WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
HELD IN THE COUNCIL ROOM OF WILMETTE VILLAGE HALL
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2011
Written notice of said meeting was given to the Commissioners and the Wilmette Life in accordance with the Wilmette Park District Code, Section 2103, and Section 2.02 of the Open Meetings Act.
President Brault called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. and stated there will be a discussion later tonight at 8:30 p.m. after a short recess on the proposed ice surface at Thornwood Park as a result of requests received from the neighbors who live in the area.
PRESENT: President James Brault; Commissioners Gary Benz, James Crowley, Darrell Graham, John Olvany, Michael Murdock, and Shelley Shelly; Secretary/Director Stephen Wilson; Assistant Secretary Judy Ostrem
STAFF: Superintendents Bingham (arr. 8:30 pm), Bowen, Eppelheimer, and Lambrecht; Communications Manager Donoghue
OATH OF OFFICE
President Brault stated the vacancy on the Park Board has been filled. Vice President Graham, Chair of the Board Vacancy Committee, then provided an overview of the process and stated applications had been solicited from residents who had an interest in becoming a Park Board Commissioner. A total of 12 applications were received although one person withdrew early on. The remaining 11 applicants were sent questionnaires asking them to respond to certain questions about their interest in the Park District and general information on their backgrounds. From there, the Committee collected and analyzed the responses. The Committee also contacted each of the candidates to interview them by phone. After these initial responses were reviewed, the Committee narrowed the field down to four candidates who were interviewed individually in a panel format followed by a recommendation to the Board which resulted in the selection of a new Commissioner. President Brault added the discussion on the candidates was very spirited and the candidates were very well qualified people that would have brought a lot to the Park District. In conclusion, the Park Board and special meeting unanimously selected Mr. John Olvany to fill the vacancy.
Secretary Wilson then administered the oath of office to newly appointed Commissioner John Olvany. President Brault welcomed Commissioner Olvany to the Park Board and stated John has been a resident for over 21 years and has a background in consulting and financial services. His excitement about the lakefront and being involved in all of the parks will bring a terrific perspective to our Board. Commissioner Olvany thanked the Board and stated it has been 20 years of great living in Wilmette and he appreciates all the work the Park Board has done.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Commissioner Graham moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the September 12, 2011 Regular Board Meeting.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Olvany, Murdock, and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
COMMUNICATIONS & CORRESPONDENCE:
President Brault acknowledged receipt of correspondence from the list shown below:
…. Thornwood Park: Helen Franz, Diane Schaffner, Bob & Barbara Murray, Lynn Nord, Jody Franson, Roger Weller, Kat O’Reilly, Christie Weller, Virginia Buerger, Michelle Teal, Kaari Reierson, Alan & Diane Schaffner, Paul Anderson, Jeff Kost, Hank Mlynarski, Cathy O’Reilly, Dan Zelazny & Kara McAlister, Mary Weilandt, B. Ahrens, Britt & Allison Trukenbrod, Jeannie Schafer, Gary Kromelow & Ronda Korzon, Bradley Reiff, Caryn Summer, Lynae Gregorian, Andy Broccolo, Lisa Finks, Syndy Sampson, Karen Tobey, Susan Gallagher, Sean Gallagher, Kara McAlister, Cheryl & Craig Scherer, Cameron Krueger, Joseph Hinkamp, Jamie Kost, Meg Gambacorta Maris, Marc M. Mestanas, R. Gagerman, Paul Armstrong, Jeff Woodman, Mary Wellandt, John Kann, Bob Kuker, Cathy O’Reilly, John Dold
…. Gillson Park: John P. Glynn, Norm Hanson, Mary Louise O’Reilly, Sheila O’Halloran, Chuck Jameson, Dorene Lynch, Mary Shea, John & Sue Bowman, Ellie Anderson, D.A. Hejza
…. Elmwood: Judy Mandel, Charlotte Adelman, Lali Watt, Rebecca Boyd, Dick Friedman, Bob Remmert, Susan & Dominick Gatto, Jim Powers, Kira Brecht, Michele Boyer, Susan Friedman, Natalie Franke, Judy Pollock
…. Wilmette Harbor: Judy Schnecke, Garrick Lau, WHA Board of Directors, Peter Kirch, Dietrick Gross, David J. Ford
…. Miscellaneous: Myrna Siegel, Kathy Laughlin Hargrave, Sally Davis, Beth Drucker, Chris Karabas, Seena Platt
Director Wilson stated that additional correspondence had been received over the weekend and will be included in the next Board meeting packet.
Jeff & Jamie Kost, 2319 Thornwood
Colleen Knight, 1215 Colgate
Steve & Sherri Ramsey, 1233 Colgate
Adam Paris, 1221 Colgate
David & Lurene Thomas, 2228 Elmwood
Diane & Alan Schaffner, 2413 Thornwood
Dave Franson, 2327 Kenilworth
Matt Huebsch, 2038 Beechwood
Dan Zelazny, 2347 Thornwood
Steve Ducommun, 2301 Thornwood
Karen and Eric Tobey, 2401 Thornwood
Gary Schotz, 2351 Thornwood
Monica Creighton, 530 Laurel
Amy Keller, 1935 Thornwood
Ryan Freel, 2436 Thornwood
Marc Mestanas, 2205 Chestnut
Leonore Lee, 925 13th Street
Roger Weller, 1223 Colgate
Beth Beucher, 1420 Sheridan Road, #6E
Jeremy Diamond, 2314 Thornwood
John Staley, 2105 Beechwood
John F., 2320 Greenwood
Rich Crool, 2339 Thornwood
Sheila Bower, 1019 6th Street
Anna Kioutas, 1006 Michigan
John Houston, TribLocal
Joseph Hinkamp, 429 Pine Manor
Terri Cohn, 622 Kenilworth
Marshall Kay, 1201 Colgate
Caryn Summer, 2425 Kenilworth
Bobby & Ellen Largay, 1217 Dartmouth
Brian Schafer, 2101 Thornwood
Steve Carlson, 2026 Greenwood
Kirsten Engel, 2315 Thornwood
Barbara & Bo Murray, 1225 Dartmouth
Kerry Nelson, 726 9th Street
Joe Wyse, 919 Cherokee
Meg Maris, 1200 Cleveland
Lisa Finks, 2303 Old Glenview Road
Sean Gallagher, 1103 Elmwood
Paul Armstrong, 2610 Blackhawk
Jeff & Sharon Hidaka, 1229 Colgate
Helen Franz, 2415 Thornwood
APPROVAL OF VOUCHER LIST:
Commissioner Graham moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to approve the Voucher List in the amount of $1,528,396.50, a copy of which is to be attached to and become a permanent part of the minutes of this meeting.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Olvany, Murdock, and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
Financial Planning & Policy Committee – Committee Chair Graham reported the Committee met on Monday, August 22, and discussed the 2012 Uniform Budget Increases. Recommendations were made by staff which the Committee reviewed. As a result, the Committee is recommending proposed fee increases of 3.5% and salary increases of 3% for full-time and 2% for part-time. The percentage increases for full-time and part-time staff were actually a reduction of what was recommended to the Committee. The Committee also discussed the 2012 budget process and reviewed debt and debt issues. Further discussion on debt issues will take place at the next Financial Planning meeting on Monday, September 19 at 6:30 pm.
