PEORIA, IL -- Here's another news release from Friends of Riverfront Park concerning the apartment project proposed there.
It's also a letter to the Peoria City Council, urging an independent opinion from the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau as to whether the Detweiller Playground land is eligible to be used as replacement property for the acres lost to the proposed apartment project.
Friends of Riverfront Park believes it cannot be used, as it is already land in public use.
FRIENDS OF RIVERFRONT PARK
An examination of facts reveals that the City of Peoria should immediately halt a proposed land swap seeking to replace lost Riverfront parkland for a privately owned apartment complex known as River Trail Development. There are insurmountable problems in the proposal.
Taxpayer money spent to date is likely wasted because the replacement land is ineligible to meet legal requirements.
Here are the facts:
The land owned by Detweiller Playground is already impressed by law for use as public parkland. In order to remove public parkland for the apartment complex, it must be replaced with private land newly designated for park space. That’s clearly not the case here.
Apparently, city staff suspected in March 2015 that the Detweiller Playground land was already impressed by law as public park use and is therefore likely to be ineligible to meet the replacement requirement. In fact, city staff expressed concern to a representative of Detweiller Playground and said, “A seminal question when it comes to IDNR might be (and I don’t know this for sure) is whether this land is already restricted as open space.” Why didn’t staff seek a legal opinion from the Illinois Charitable Trust Bureau to determine if the swap was feasible? Instead, staff spent taxpayer money on appraisals, purchase options, environmental analysis, architect fees and staff resources.
Reviewing the history of Detweiller Playground reinforces the flaws in this proposed land swap:
In his 1947 will, Thomas Detweiller provided for the establishment of the Detweiller Playground and gave the organization all his assets. These include the parcels of Illinois riverfront land that the City of Peoria now wants to purchase. However, Mr. Detweiller states “It is (my) desire and purpose to have the land that I own along the Illinois River in the City of Peoria made available for playground and recreation purposes for the Peoria Community.” The Articles of Incorporation of the Detweiller Playground follow Mr. Detweiller’s will, designating their property and assets for public park use.
In 1972, Detweiller Playground received an IRS designation as a 509 (a)(3) Type III FISO supporting not-for-profit organization that operates for the benefit of the Peoria Park District, a public entity. This designation creates a functionally integrated relationship between Detweiller Playground and the Peoria Park District. As a supporting organization, Detweiller Playground can only take actions that support or benefit the Peoria Park District.
Only the City of Peoria can tell us why when these facts have been known and led to questions about whether this land swap was ineligible, the city moved forward spending taxpayer dollars.
We urge the Peoria City Council to direct staff to stop this process and seek an independent opinion from the Illinois Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Bureau. The public has a right to read the complete opinion of the Attorney General’s office.