WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
LAKEFRONT COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: December 2, 2013
Location: Lakeview Center
Time: 6:45 pm
Attendance: Commissioners: Chair Benz, Olvany, Abbott
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Bowen, Donoghue, Eppelheimer, Specht
Visitors: See attached list
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communication and Correspondence
4) Recognition of Visitors
5) Managers Report
6) Lakefront Master Plan
a. JJR revised Designs per Board Requests and Cost Estimates
b. Status of Sheridan Shore Property
c. Public Hearing Dates
7) Old Business
8) New Business
a. 2013 Lakefront Report
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:45 p.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the November 4, 2013 Committee Meeting by general consent.
3) The Committee had no Communications or Correspondence in their packets, but during the meeting, Mary Shea presented the committee with an email she had written and thought she had sent to the committee. Mrs. Shea highlighted her request that the District consider a different landscape design firm when it enters the detailed design phase of the project. She specifically asked for the District to consider the Studio Gang Design firm.
4) Under Recognition of Visitors, Beth Beucher stated the District should consider a different firm since the concepts from JJR had not changed throughout the process despite the public input received throughout the project. She also stated that the plan did not have any aspects to inspire enthusiasm within the community. Charlie Shea asked what the District’s policy was on memorial plantings. Executive Director Wilson responded that there is no formal policy but we do have general procedures that we have followed for a long time. Specifically to Gillson Park, there has been a moratorium on memorial plantings for about three years. We have also worked with prior donors to replace damaged or sick plantings within the last three years. Director Wilson further stated that the point of the landscape design for the lakefront parks is to have a formal policy put in place to guide the memorial plantings to work within the framework of the landscape design plan. Commissioner Olvany then reminded the audience that the Lakefront Committee had recommended to the Board of Park Commissioners to abolish the memorial planting program entirely, but that the Board did not agree which is why we are doing what we are doing now.
Mr. Shea further noted that the fencing around the swimming beach is aesthetically unpleasing and that the proposed beach house, when including the pavilion shelter, is twice as big and twice as impactful as the current beach house. Commissioner Abbott stated that aesthetics is something that the Committee is sensitive to. Sarah Schmidt stated she has three children, loves the park, and is excited to see improvements, particularly the beach house. She also stated she would like to see the District try to incorporate as many green initiatives as possible in the plan. She also mentioned that she is particularly concerned with parking and flow of foot traffic. She asked that the District consider increasing the cost to go to the beach to offset the costs of the master plan. She stated that she lives across the street from the park on Michigan Avenue and that the street is a “race track” with people looking for parking and that we should consider increasing the cost for parking.
Commissioner Olvany commented that he is sensitive to the topic of on-street parking near a lakefront park as he lives very close to Langdon Park. He stated that the District has yet to address how to pay for the Lakefront Master Plan, and that all options will be considered similar to how all options were considered when deciding how to pay for the Golf Course master plan project. He further stated that the Park Board Commissioners are elected to represent the full community of nearly 27,000 people and must make their decisions for the good of everyone on balance, not just the people who live the closest to the project in question.
Ms. Sarah Duran commented that in regard to the overlook portion of the beach, it is a big draw for non-residents and has a large impact on the park. Commissioner Olvany pointed out that the beach, like all of the District’s programs and facilities, must be made available to all people – residents and non-residents alike. He stated what we could do is charge a fee differential in line with the Fair Share Concept where we can charge non-residents an increased fee as compared to residents.
Commissioner Abbott stated that much of Gillson Park was created by the dumping of the material dredged to make the harbor and canal and that the State of Illinois then deeded the property to the Wilmette Park District. He also said that for him personally, the lakefront is a place that he feels should be available to everyone, whether they are from Wilmette, Morton Grove, Iowa, or even foreign countries. Ms. Carol Gardula then stated that New Trier High School has a great program for architecture and that we should make the design of the beach house a project for them.
