to the public.

“Although it might have been a preferable alternative for the board to have held the July 1 and July 15, 2014, meetings in a larger venue, under these circumstances there is not sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that the board violated [the] Open Meetings Act by holding its July 15, 2014, meeting at the boardroom in the Village Hall,” West wrote.

In a phone interview, Cosler said the attorney general’s office decision was disappointing.

“I think our group had a strong stance,” Cosler said. “[We felt] the evidence was sufficient. It didn’t pan out our way.”

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