Crystal Tree homeowner frustrated Pekau won’t address his concerns
Dr. Robert Peiss, a homeowner in Crystal Tree, who has been complaining about dead trees near his home for years, says Crystal Tree has cut down some of the trees but refuses to remove all of them, including those near his home. Worse, the Village of Orland Park refuses to intervene and help. Instead, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, who gets his Crystal Tree country club $25,000 initiation fee and $700 monthly monthly membership fees waved, changed the village ordinance to allow Crystal Tree to leave dead trees on the grounds.
By Ray Hanania
When you hear about Orland Park’s “Crystal Tree” community, you immediately think of a lush gated-community of multi-million dollar homes and a beautiful golf course.
But ask Dr. Robert Peiss about living in his 5,600 square foot home there (not including 2,900 sq ft of basement), and you’ll hear concerns about bad service, and eyesores that Crystal Tree’s Board of Directors and the Village of Orland Park have refused to cleanup.
Just yards from his home overlooking the 12th hole of Crystal Tree’s golf course, the remnants of several huge, dead diseased trees, cut down in 2021, remain left to rot in an ugly pile. They’re a nest for coyotes, Peiss complained, but has been given the runaround ever since.
He sent a letter April 13, 2022 asking the village for help: “There are at least 25 to 30 dead trees, spreading from one to multiple trees over the last two years. Only three large trees were removed, along with several smaller trees last year.”
Some trees were cut down, he said, but two big ones have been left standing, plagued by Oak Wilt, a deadly tree disease. The rest are an ugly pile.
I was shocked by the ugly pile of trees. You spend millions on a home and pay expensive fees in a community of privilege only to look out your floor-to-ceiling dining windows to see a pile of tree garbage with nothing being done for months and years.
“There have been several diseased trees that were cut down from this area and they were left on the ground for years,” Peiss said, pointing to a narrow area of forest between his home and the golf course.
“They were diseased and dead. That’s why they were cut down. Now, the latest trees cut down have been left on the grounds, a terrible eye sore that destroy what used to be a beautiful view of the golf course. And no one at the village or Crystal Tree will do anything about it.”
Peiss suspects Mayor Keith Pekau, who runs the village like a tyrant, sided with Crystal Tree in this long running dispute. The Village Ordinance cited in his April 2022 letter requiring diseased trees to be removed “immediately” was changed to permit tree rubbish to remain “indefinitely.”
Pekau amended the ordinance adding new language (Ordinance 5755): “dead trees or trees that have been cut may be permitted to remain in the natural area indefinitely after the date of their death or cutting “unless they are determined to be diseased.”
“The Crystal Tree Country Club has been allowed to cut and leave diseased oak trees behind by my house in Crystal Tree. The Mayor of Orland Park and its Board of Trustees allowed this to occur because the mayor has a vested interest in CT being an honorary member and also holding political fundraisers at CT last year for his failed congressional run,” Peiss said.
A lot of people with clout live in Crystal Tree. But Crystal Tree waves the hefty $25,000 initiation fee, the $700 monthly fee for membership and monthly minimum charges of $200 or more, including for Mayor Pekau who takes advantage of the country club for his political activities.
Removing trees is expensive, more acute following the economic downturn caused by the COVID pandemic between 2019 and 2022. The costs can be in the tens of thousands of dollars to cut and remove one diseased tree.
Politics and money are always intertwined. Crystal Tree waves the thousands in fees for several big shot politicians, who don’t live in Crystal Tree, but who hold their congressional fundraisers, political parties and meetings with their cronies there to impress donors.
Pekau has used his free membership to the max, hosting his annual golf-outing fundraiser there every September. As golfers putt on the nearby green, they can see the pile of tree rubbish that taints Peiss’ home.
Ironically, Pekau eliminated the village ethics ordinance which addressed such issues back in 2019. Instead of answering his critics, he attacks them and calls them names from his taxpayer funded Village Board bully pulpit. Pekau doesn’t want to address the criticism, and every week makes exaggerated claims of his achievements and uses personal attacks against his critics to deflect the public from his leadership failings and those exaggerations.
Pekau’s political “perquisites” or “perqs” should be revoked by Crystal Tree. Clearly, Pekau seems more interested in helping Crystal Tree than helping a taxpayer like Dr. Robert Peiss.
I wonder if Pekau wasn’t getting those benefits, that in total exceed his mayoral salary, if he would be so supportive of Crystal Tree. It’s an ethics issue and as we have seen, Pekau eliminated the village ethics ordinance.
(This column was published in the Southwest News Newspaper group newspapers including in the award winning The Regional News Newspaper.)
OLD AND NEW VILLAGE ORDINANCES
Old Village Code prior to November 2022
3-6-10: DEAD OR DISEASED TREE REMOVAL ON PRIVATE PROPERTY:
The Village, in accordance with the law, shall have the right to cause the removal of any dead or diseased trees on private property within the Village, when such trees constitute a hazard to life and property, or harbor insects or disease which constitute a potential threat to other trees within the Village. The Village will notify in writing the owners of such trees. Removal is the responsibility of said owners and shall be done by the owners at their own expense within sixty (60) days after the date of service of notice or such other time as may be agreed upon by the Village and the property owner. In the event of failure of owners to comply with such provisions, the Village shall have the authority to remove such trees and file a lien against the property for the amount of the costs of removal.
(Amd. Ord. 5727, 7-18-22)
New Village Code adopted in November 2022
VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK, Ordinance No: 5755
“6-2-2-8: DEAD OR INFECTED TREES AND SHRUBS:
To cause or permit to remain on any premises dead trees or shrubs or trees or shrubs that are infected with injurious insects, pests or infected with plant diseases which are liable to spread to other plans, trees or shrubs to the injury of said plants, trees or shrubs or to the injury of man or property.
However, notwithstanding the above restrictions, in a natural area (defined as any parcel of land exceeding five (5) acres which contains significant natural landscape within the jurisdiction of the Village of Orland Park, or any land zoned as “Open Land”pursuant to the Village of Orland Park Zoning Classifications) dead trees or trees that have been cut may be permitted to remain in the natural area indefinitely after the date of their death or cutting; provided that the property owner of the natural area has the affirmative responsibility to show to the Village upon demand that the trees are not under any condition (including disease, pest infestation, or physical condition) that would make their presence injurious to plants, trees, or shrubs or to man or property. The Village may require that such trees be tested or examined by a certified Arborist to determine whether they may be safe to lie for a period of time. If so, the costs of establishing the lack of disease, infestation or other dangerous condition, the costs of amelioration of such condition, and/or the costs of removal if deemed necessary, shall be borne solely by the property owner of the natural area. The Village Manager or his/her designee shall have the ultimate authority to determine whether any particular tree creates a nuisance condition and upon the Village Manager or their designee’s determination regarding the same, the tree must be removed.”
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. A political analyst and CEO of Urban Strategies Group, Hanania’s opinion columns on mainstream issues are published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. His Middle East columns are published in the Arab News. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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