Parks & Recreation Committee – Committee Chair Murdock reported the Committee met on August 15 to discuss a number of items including the success of the camps this summer. There were more than 400 additional participants in camps this summer as compared to last season and our revenues were approximately $90,000 higher so it was a very successful camp season. Many thanks are extended to School District 39 for their support since many of our camps run on District 39’s property and could not run without their cooperation and assistance. Two Mallinckrodt concerts were held on August 8 and 14 and one Gillson Park concert was held in the Wallace Bowl on August 27 which he attended and which was a great experience. Thanks are extended to Commissioner Crowley for spearheading that event and he hopes it will be something to think about moving forward. However, several residents did raise some concerns about the concert which will be discussed at the next Parks & Recreation Committee meeting. As a result, he encouraged residents to let the Board know their thoughts. The Wilmette Eagles football team has started practices and there are two sixth grade teams, one Lightweight 7th and 8th grade team and one Heavyweight 7th and 8th grade team. This is the year that the Park District is providing the equipment as part of the program which will ensure that all players will have the proper equipment. There are 1,533 participants in soccer this year. Previous discussion had taken place on the possibility of having a storage facility at the Community Playfield which resulted in one being built to store soccer equipment on-site. Starting tomorrow there will also be soccer goals available for the teams not only on game days but also now on practice days. There is a large area in the middle of the field that has been cleared and will be re-sodded. The fields are looking quite good as compared to last year and thanks to Bill for his hard work. Discussion also took place on the proposed Thornwood Park ice rink which will be addressed at the second half of the meeting tonight. A sailor was rescued from the lake in Mid-August which the Parks & Recreation Committee will discuss again and review our policy and if anyone has thoughts or comments, they are encouraged to attend that meeting. Commissioner Murdock also offered his condolences to the family of the young boy named Tristan Shambee who passed away at the lakefront in August.
Committee Chair Murdock reported there was a budget of $150,000 for the replacement of the boilers at the CRC but also budgeted was approximately $35,000 for a rooftop unit which will be deferred until next year. Superintendent Lambrecht addressed the Board and stated that the boilers being replaced are the original boilers from 1965. When the study was completed, the engineers indicated that replacing the pumps would make the system more energy efficient which resulted in the cost being a bit higher. Staff is applying to the State of Illinois for an energy efficiency grant for natural gas which we are pretty sure the Park will be able to get. The District also received two other grants this year for energy efficiency. The expected payback on the boilers is about five years. There is perimeter piping around the building which also provides heat to a couple of other areas and these changes will make a substantial difference in our energy costs.
Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Graham seconded a motion to approve the bid of Premier Mechanical, Addison, IL, in the amount of $193,500.00 for the demolition and removal of old boilers, pumps and piping; the installation of new energy efficient boilers and pumps; and new piping and new controls connected to the energy management system at the Community Recreation Center.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Olvany, Murdock, and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
Commissioner Crowley moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to approve the bid of International Floor Covering, Elk Grove Village, IL, in the amount of $24,875.00 for the removal of old carpeting and installation of new carpeting and laminate flooring at the Center Fitness Club.
Commissioner Murdock reported the budget was $17,000 but the scope was expanded to include some laminate flooring down the middle of the fitness center to make the area more attractive.
Commissioner Crowley moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the bid of Peerless Fence, West Chicago, IL, in the amount of $26,220.00 for the removal of the old fencing and for the supplying and installing of new ornamental fencing with all hardware to match the water plant along north Michigan Avenue.
Committee Chair Crowley stated there is an older fence just west of our sailing beach close to the water plant which has beautiful fencing. The Committee had discussed the need to replace that fencing and agreed to do that this year.
Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Shelly seconded a motion to approve the bid of Fuertes Systems in the amount of $132,000.00 for the reconstruction of the Vattmann Tot Lot.
Commissioner Murdock stated the budgeted amount for this project was $210,000 and the recommended bid is $132,000 which is well under budget. Superintendent Lambrecht added that it is been the practice to gather input from the neighbors and show them the drawings on which they indicate what they would like or not like. The bid tonight is for the excavation, drainage, sidewalks and landscaping.
Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Shelly seconded a motion to approve increases to the Early Childhood fees for the 2012-2013 school year of 10% for Preschool, 3% for Full-Day Preschool, and 10% for Lunch Bunch.
Commissioner Murdock stated these increases are typical of what is usually planned and it is for the following school year, not this current school year.
Golf Operations Committee – President Brault reported the Committee met on August 27 and it was reported, not surprisingly, that rounds are down about 10% this year. However, due to good cost containment and overall cost management, our year-to-date cash flow about equals 2010. In addition, Golf staff did a very good job with their direct and indirect expenditures. Secondly, discussion took place on some of the potential improvements to be made on the course, in particular hole #6. It was suggested that the improvement of that green would be enhanced by a large fan behind it to move air flow around for better growth. As a result, an expenditure of approximately $13,000 for the installation of a large fan behind the 6th green was approved. The Committee had also previously considered the recommendations for improvement from the Golf Master Plan for the reconstruction of #6. However, earlier in the month the USGA Turf Advisor reviewed the green and recommended that we not proceed with the improvement of #6 this year. As a result, we are not moving forward with the improvements on #6 which means deferring approximately $85,000 of proposed capital expenditures from this year until a later point when the project is ultimately approved.
Commissioner Shelly moved and Commissioner Graham seconded a motion to reject all bids for the reconstruction of the 6th green at the golf course and to allocate a portion of the budgeted funds for the installation of a fan at the estimated cost of $13,000.
The next meeting of the Golf Committee is scheduled for Saturday morning, October 15, which will consist of the Golf Users Meeting. All interested parties are encouraged to attend the meeting and provide comments. There will be no Committee meeting in September and the Golf Budget meeting will be held on Saturday, November 5. In addition, the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting was moved from Monday, September 19 to Monday, September 26.
Commissioner Murdock explained that we historically have held the Golf Committee meetings at the end of the month but the decision was made to change that standing meeting date to the second Saturday of the month in order to have more current and substantive financial information.