5) Under Managers Report, Lakefront Manager Holly Specht reported there were 14 rentals of the Lakeview Center in November. She also informed the Committee that at the Sailing Beach, all boats are stored for the winter for those who signed winter storage contracts. She highlighted that we even have 5 boats being stored over the winter that are not Sailing Beach members. She reported that the District is working with Northwest Passage to offer a kayaking camp for 10 to 15 year olds.
6) Lakefront Master Plan
a. Director Wilson walked the Committee through a series of slides that were created in response to questions from the Committee based on the information presented at the November Committee Meeting. The first slide illustrated some changes to the pedestrian walkways; in particular, adding a connection to the sailing beach and a new path by the entrance to the park by the Harbor. The next slide showed an update to the bike and pedestrian layout on the same graphic with the changes to the pedestrian plan. The third slide showed where all of the picnic areas are located in Gillson Park. The fourth slide illustrated the plan for each picnic area, whether it is to have a shelter or not. The fifth slide was an update to the landscape plan for Gillson Park where the consultants added item C, a Landscape Buffer/Screen around the Maintenance Building.
At this point, Charlie Shea voiced his opinion that the Maintenance Building should be removed or relocated. Director Wilson stated that it would be cost prohibitive to remove the building and truck in all of the equipment used on a daily basis. He also stated that to relocate the structure, would be approximately $300,000. Given the current cost estimates for the balance of the plan, the $300,000 is not something he feels the District should consider at this time. Slide 6 was a picture of another concept for a walkout pier to be built to replace the current rock jetty. Director Wilson then switched to another set of slides received earlier in the day that showed where the utilities for water, natural gas, electrical, storm sewers, and sanitary sewers could be located.
Commissioner Olvany asked if the natural gas lines would be completed in Phase 1 if Phase 1 was to include the beach house and the beach parking lot. Commissioner Benz stated he felt it would. Commissioner Olvany asked if the water lines, sanitary, and electrical lines that run along the current middle road per the new slides, would be done at the same time. Director Wilson stated that ideally, they would be done in conjunction with the rebuilding of the roads since the utilities usually run under the roads. He further stated that the roads would most likely be the final stage of the project as you don’t want to run heavy equipment over newly constructed roads. Commissioner Abbott concurred. Commissioner Benz stated that the plan presented to the Committee in November did not initially account for redoing the middle road but that the new plan when accounting for utilities calls for the middle road to be removed and be replaced with a walking path. He further stated that the consultants feel the cost estimate for roads and sewers does not have to be revised for this work.
Director Wilson then distributed revised cost estimates for both Gillson and Langdon Park plans. He pointed out that nothing had changed in regard to Langdon. He then stated that the initial numbers presented for Gillson in November had a double counting for storm sewers, and when that is corrected the overall cost of the plan is reduced to $16.7 million as compared $19 million from November. He further explained that the cost estimates do not include an amount to remove the current stone jetty, which has since been estimated to be around $300,000. Commissioner Olvany asked if the $125,000 for dog beach amenities includes any utility costs. Staff replied they did not know the answer but would ask the consultants and inform the Committee.
Commissioner Olvany also asked if the sanitary lift station can be done for the beach house and not Lakeview. Director Wilson stated that it is the same lift station with two separate pipes connecting to it so the mechanicals can be done in conjunction with the beach house, for instance, and the connection from Lakeview can be done at a different time. Commissioner Olvany asked if the amount for adding an elevator to Lakeview of $425,000 included just the elevator or the structure around the elevator. Director Wilson stated that it was for both the elevator and the structure. Commissioner Benz then asked if ADA funds could be used to pay for the building portion in addition to the elevator. Director Wilson stated that he thought it could but he will confirm that information and report back to the Committee. Commissioner Olvany asked Chair Benz how the Committee was planning to proceed with this topic.
