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Thursday, June 19, 2003 02:20 pm

Absentee landlords

The new Springfield Medical District Board isn't following the usual prescription for master planning. For starters, the swearing-in ceremony scheduled to take place at the board's first meeting this coming Wednesday will not include the four board members appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich--he hasn't appointed them yet, and has no immediate plans to do so. Furthermore, the board's responsibility for making land-use recommendations appears to be slipping away as lots are already being bought and sold in and around the one-square-mile district.

But if anyone has a complaint about the situation, it would be Maureen Mulhall--appointed to represent the interests of the Enos Park neighborhood--and she has no complaints at all. Even without the governor's appointees, she says,"We have a quorum, so there is no reason for us not to proceed."

Mulhall is one of four board members appointed by former mayor Karen Hasara. The others are Mike Boer, president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce; Mitch Johnson, an administrator with Memorial Medical Center; and Robert Budnik, an administrator with St. John's Hospital.

Mulhall, who lives in Enos Park, has also heard all the "conversation" about who's buying and selling what parcels, but says this activity just proves why the board is needed.

"Nobody's taking any land illegally," Mulhall says. "This is all legal--but it does underscore why a medical district was created: So that it will be done in a planful way."

Sandy Armbruster, who owns property in Enos Park and Oak Ridge--the two neighborhoods most affected by medical district development--has a unique perspective. She works at Southern Illinois University's School of Medicine in the Facilities and Services office. "No one has been pressured to sell us their land," she says. "We did not force anyone to sell."

Mulhall looks forward to the board's formulating a master plan for the area. She's counting on this plan stabilizing her beloved neighborhood.

"Once the master plan is developed, I think that it will really set the tone for the rest of the development within Enos Park," Mulhall says. "I'm excited for what the next several months hold."