Centennial Operations Committee – Committee Chair Crowley reported the Committee met earlier tonight before the Board meeting. Representatives from the New Trier Swim Club were in attendance along with a few residents who asked that the lap pool times be changed to accommodate other users. Both parties indicated they were willing to be flexible. Discussion followed and the Committee asked that both groups return to the Committee with recommendations on what they would like to see happen instead of the Committee telling them what they should do. A few picnic tables have been placed on the grassy area outside of the facility so that people can bring their own food since patrons are not allowed to bring food into the pool area. The Committee was provided with a very detailed pool usage report from staff which is available for public viewing and it was interesting to see how the pool is used and the times involved. The Committee also received a very nice letter from Molly Anderson about our summer skating competition which was very complimentary.
Commissioner Murdock reminded residents that about three years ago the decision was made to expand our pool season from mid-August to the end of the month. This did result in a considerable expense for the first year since the weather was not cooperative. However, last year the weather was excellent and a large number of people came out. This year did not experience the late August attendance equal to last year’s numbers except for the Thursday before the last week when over 1,000 people used the pool. Prior to staff adding more staffing and rearranging schedules, that would not have been possible and now more people are able to use the pool until the end of the season.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT:
Director Wilson reported that in the Board’s meeting packet is a paragraph dedicated to the 2012 fiscal budgeting process and that for those who are new to the Board this is the first step in the process which outlines the calendar moving forward as well as changes involving the conversion to our new financial software at the end of this year. Staff is also reviewing our chart of accounts which is nearly 30 years old and restructuring it to better reflect the way we operate and actually slim down the number of accounts so that we will have improved reporting to the Board. The budgeting process started last month and will continue in the Financial Planning Committee. In addition, starting in October each of the committees will review their portions of the budget. Since the process will be completely new this year, please bear with staff as they try to navigate it along with the Board.
Regarding the Elmwood Avenue property, the Village Board announced they were no longer looking to sell their easement rights to private property owners and were going to look at what could become of the property. We had been petitioned by many people in the community to see what the Park District could do to add value to that property. The Board then discussed this issue and staff conveyed that we are open to discussing the ideas that come before the Village with the understanding that we do not have any ownership or easement rights but are willing to be a part of the solution if possible. There has not been any further discussion at this point but there will be within the coming months.
As a follow-up, the lease issue with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) for the Wilmette Harbor operations was discussed with the Board at its July meeting and staff indicated they would be talking to the Harbor to see if there were ways in which we could work together in the future. Subsequently, there was one meeting held wherein a lot of good information was exchanged. Staff left the meeting indicating that the Park District would look into consulting options for reviewing the infrastructure and future needs of the harbor from a capital perspective and clear up some questions as far as what the potential construction costs might be moving forward. At this point, we have spoken with a consultant who has done this type of work and happens to be on the Lakefront Commission but as of yet they have not returned a proposal.
A Lakefront Commission meeting was held last week and another one is scheduled for this Thursday, September 15. Staff is reviewing the input that was received at the public workshop back in April and will get the Commission’s direct input on those topics as well. After that, we will turn it back to the consultants who will then return with three alternatives. That will be followed by more public workshops and meetings to talk about the different concepts from the consultants’ report based on the input received from the public and the Lakefront Commission.
OLD BUSINESS: None
Commissioner Graham stated there is a tax appeal resolution in the packet tonight for 1310 Sheridan Road but because of the nature of the tax appeal and the location next to Langdon Park, he recommended that the tax appeal be referred to the Real Estate Committee for further discussion and analysis.
Commissioner Graham moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to withdraw this motion from the table and the issue was referred to the Real Estate Committee.
Director Wilson stated he is not sure about the deadlines involved in filing the appeal. However, the District is part of a larger group of the New Trier taxing bodies and many of these bodies have “blanket resolutions” that automatically authorize action in any appeal which is over $100,000 in assessed value being appealed. This appeal is supposed to be submitted to the law firm which handles our tax appeals sometime this week. Whether we are a part of this process or not, the other taxing bodies would still continue without our involvement.
Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Graham seconded a motion to approve Resolution 2011-R-10, A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING INTERVENTION IN A PENDING PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT APPEAL (1000 MICHIGAN AVENUE).
The regular Board meeting recessed at 8:00 p.m.
The regular Board meeting reconvened at 8:30 p.m.
President Brault explained that when viewing these meetings on our web site, please not it will be listed as two separate meetings when in fact the second one is really a continuation of the meeting. You will also note some of the seating positions on the dais have been switched. President Brault then welcomed everyone in the audience to the meeting and began the discussion by reading an overview of the process the District had taken in regard to the proposed Thornwood Park ice surface as well as more definition on the proposal itself which has been modified and incorporates many of the suggestions and comments received to date. He reminded everyone that we live in a community of neighbors and although we may disagree on the proposed use of the park he asked that everyone be mindful of the opinion of others and to please respect those who take the podium to allow their opinion to be heard.
President Brault provided a history of Thornwood Park and stated that an ice surface had been there on and off for a long time and even had lights in the past on the north side of Thornwood for over 25 years. As the demographics of the area had changed, the District stopped freezing the park in 1985. About four or five years ago, the District was approached to again add an ice surface to the park although the District initially said no. However, persistent and creative residents proposed they freeze the park themselves. Although didn’t happen, the discussion began anew at the beginning of this year.
In January 2011, the topic was discussed at the Parks & Recreation (P & R) Committee meeting. The first idea was to create two surfaces – one for recreation only and one for hockey only – and surround by dasher boards. After much discussion by the P & R Committee, the issue was taken up in April by the Financial Planning Committee who debated the potential costs and reviewed several different proposed locations for a new surface. The Committee then recommended that public comment be sought on the issue in regard to the potential issues and whether lights should or not be added to the surface. Tonight’s discussion is a direct result of the planning and debate from April. In May, the P & R Committee met again to evaluate the pros and cons of putting a new ice surfaces at Hibbard and Community Playfield. That discussion went back to Thornwood and various locations were debated within the park itself along with other options and alternatives. . The potential for dasher boards were again discussed at the Committee level.
In the meantime, District staff had also been analyzing the alternatives and providing cost inputs and ideas for consideration. Once that framework had been agreed upon in principal, a letter was created and mailed to residents living near the park. The Village Code requires that the District send a letter to those who live within 250 feet of the park. In fact, the labels the Village sent to the District were actually used for the mailing. However, the PD has been very mindful that more people were affected by the potential use of the park other than just those who within 250 feet. The letter and site plan was also forwarded to the media. Also, there have been numerous comments on-line and a number of stories on the topic. As the Board considered the contents of the letter, they realized there is a fine line between one side creating too detailed of a proposal that did not include the community and a framework of the proposal that gave an idea but no specific details. As a result, a great deal of public input on the proposal has been received and it is hoped to receive additional feedback tonight. President Brault reminded everyone that when addressing the Board, please refer to the revised plan, not the one that was included with the original letter.
President proceeded with a description of the revised proposal which included the following: The ice surface will not have any permanent features and the ice will be approx 60 feet x 180 feet and will be located 80 feet from the Thornwood Avenue sidewalk and 150 feet from the eastern edge of the park which is unchanged from the original plan. There will be no permanent structures such as warming hut, concession stand, electric generators, a scoreboard, and the green grass will not be turned into cement parking.