Commissioner Benz replied that we had asked for a number of items and due to the turnaround time available, we had not received all of the information. He also thinks we will receive the remainder of the information at the January 2014 Committee meeting and therefore be prepared to make a recommendation to the full Board on the plan and how to proceed by the February Board of Park Commissioners meeting.
Commissioner Olvany asked about the current status of the contract with SmithGroupJJR. Director Wilson stated that the final step in the contract, for $35,000, is to go from the Alternatives Phase to a Final Master Plan and to help the District administer two public meetings in regard to the master plan. We are currently in the process of getting to the final master plan. Once that is done, the contract with SmithGroupJJR is complete.
b. Director Wilson stated that he had spoken with Gwen Porter, current head of the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club (SSYC), and it was very pleasant and she said they were open to discussing the future of the property with us. He also handed out a current copy of the lease SSYC has with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). Commissioner Olvany stated that as the Chair of the Real Estate Committee, the Board has expressed an interest in discussing the lease with the MWRD and that we have asked for the opportunity to negotiate the next lease for the property. He also stated that the Lakefront Committee should consider the property in conjunction with the rest of the Master Plan because if we are the leaseholder, it would have implications for the plan overall. Commissioner Abbott asked if we should ask the consultants to include SSYC in their planning. Director Wilson stated it might lead to additional charges as it might be outside of the scope of the original contract. Commissioner Benz stated that when talking to people in the community, he feels that we should explore all options for revenue generation at the lakefront and that SSYC could be one option.
c. Chair Benz stated that since the Committee did not have all of the information requested at this meeting, we would discuss a schedule for public hearings at the next meeting.
7) Old Business: None
8) Under New Business, Superintendent Bingham presented the 2013 Lakefront Report. She stated that the report is a summary of the past summer and includes several charts that provide many statistics about the lakefront operations from sailing beach, to swimming beach, to picnic permits and parking. Commissioner Olvany asked if we had statistics in the report that he had missed in regard to resident vs. non-resident usage of the swimming beach. Staff replied that somehow that information had been left out of the report and they would provide the Committee with those swimming beach usage statistics. Staff reported that 67% of the picnic permits were issued to residents. Commissioner Benz stated that he noticed there were some capital items discussed in the narrative of the report and wanted to know if these items had been included in the Capital Plan of the District’s budget. Staff confirmed that they had been included. Commissioner Olvany then asked if staff had ever considered offering a daily pass for stand-up-paddle (SUP) board users who are not members of the sailing beach. Staff replied they had not but added that they could review that option prior to next season. Commissioner Benz then asked about a comment in the report about a need to review the tent and umbrella policies at the beach. Staff confirmed that some clarification and adjustments may be needed and should be reviewed prior to the next season. Commissioner Benz noted a comment in the report about staff’s efforts to control people going onto the rock jetty and stated it was important to keep that in mind when proceeding with the master plan.
Commissioner Olvany stated that the financials of the lakefront operations for the past two years has been on budget which is not an easy thing to do when we run an operation that is as weather dependent as the lakefront is. He added that Holly and her staff are to be commended in their ability to cut expenses when the revenue is not present to make sure the bottom line of the operation is in line with budgets. A member of the audience asked why the District is focused on revenue producing endeavors at Gillson. Commissioner Benz stated that if revenue can be derived from operations, we can ease the burden on the individual tax bills we all pay.
Commissioner Olvany informed the audience that typically, about 60% of the District’s overall revenue comes from user fees while the bulk of the remaining 40% of revenue comes from taxes. He further pointed out that this allocation is usually the opposite at other park districts. Mr. Gardula asked that we be sensitive to lighting and limit it as much as possible. She also suggested that if we were looking to save money at Langdon, we might consider not replacing the tot lot in order to save nearly 30% of the overall cost for the park.
9) At approximately 8:45 pm, the meeting was adjourned.
Minutes taken by Kathy Bingham.
MINUTES APPROVED ON JANUARY 21, 2014.