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Wheeling developer resigns from park board with no explanation
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Vivian Smith

 

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Published: 8/20/2009 12:12 AM | Updated: 8/20/2009 8:37 AM

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Vivian Smith, cofounder of the Smith Family Construction and wife of developer Mark Smith, recently resigned from the Wheeling Park District Board.

Neither Jan Buchs, executive director of the park district, nor Keith Pecka, president of the board, are saying why.

And really, neither is Smith.

"I have not talked to her about this and she didn't really give us a reason," Pecka said.

Smith, who was just elected in April, didn't return multiple phone calls or e-mails this week. Her resignation letter, dated Aug. 1, was one paragraph and addressed to Buchs.

"Please accept this letter as a formal notification of resignation as a Wheeling Park District Commissioner," it states. "I have greatly enjoyed being part of such a distinguished and professional organization and hope that I can volunteer my time in any way possible to help the Wheeling Park District and the community in the future."

Smith Family Construction, Inc. was founded in 1985 by Mark and Vivian Smith, according to the company's Web site. The Smiths have resided in Wheeling for more than 35 years and have five children.

In June, Mark Smith told the village board he needed an additional $3 million to pay off bank loans taken out to build Prairie Park, a high-end condo project on North Wolf Road. If Smith gets his money, it would bring the village's total financial contributions to the project to $7.5 million. The money would come from tax incremental financing funds, a program used to develop blighted property.

The majority of village board members backed Smith's request, but questions remain about where the $3 million would come from.

Most trustees are against pulling money from the general fund, even though financial officials said there aren't many other options.

Vivian Smith's resignation sparked rumors that the park district board is interested in buying some Prairie Park land, thereby solving the $3 million problem facing Smith Family Construction. Both park board members and trustees deny it.

"I've heard that but the park district doesn't share their business with us," said Trustee Ken Brady. "I have no idea what's going on in their closed sessions."

On Tuesday, the park board discussed the "purchase or lease of property" in closed session but did not make a motion in open session, Buchs said. If the park board were to purchase property, it must be done in open session.

Pecka declined to say what was discussed in closed session.

The park board will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. on Saturday to again discuss the "purchase or lease of property," according to an agenda released on Wednesday. The Wheeling village board will discuss Prairie Park's funding at Monday's board meeting, village officials said.

Wheeling residents interested in filing Smith's spot on the park board can pick up an application at the Wheeling Community Center, 333 W. Dundee Road before Sept. 1. Interviews will be conducted on Sept. 8.