Recently, area residents marked off the proposed area to visual the size of the space and the representation was felt to be generally correct and that it would take up approximately 3% of the park area. In terms of the proposed of the ice, the vision is that it will be used primarily for pond hockey or pick-up games and not used for organized practices or team events. It is hoped that the rink will be a forum for children to get off the couch and enjoy an outdoor activity in the winter.
Feedback received from the public indicates the District should not exclude recreational skating at Thornwood. As a result, we are now proposing that the rink be primarily hockey designated but that recreation-only skating could be held on Saturday and Sunday from 7 am-2 pm. Most of the feedback was received on the issue of the proposed lights and this issue was debated at the Committee level where it was concluded that since it gets dark in the winter around 4:30, putting lights there would make it more reasonable. The question remains how many to install, how bright they should be and where should they be located. President Brault then described the definition of the “one-foot candle” scenario for measuring brightness. Anyone who lives in the area will obviously see the lights but the goal is to limit it so it is not a distraction for anyone’s homes.
The next issue on the lights is how long they should stay on at night and the original proposed indicated 10 pm. However, no specific time was indicated in our letter because we are seeking input from both our users and residents and would like their thoughts on how long they think the lights should stay on at night.
The final element of the proposal for the lights is that it was very clear that residents do not want permanent light poles in the park. So the proposal to consider tonight does not have permanent poles but temporary ones and would be removed at the end of each season.
Regarding the issue of the backboards, residents have pointed out that Howard Park had full boards around its ice surface in the 1970’s. When considering this, the Board determined this was not in keeping with the environment at Thornwood Park and the consideration was more about safety. As an extra precaution, it was felt that backboards but not sideboards would be appropriate. This would then not only keep the pucks in play but would also keep them away from the sidewalk and the street.
President Brault emphasized that the proposed ice surface is temporary and it is anticipated the season will only be 90 days long from approximately December 15 – March 15, depending on the weather. The ice will then melt, the boards and lights will come down and the park will revert back to both active and passive uses. The Board is still receiving input and tonight’s meeting is just the next step in the process.
RECOGNITION OF VISITORS
President Brault then asked those who wished to speak to come forward and present their comments to the Board.
Richard Cross, 2339 Thornwood Avenue stated he has lived on Thornwood for 24 years and is against having lights in the park. He also believes that the proposal for hockey at Thornwood Park places an inordinate emphasis on boys sporting activities that leaves girls out of the picture. He would support recreational skating but the lights are a big issue for him. However, he would support hockey at another location.
Sam Gambacorta, 464 Highcrest, stated he owns a house across the street at 2411 Thornwood which hasn’t sold yet. In looking at the proposal, he has been attempting to determine what the affects would be on the neighborhood. He builds an ice rink in his backyard and commends the Board for trying to do something to get the children and parents outside in the winter. He is mainly concerned about the light poles and understands that they would be taken out in the spring. The rink would only be there for only three months, if not less than that. He does suggest moving the rink further north and in the center of the park slightly away from the neighbors. Parking is already an issue during the day and the rink would bring in more traffic to the area. The lights should go out at 9 instead of 10 pm. He thinks that Howard Park should be considered and would rather see it located there since they already have lights. Also when it snows, there’s a lot of maintenance involved with equipment and there would be no place to park equipment at Thornwood.
Meg Maris, 1200 Cleveland, thinks the rink is a great idea and also believes the lights are not a bad thing. In fact, people in the winter still walk their dogs. She doesn’t think the lights are a big deal until 10 pm but it would be great for families. Regarding traffic, she stated there is a rink on Willow where they go frequently and there are on average about 10 cars there.
Bo Murray, 1225 Dartmouth stated he is currently a senior at Loyola Academy. Four years ago he emailed the Board requesting that Thornwood be flooded and his reasons are generally still the same. First it would be great to get the children and parents outside, second it would give older kids like him a chance to teach the younger kids on how to skate and provide a chance for them to see what it’s like. The outdoor rink season would be generally short and as long as the boards and lights are removed, he thinks the outdoor rink at Thornwood Park would be a positive and the best location.
Marshall Kay, 1201 Colgate stated he thinks the proposal is great. He would be able to see the lights but he doesn’t have a problem with them. He also thinks that 9 pm would be a good time for the lights to go off.
Jeff Kost, 2319 Thornwood stated he and his wife and three sons age 10-19 have been living there for the last 18 years. They are opposed to the lights and the building of the ice rink at Thornwood. They believe that lights would change the character of the neighborhood for the worse. There are no lights at Community Playfield or Avoca for a reason. He believes that most people in the neighborhood would agree that artificial lighting in the neighborhood is a negative although if there were lights he would feel better if they were off at 7 or 8 pm. His experience with people who buy homes in Wilmette is that they expect and deserve peace and quiet. It is confusing to him and other people why certain requests are being considered more important than other requests. Parking when it snows will also be an issue along with people dropping off and picking up children and idling their cars. Thornwood Park is a “crown jewel” in our neighborhood and this park should be protected from additional structures. He thinks Howard Park would be a better location for a rink. The residents have two concerns – that there are a number of people on the Board who belong to or are former hockey club members, that the notice about the proposed plan was received late, and that it’s a done deal and our concerns are not being heard.
Dave Thomas, 2228 Elmwood stated he is a Wilmette Baseball Association (WBA) board member and is not here to accuse or rule out one sport over the other. His group is in a tricky position since they just found about the proposed plan last week and their next meeting is Thursday night. However, we have no official position yet because we have not had information to work with. Their only concern is how this rink will affect the baseball fields. The WBA and the Park District have been partners for a long time and the District has provided us with beautiful fields in which to play and the WBA in turn pays the District quite a bit of money to help offset the cost of the fields. The WBA also pays a large part of their annual budget to private landscapers. Their concern is what effect a spring thaw would have on the playability of the two Thornwood fields, both north and south. The park already has problems with flooding. He questioned if there had been any research done into other communities that have similar types of rinks. Commissioner Graham stated that when the ice on the rinks melt, it melts from the top down so you don’t have the pool of water and the mud that Mr. Thomas is suggesting. Mr. Thomas replied he is concerned about the proximity of the northwest quadrant of the proposed rink to the right field area of Thornwood north that already has water problems. He also thinks that the size of the rink should be decreased as well.
Lurene Thomas, 2228 Elmwood, stated she had written a letter which mimics the points that Mr. Kost had made. She feels Thornwood is a “gentle” park and a structure of the size of the ice rink would be a wrong fit. Her son in college also thinks it’s a “stupid” idea and she believes other people have that same opinion. The other thing is the timing of this issue. It seems that nothing had been announced to the community until the Friday before Labor Day. When there’s a lack of information, how can she make a decision and how will it be monitored. The other big question she has is why are other venues not being considered such as Howard Park and Gillson. She also thinks the community deserves more information. She also does not want any lights.
