Controversial tax breaks for a major corporation, political shake-ups and the lingering effects of tragedy made headlines in Tinley Park this year. Here's a recap of some of the area's biggest news stories of 2013.
School board nixes Wal-Mart proposal
In September, Tinley Park officials unveiled a proposal to attract a $50 million Wal-Mart to 191st and Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park.
Under plans detailed by local officials at public forums, Wal-Mart would have built a 300,000-square-foot store at the site. The store would have added 350 jobs at an average hourly rate of $12.80, village officials said.
For the development to proceed, Wal-Mart required millions of dollars in property tax abatements from two local school boards and the Frankfort Square Park District, officials said. Residents came out to village board meetings to express their antipathy toward any tax breaks for the corporation.
On Oct 9, Summit Hill School District 161 formally voted to deny Wal-Mart the tax abatement requested by Tinley Park officials, effectively killing the proposal. Board President Sean William Doyle said he couldn't "wrap (his) head" around supporting the proposed incentive.
"Philosophically, it comes down to an issue of fairness," Doyle said, noting Wal-Mart's billions of dollars in income. Mayor Ed Zabrocki pledged to keep pursuing a deal to bring Wal-Mart to another site in town, saying it's best for the village.
Lane Bryant wound remains
After six years, the Lane Bryant killings remain unsolved. Despite thousands of phone calls with leads and suggestions, the man who executed five women in a south suburban mall is unknown.
Until November, the former Lane Bryant store had remained empty since the slayings. But the 23,000-square-foot retail space in the Brookside Marketplace finally reopened this fall as a T.J. Maxx.
T.J. Maxx officials said they were unaware of the building's history but gave a $10,000 donation to Together We Cope, a local homeless prevention charity, "in honor of the victims of the tragic shooting that occurred at this location in 2008."
Political status quo reigns
Mayor Zabrocki overwhelmingly won re-election against local attorney Steve Eberhardt in the spring.
Eberhardt focused on a salary increase Zabrocki received in 2005, property taxes and the town's foreclosure rates, among other issues. Zabrocki argued that his long leadership — the mayor has held office since 1981 — has led to stability, growth and national recognition for Tinley Park.
In an odd twist, residents voted by a similarly overwhelming margin last November that the village should have term limits for its elected officials. Zabrocki appointed a panel to study term limits, which ultimately issued a report saying they couldn't recommend term limits.
Oak Lawn water agreement
In November, Tinley Park, Orland Park, New Lenox, Mokena and Oak Forest negotiated a new 40-year water agreement worth an estimated $170 million with Oak Lawn. As part of the agreement, the water supply from Lake Michigan shared by the towns will double from 55 million gallons a day to 110 million. They will also supplement the system with a second supply line to create a redundant looped system. These additions will help meet the demands of a growing population, Village Manager Scott Niehaus said.
The Department of Defense held urban warfare exercises in April at the old Mental Health Center in Tinley Park, prompting complaints from some residents about the noise at late hours. The first round of exercises went late into the night, with helicopters zipping around town as soldiers trained at the facility.
One resident complained the helicopters woke her sleeping infant.
Village officials asked the Department of Defense to respect "quiet hours" from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. when they returned for more exercises in July.
A family's forgiveness saves a life
John and Tanya Loerop gave the teenager who ran over their 4-year old daughter in 2011 a second chance at life this summer.
The teenager, DeAndre Wolfe, had been charged with reckless homicide as well as driving under the influence due to traces of marijuana found in his system after the Tinley Park crash.
At the Loerops' urging, prosecutors offered a plea deal to Wolfe this summer. Wolfe pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, receiving probation and 480 hours of community service.
Although the grief remained, the family forgave.
"My husband felt strongly, and I completely agreed, that prison would completely ruin (Wolfe), and that wouldn't honor our daughter's life either," Tanya Loerop said.