Steve Ducommun, 2301 Thornwood, stated our family moved here in 2000 and have intimate knowledge of the park since he walks his dog there multiple times a day. From his observation, the area directly to the west of where the proposed rink is marked out is frequently flooded even during the wintertime so there is already a drainage problem there. An ice rink will just exacerbate the water problem. Were any drainage studies done? Also when they were looking for a house one of the things they found attractive was that even with the tennis courts, playground and baseball fields, there were no lights. If there were lights, he thinks they should be on at dinnertime so children could play after school. There will also be a lot of traffic. There should be some guidelines for the usage of a rink and he feels the rink should be smaller. He does agree that there will probably be enough demand for it. He is also concerned about the process of hauling equipment 80 feet from the street to blow snow off the rink which is very labor intensive. He thinks that Thornwood has been utilized pretty well with the tennis courts, the tot lot and the baseball fields. It would be nice if not every square inch of that park would be covered with equipment. He agrees that the children may not be able to sled if the rink is placed there since the only portion suitable for sledding is where they would come straight down on the most vertical part of the hill and end up at the rink which could possibly be a hazard. Maybe moving sledding to a more suitable location would work. His key issue is the lights and the safety of children who sled there.
Kirsten Engel, 2315 Thornwood, stated she has been very impressed with everyone’s comments and they have very legitimate points in both directions. She wants to propose that the Board consider trying the rink out for one year since everything is removable and then reflect on it as a community and make the best of efforts to address everyone’s concerns. It is clearly evident that the Board has taken these issues under consideration and pulled them together in a plan which shows they are listening. Those of us who use the park on a regular basis would be happy to provide feedback on that. She agrees that the lights going off at 9 pm is too late and thinks that 7 or 8 pm would be better.
Dianne Schaffner, 2413 Thornwood, stated one of her biggest concerns is that hockey is not currently allowed in the parks and there are so many questions about the impact on the environment, safety, sound, water, and light pollution. She agrees the Board should definitely try it but in a location where the facilities already exist like West Park rather than spending the money to try it at Thornwood. She thanked the Board for holding the public hearing tonight and stated the District has been very responsive. Her main concern is the light pollution because their peacefulness and quiet is very valuable. The “foot candle” argument is interesting but she doesn’t buy it because that foot candle measurement might apply if she’s looking at the street but she looks out her window and would see the light reflecting off the ice surface and the white snow surrounding it. The impact of the lights is very significant. She also believes the size of the rink as proposed is too large and the light would be less if the rink were smaller. The marked off area looked so much bigger in person than on paper. She asked why can’t green space be left for free play instead of being programmed. Also, where would they be going to the bathroom. Trying a rink out for year seems like a tremendous expense when it could be done somewhere else more cheaply.
Caryn Sumer, 2425 Kenilworth Avenue stated she is a registered landscape architect and practicing since 1980. Much of her work has been with the design of public open space for both structured and unstructured activities. She has also served as a member of various Wilmette community organizations. The letter dated August 31 notifying them of this meeting one week before a possible vote raised concerns for residents both around the park and others who enjoy the character of the park. They are asking the Board to postpone a vote to provide more time for resident input and discussion. Ms. Sumer has copies of a petition which was circulated to the Thornwood Park neighbors opposing the ice hockey rink and lights at Thornwood Park. In addition, many residents did not receive notification at all. She then distributed and displayed a few diagrams to the Board. Everyone she spoke with regarding Thornwood stated that they need more time and discussion prior to a Board vote. She also has a list of questions from concerned residents in response to the information received from the District. Although the proposal has been modified, many of their concerns in the questions remain relevant. She asked the Board to please postpone voting on this program and provide more information and more opportunity for input.
John Staley, 2105 Beechwood Avenue, stated he wholly supports the ice rink at Thornwood and feels it would be wonderful for both girls and boys and families. He also loves the idea of unstructured hockey. He is in support of the lights although understands the issues for the neighbors and feels we should be flexible with the times. With regard to other possible locations, he would like to have the ice rink close to where he lives since Howard, Gillson and West Park are entirely too far away. He would also support not decreasing the size of the rink and suggested possibly enlarging it. He is supportive of the lights but maybe 10 pm is too late. He also understands the need to be sensitive to the neighbors.
Kerry Nelson 726 Ninth Street, stated he does not live in the neighborhood but feels everyone should exercise more in the winter. As a result, it would be great for children and adults to play hockey or skate recreationally outside. It’s safe, wholesome and unstructured and definitely better than video games. Regarding the lights, he thought the lights should be off at 8 pm. Gillson Park does get a little crowded with figure skaters and is much colder.
Lisa Finks, 2303 Old Glenview stated with respect to the lights her understanding is that they would counteract the effects of winter when it gets dark at 4 or 5 pm. The interfering with evening peace is something that won’t be much different than in the summer when it gets dark at 7 or 8 pm. She agrees Gillson Park gets very cold and she supports Thornwood.
Mark Weilandt, 2121 Beechwood, stated he supports the ice rink at Thornwood.
Leonore Lee, 925 13th Street stated she is also a member of the WHA Board and appreciates this discussion. She supports the idea of putting in an ice rink in a Wilmette park. As far as locations, Gillson Park has been dicey with older kids trying to play hockey. She feels two separate activities is a wonderful idea and also believes that we should support this sport in a non-organized way since not everyone can afford to play organized hockey. Regarding the lights, she stated Mother Nature leaves them on longer in the summer and that 8 pm for the lights is appropriate. She thinks Thornwood would be the best location since it’s more sheltered than Gillson. She is not familiar with Howard Park but it might be a good location and maybe West Park too.
Don Kemp, 607 Greenleaf, stated he supports the rink but thinks the proposal to allow hockey from 7 am to 2 pm is a big mistake. He envisions the rink as primarily being used during the nighttime but he is sensitive to the neighbor’s concerns. He feels this is a great opportunity to involve children in hockey and provides those who aren’t signed up in a league an opportunity to develop the sport. However, he was very disappointed in the rule that recreational skating would be unavailable from 7 am to 2 pm which would ruin the whole thing for him. He suggested making time for recreational skating from 7 to 9 am if necessary. He respects the neighbors and thinks hockey is about playing during the daytime and being with families and going out at 8 or 9 in the morning and skating until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. He feels the lights should probably go off at 8 or 9 pm and maybe even earlier on weekdays. He applauded the Board for coming up with this idea since it’s a great sport. He recommended looking at Howard Park in the long term as a place to put more of a full-time refrigerated sheet of ice like there was 30 years ago which would be a great opportunity for structured and unstructured hockey. In the short-term the facility at Thornwood is a great opportunity for the kids to play hockey. Howard would be a good location too but Thornwood is better since it has more of a community feel about it.
Dan Zelazny, 2347 Thornwood stated he is totally for the slimmed down version of the rink. Initially he was not for anything permanent for hockey only. He is hockey dad but fully supports the temporary structure and mixed usage of skating. He thinks the park is a beautiful place and that Thornwood and Harper School are some of the things that make Kenilworth Gardens very special. He understands the issues of green space. There are so many children who live around the park and other children who meet there since it’s safe and the majority can walk there although maybe a survey could prove helpful. He is still confused however as to what the size of the dasher boards will be. He is also for lights as long as they are temporary since it is dark at 4:30 pm. He also suggested potentially having different times during the week such as 7 or 7:30 pm on weekdays and later on the weekends. Thornwood Park is the best spot for the rink and he doesn’t think there would be major traffic issues. In the interest of safety, he suggested that we do not have full-size hockey nets and goals and instead use pond hockey nets.
Gary Schotz, 2351 Thornwood, stated he lives directly across from where the rink would be. He feels 7 pm is a good time for the lights. His issue is the possible noise factor if the lights are on later in the day but he doesn’t think the lights would bother his kids. He suggested turning the lights off at 7 pm during the week. He has four daughters who don’t play hockey but love skating and would love to be able to do that on the weekends if it’s mixed use. He suggested that maybe the weekend rules could be extended during winter break. His biggest concerns are with traffic and parking especially during the winter with snow when the streets get smaller. He wants to be for this but also wants his concerns taken into account.
Karen Tobey, 2401 Thornwood, stated she can see the proposed rink area right out of her window. She also thanked the Board for the opportunity to ask questions and hoped this is not the end of it and that all of their concerns and questions are addressed. One question is after the teardown of the rink, will the open space be immediately available for the neighbors. Ms. Tobey stated that some information was provided by the District who stated it would be a mud pit and unusable until it was resodded. This was why Howard Park was not option since it would ruin the fields for baseball. There is already a flooding issue in Thornwood and the Board should address those concerns as well. The lights are a big concern to her and she is not a fan. She then asked if the lights would be on a timer and would they remain on regardless of whether or not the ice is available to be used. She asked if the Board had considered a smaller rink without lights at Thornwood since it would probably be less controversial and gain more support. There also should not any lights at all. She would also like to see other proposals such as maybe a smaller rink open to recreational skaters and that does not have lights.
Paul Armstrong, 2610 Blackhawk, stated he has lived in Wilmette for 20. He is for anything that is good for our children which is why he moved to Wilmette. He is an architect and real estate broker and knows the issues from both sides of the fence. He can think of nothing better than to have our older children walking to Thornwood to play some unstructured pick-up hockey and to make sure that at the end of the season things are done right which he knows they can be. He thinks that from the standpoint of lighting we should treat it as if it’s summertime which means a timeframe such as when it gets dark in the summer at 7:30 or 8:30 pm. He does feel there needs to be lights and that it would be an unsafe situation without lights for children. The rink also needs to be as large as is currently proposed. He hasn’t seen much sledding in Thornwood but if there is a conflict with sleds, he thinks the children would try to have fun and sled down on the ice which is something one would need to be prepared for by putting up signs, etc. In regard to the nets and safety, they would be safer and probably more fun for the children to have nets that are lower and closer to the ice. He supports the rink at Thornwood and feels the rink should be fun for the children.
Will Brault, 2619 Kenilworth, stated he is a hockey player at Loyola Academy. He is for the rink at Thornwood and he couldn’t say how many times he has played there this past winter. He and his friends have tried Mallinckrodt but there was not enough space. It is also hard to find rides to West Park. Thornwood is a great place and within walking distance. He also suggested the lights go out at 9 pm.
Marc Mestanas, 2205 Chestnut, stated he is excited about the recommendation to have the rink and thinks it’s a great idea. He really likes the idea of unstructured sports in general since we are all way too structured in Wilmette. This rink would provide a great opportunity to play and just have fun and he is a supporter. He also thinks the times on Saturdays and Sundays in the mornings should be allotted for hockey since that’s a great time for them to play but there should definitely be times for other people to skate recreationally in the afternoons on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 2pm or 2 to 4 pm general skating. It’s just the way it’s done which is to have hockey in the morning and it’s the best time for the players.
Bobby Largay, 1217 Dartmouth, stated he thinks we need to talk about usage and when is the best time for hockey and other skaters as well. He asked when would the rink be built and when would the boards and everything else go up. He would like to be included in the discussions regarding the layout. He is for skating as long as everything is removed, there are no permanent structures and the lights are turned off earlier at 8 pm during the week and 9 pm on weekends. Maybe 7 am on the weekends is too early.
Steve Carlson, 2026 Greenwood, has three children age 9, 8 and 6 and would like to slowly get his older girls introduced to hockey in an environment where he is around and able to help them. Having the ice rink at Thornwood with the number of children in the neighborhood is an ideal situation for his family as well as a lot of other families. They have used Mallinckrodt in the past and he thinks the Board could ask the people if there have been any complaints about the lighting used there. He supports having the lights and thinks a reasonable time is 7:30 or 8 pm on weeknights but maybe a little later on the weekends.
Adam Paris, 1221 Colgate, stated he has two children age 3 and 1 and implores the Board to do whatever they can to make the rink work for all types of interests. In particular he likes the suggestion of morning hours are for non-hockey use and asks that be done on the weekdays as well. Hockey can get very loud particularly with the boards and the players yelling. He also asked that the bathroom issue be addressed. His clear preference is to not have lights. If there were going to be lights, he would like to have them off by 6 pm on weekdays and 7 pm on weekends. The light issue for him is that they have massive windows overlooking the park and in the winter when the moon shines and lights up the park it is absolutely beautiful. He just doesn’t want to be staring at a lit-up area in the evening hours. He also asked that the Board seriously consider shorter goals and shorter boards. He thinks it’s important that we entertain a certain type of hockey which will be accessible to a broader age of audiences and less aggressive. He asked the Board to please focus on the lights, bathrooms, and making sure this is a mixed use facility and to not forget about the morning hours every day.
Helen Franz, 2413 Thornwood, stated her aunt lives next door at 2419 and she wanted to say that she was a hockey mom and was all for the rink until she read about the location. She thought that Howard Park would be a much better venue for the rink and doesn’t know why the District would spend extra money when it already has a facility there. Helen has some concerns and a big concern she has is about the flooding. She does not want a mud pit when she looks out her window but does want to see beautiful green grass. She asked that a study be done on the flooding issue and does not want permanent lights. She is not opposed to temporary lights but is afraid that temporary lights might become permanent ones. She suggests 8 pm for the lights and is okay with it being a multi-use ice rink but it should be for everyone and should not have designated times on weekends. She would be willing to vote yes if some of her criteria were met.
Roger Weller, 1223 Colgate stated that for 20 years his backyard has been right up right up against the park. He thanked the Board for the opportunity to be a part of this dialogue and is happy that it’s happening in a more thoughtful way than it had at the beginning of the process. He appreciates the fact that the Board has already been responsive to a lot of the concerns presented and has so quickly tried to come up with reasonable alternatives to consider. He still has deep concerns that flooding is a major problem and that the overall size is too big. He has nothing against the multi-use factor of the ice surface for families and kids to use in an informal way. The idea of it being exclusively or prominently for hockey is against the character and nature of this neighborhood park. A big issue is the percentage of time that the rink would be excluding the neighborhood from skating because of hockey. If there are lighted facilities already n Wilmette, he doesn’t know which one would be the best alternative. However, maybe it would make more sense to do what needs to be done to also make another facility the multi-use hockey rink. Common sense dictates it would result in a much lower cost, lower impact, and no change of use or character to any of the existing parks. That is a question he’d like an answer to. He is not against the skating facility but not the large rink and lights which is a huge problem. Lighting in general will change the character of the park, he would strongly object to anything permanent and also thinks if lighting is an issue, why not move the rink two or three blocks away.
Sherry Ramsey, 1233 Colgate, stated that when she originally saw the letter she was very opposed to a rink at Thornwood because of the invasion of privacy and disruption to her schedule but after seeing the toned down version of it she thinks it would be a lot of fun and her kids would love it. However, the lights are a big issue for her since they live right on the park. But it’s also not just the lights but the noise and activity level that go with it. If there are lights they will be seen from our bedrooms since we are right on the park and it would be a huge disruption. If lights are approved, then they should be turned off no later than 8 pm during the week and 9 pm on weekends. Early morning skating on weekends would be an even bigger issue because of the noise level. The bathroom issue is also a big deal and the wintertime traffic could be a problem. She doesn’t understand why a rink needs to be located in Thornwood when there are other locations and wants to know why there can’t there be designated hockey hours at different times and at different locations. If a rink does go into Thornwood Park, then weekend-only non-hockey use is not enough time and there should be more time during the week especially for figure or recreational skaters. She asked that since it is a big sheet of ice, can you not have more than a certain amount of people and what if there are 7 and 15 year olds – do they all mix well? For the record, her biggest issue would be the noise.
Bradley Reiff, corner of Dartmouth and Kenilworth, stated he played hockey as a child and as an adult. However, he is not sure why Howard Park which has a bathroom, a warming house, and lights wasn’t considered. He asked if there had ever been any thoughts of giving Howard Park a try. And if it’s true about the mud pit at Howard it is probably true at Thornwood as well. The question then is since we have these existing facilities, why wouldn’t we try the rink there. Would it be because this group of people wanted hockey at Thornwood. He asked if the Board had looked at Howard Park which is also centrally located since it is not clear to him why Thornwood was chosen since a rink would change the character of the park. He asked the Board look at other locations and other designated times. There must be additional steps to be taken and more information to be disseminated before any decisions can be made. At this point in the process, he is opposed to the rink at Thornwood.
The regular Board meeting recessed at 10:15 p.m.
The regular Board meeting reconvened at 10:25 p.m.
President Brault again thanked everyone for attending the meeting tonight and the comments from both sides of the issues have been interesting and educational for the Board. He stated that generally what has been heard tonight is an extension of what we have been reading and hearing from a variety of sources but it’s always more helpful to hear from people in person.
The public commentary opportunity was closed and President Brault asked the Board members to respond to any questions, to state their opinions if they care to, and finally whether or not they think they have enough information to draw a conclusion based on what we know now or if they would like to have an additional meeting on this topic.
Commissioner Crowley stated he thought the comments provided tonight were very interesting and that the idea of not having permanent lights is a given. Also, input on the timing of the lights was very positive and he agrees that 10 pm is too late. He also agrees with modifying the rink as a shared facility so that anybody who wants to get on skates can do so whether with a stick or without. He doesn’t have an answer to the bathrooms but it is a legitimate question. In regard to the length of the season, that is totally dictated by the weather. He stated that this issue is similar to the cell tower issue earlier this year when the people came to the meeting and were very civilized, very intelligent, and spoke very well which makes him proud to be living in Wilmette when people could have a difference of opinion without holding signs or being overly negative. He can see moving forward with a decision on this tonight if the majority of the Board agrees.
Commissioner Benz thanked everyone for their comments and input that has opened up a whole battery of questions that he would like to ruminate over, ask more questions such as the possible flooding, and discuss the issue further before making a decision. He wanted to think about these issues more and recommended that the Board postpone a vote or decision to a later time.
Commissioner Murdock asked Superintendent Lambrecht a few questions about the timing and duration of the proposed rink. He also asked what was done at our other rinks and if we want to do the same thing at Thornwood. Superintendent Lambrecht responded that other rinks all have permanent lighting but at Thornwood staff is looking at temporary lights. In order to set up everything correctly, staff would need to install everything right after Thanksgiving. But it will take some time to finesse the system and keep it going. However, the boards could be put up in September. Last year was the longest skating season in history and was the first time in recent history where we had skateable ice before the holiday break through the first week of March which was very unusual. A typical season usually starts after the first of the year and then possibly going into the first or second week of February. Staff functions on the basis that if the weather starts warming up in February, we lose everything and we don’t start building ice again since it does take a lot of labor and time.
Commissioner Murdock asked why we would not put the rink at Howard Park. Superintendent Lambrecht responded that there are a couple of issues. The first issue is the amount of use the park is already getting, the amount of softball being played all spring and summer, and currently the football being played. The turf would not be getting a break, we could lose some turf and it is not feasible to put an ice sheet on the sod since it would not have time to recover from football which would mean resodding that field every year. The other issues with Howard Park is the current zoning which requires that the lights are turned off no later than October 31 and cannot come back on until March 15. The District was required to go through zoning to get a variance for that. The other issue is an economic one in that the way the park is now wired for both a north field and a south field, we would end up putting the rink at the north end and there is a lot of light at that end. Superintendent Lambrecht added that no matter what happens, we would have to go to zoning if there is lighting since it’s a special use of the park.
Commissioner Murdock stated going back to the comments from Commissioner Benz about waiting for month, what would the impact be if this decision was deferred for that amount of time which he agrees with but not necessarily if it’s making a defacto decision that we’re not going to do it. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that the issue will be getting the work done that he still has to do such as installing the temporary lights and getting an electrical service box for ComEd to tie into which always doesn’t happen quickly. He feels that if we wait another month, we would be right up against the wall to try to get it done on schedule but it would be possible. Commissioner Gary wondered if a special Board meeting could be scheduled for an earlier date which would allow for further thought.
Superintendent Lambrecht was asked about the flooding issue and he stated there had been issues at Thornwood in the past. He explained that the work needing to be done would include running an under-drain where the rink would be located so that once it thawed the water would have a place to go and then we would put in another drain and would tap right into the storm sewer. This would also solve the problem of flooding in the right side of the north baseball field at the same time but would not solve the problem on the other side of the berm. However, flooding can be solved and we could get rid of the standing water. The recovery of the turf can be an issue and the north field is a perfect example of that as a result of the rain and heat in July when there was a lot of standing water which killed a lot of turf.
Superintendent Lambrecht added the timing issues related to the lighting but not to the prep work and the water for making ice is not a big deal and can be put in relatively quickly. Once again the hardest part is the lighting. The boards would be built by staff and those could be installed right after Thanksgiving. He also stated that once the ground is frozen, the work would be impractical since we need to get power run from the power lines and once there we’d have to go overhead to get out to the poles which we have to put up.
Commissioner Crowley stated that if the temporary lighting went in at some point, is it a big deal to put it back in if anyone wanted lights for an event in the park during the summer. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that is really not our practice since the poles are 18 feet tall and it is a lot of work. It would also take a day or two to put them up and then take them down. However, the tower as well as the power stays there all year long.
Commissioner Murdock stated he has a lot of thoughts and comments but rather than going through them now he concurs with Commissioner Benz that we need a specific and concrete plan in front of us. There have also been additional issues brought up tonight such as bathrooms and the hours that the lights will be on or off. He believes that the Board has followed a good process on this issue and stated discussion took place at the end of last winter through Committee meetings. There are some people who do have concerns about what exactly we’re proposing and it makes sense for us to have a specific concrete plan in place. From a practical standpoint, these questions will come up with the Village’s Zoning Board at some point anyway. In regard to timing he suspects the Village would allow us to get a date on the docket with the Zoning Board which they’ve done in the past. Commissioner Murdock added that he would feel more comfortable moving ahead and scheduling a meeting when there is a specific plan for final approval.
President Brault asked Superintendent Lambrecht about the zoning application process and what would the Zoning Board look for such as how big will the rink itself will be and how high would the dasher boards, etc. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that after speaking with John Adler, it appears the lighting would not be an issue. However, it is not known if the Zoning Board would ask about the boards, etc., but that is not an insurmountable issue. In addition, the ice rink would be considered a recreational use so that would be allowed and then we would not have to go to zoning.
Commissioner Olvany stated that as this was his first Board meeting, it has been very interesting. He is also very impressed with the community input provided tonight. He has always known that the Kenilworth Gardens area is a tight knit community and that the people who live really enjoy the area. It was also impressive to see how they all were able to communicate their views in a public forum. He has walked away from the discussion with more questions than answers and thinks he would need more time and input in order to come to a conclusion on the where, why and when issues. He is not yet familiar with every park in Wilmette and stated going back to the Howard Park location his recollection is that football field is located at the top and that there are two softball fields and an outfield for both of them. He then asked Superintendent Lambrecht if those would be viable locations for the ice rink. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that the lower section of Howard Park would be a tough place to do that since it’s not very flat. There are also drainage issues in that area as well since it slopes to the east. However, staff is able to do anything that the Board will want us to. We would have to get power out there for lighting but only on the west section of the park. They also have a football field. Commissioner Olvany concluded that he would be in favor of the Board holding a special meeting in order for further discussion on what our proposal would be.
Commissioner Shelly thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and appreciates the feedback received from both sides of the issue. She grew up across from a park and had two brothers who played hockey while she figure skated and has some really great memories. She also lives in Kenilworth Gardens which means she would be able to walk with her kids to the park. Since none of her children play hockey, they would love the opportunity to skate in an unstructured environment and not be part of a team. The unstructured environment would also be valuable for many other children in the neighborhood as well. She felt it is very important to have recreational time as well and would always be in support of that. Regarding the weekend, she feels that splitting the time could resolve those user issues pretty quickly. She did have some concerns about the lights and most people she has talked to share those concerns. She thinks 8 pm on weekends and maybe a bit later on weekends seems reasonable. She does believe that Thornwood Park is unique and that it can’t be compared to Howard Park. There are so many children there that could walk to the park without having to rely on parents dropping them off. West Park and Howard are far away although Mallinckrodt is closer. She also thinks that trying it for a year at Thornwood is a wonderful idea. The whole concept is great way to bring the whole community together and that it will be more of a drop-off situation. During the one-season trial period, a traffic count could also be done to measure traffic flow. She is very relieved about the flooding which could be an issue. She stated that time is of the essence and the zoning process would also take time. She could make a decision tonight but if the Board schedules a special meeting in the next week or two, then she thinks we need to solidify the plan, make decisions on the timing of the lights and other issues and then meet to debate and make a decision at a special meeting.
Commissioner Graham stated a lot of people have asked why Thornwood was chosen and not Howard. As a Board member he believes it was our responsibility to act responsibly and choose locations where people are going to use them. The reason Thornwood was chosen and not Howard was due to engineering issues at Howard. Also, certain Board members thought Thornwood would be a great location for a park since people would really use it. As a result, Board proposed Thornwood and began to explore the options. When the letter went out and people had the opportunity to comment via phone calls and emails, the Board responded to a number of them. All the comments included legitimate concerns about the lighting, flooding, the goals and how to regulate the rink. He agreed with 90% of their comments and as a result, the Board has accommodated many of those concerns.
Commissioner Graham personally looked at it as a benefit to the community and not a detriment but he realizes that all of the concerns have been legitimate. However, he disagrees with the idea that under no circumstances should a rink be put in at Thornwood Park. Thornwood is already a park for children to play tennis, baseball and a tot lot. It is surrounded by homes with children where they can go and play and as a result, is an active park which is his personal view. It would be great if there was a consensus among the entire neighborhood but there is a split right now and he agrees we should postpone this decision for a short period of time to address these concerns and gather further feedback.
The overall feedback received has been extremely consistent with 20 people saying yes to the rink with conditions, 20 saying yes without conditions, and 8 people saying no rink. President Brault added that that several more people in attendance tonight are being characterized as completely undecided. Also, the written comments were almost split right down the middle.
In terms of timing, the input has been very valuable for people and more importantly the process has been very valuable. Several people told me during the recess that they now better understand the concept. President Brault stated he is recommending that the Board hold another meeting on Monday, September 26. After polling the Board, each commissioner indicated they were able to attend on that date.
President Brault thanked everyone for their constructive input and the way everything was approached. When people present their opinions in a passionate and respectful fashion, it makes everything much easier. The meeting on September 26 will be an open meeting and if a more solidified plan is ready to present, it will be put on the web site hopefully by next week. The process described is clearly not perfect but the Board is doing what it can to engage and involve as many people as possible. We also hope our friends in the press will do the same thing.
There being no further business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned at 11:33 pm.
MINUTES APPROVED SEPTEMBER 26, 2011.