Real, Not 'Purported,' Significant Opposition to the Beach House

The Highland Park Park District unilaterally determined more than 1000 resident voices to be “obsolete.” Just who is obsolete in HP? Could it be the Park District Board of Commissioners?

The Rosewood Beach Project.  Talk about Down the Drain in HP!  More than 1000 Highland Park voices have been unilaterally determined to be “obsolete ” by the Highland Park Park District (HPPD).  Starts me thinking about just who is really obsolete in HP…could it be the Park District Board of Commissioners?

 Clearly they consider about 4 percent of HP’s population (and a much larger percentage of its voters) to be absolutely irrelevant and obsolete.

In a August 22, 2012 letter, the Executive Director of theHPPD, Liza McElroy, tells Amy Lohmolder (who submitted a letter on behalf of the Ravinia Neighbors Association – the RNA) that “…your email is inaccurate in describing the purported “significant” public opposition to the Rosewood Beach ProjectThe opposition petitions you cite address an obsolete and now-abandoned plan that is significantly different from that which the Park District of Highland Park is now considering…The vast majority of the signatures on the RNA’s petitions were obtained well before the Task Force presented even its preliminary recommendation to the public in May of 2012…”

I’ve got news for Ms. McElroy and the HPPD Commissioners: there isn’t “purported” significant public opposition, it is actual significant opposition, and sticking your head in the Rosewood Beach sand doesn't make it go away.   
Of course, Ms. McElroy is right about the sequencing of the RNA petition.  Can't address whether more or less of them were made previously or recently. Yes, the HPPD held all the cards very close to its vest until recently when the RNA gained enough prominence to ensure that the HPPD would make the process more  purportedly “transparent.”  By the way, the process has hardly been transparent -- the public meetings consist of residents expressing their frustration or their support and the HPPD Commissioners, staff and consultants not answering any questions.  Incredibly, pro forma financials were not presented until the last meeting and at the last minute -- no one in the room could really even ask a question of the financials being presented on the way in the door. Additionally, the RNA had to submit FOIA requests just to get basic information from the HPPD.  So much for transparency.

Ms. McElroy is absolutely wrong about any obsolescence of those signatures on the RNA petition. A unifying point for all the people who signed that petition, whenever they signed it, was and is that they were and are opposed to an "Interpretive Center" -- an unnecessary building on the beach of any size intended for class rooms, parties, rentals, etc., as well as any overbuilding on Rosewood.  The people who signed those petitions continue to be supportive of the admirable job the RNA has been doing of looking out for the best interests of all HP residents when it is clear that the HPPD isn’t.   

The HPPD can’t stick its head in the Rosewood Beach sand and pretend that the 1000+ people who signed the RNA petition and who oppose the beach house don’t really mean it anymore.  We did, we do.

The HPPD has all the signatures, phone numbers and, likely, e-mails for all signatures on the petition.  They certainly haven’t contacted me to determine whether I am still opposed to a Interpretive Center on the beach.  Whether it is 4000 sq. ft. or 1900 sq. ft., whether you call it the Interpretive Center or the beach house, my signature on the petition is still good as are all the rest (and, if there is an exception to that rule, it would be just that, an exception).  If we need a referendum concerning the beach house, bring it on!

We can assume that Ms. McElroy issued her letter with review and authorization by Scott Meyers, the President of the HPPD Board ofCommissioners.  Perhaps even full Board approval for such a sensitive issue was required. Or, if Ms. McElroy sent it on her own, shame on her!  In any event, let's hold the responsible people accountable.

Many in HP may not be familiar with your Park Board. In addition to Mr. Meyers, the Board of Park Commissioners include Cal Bernstein, Lori Flores Weisskopf, Elaine Waxman and Brian Kaplan.  Remember these names because they will likely be presented again for another election to the HPPD or elsewhere in the City or County.  Hold them accountable for their votes on the Rosewood Beach Project.  Remember that one of the best HP City Councilmen (ever!) lost an election in 2009 by only 10 votes.  Remember these names. Your 1000+ votes count.  Hold your Park Board Commissioners accountable for how they treat you, your neighbors, your Park District and your funds.  They are elected by us, and it is our job to ensure that the right people sit in the seats -- people who can be good stewards of our tax dollars.

Whether you are glad or not about the plan's approval, please remember there are a few issues that go beyond the decision: 

  • The HPPD has shown 1000+ residents extraordinary and lasting disrespect
  • The process has been lacking in transparency
  • The HPPD has been intransigent about the beach house from the outset, causing extreme divisiveness in the community and, as a result,
  • There has been entirely too much focus on the Beach House, leaving the very real environmental issues concerning the habitat restoration and engineering project for the shoreline left largely unattended by all.

Shameful conduct by the HPPD.  

(This blog was originally posted on August 23, 2102 at downthedraininhp)

*Regarding the alleged Interpretive Center, really, it appears that it was always intended to be more of a beach house for residents to rent for parties than a center to learn about the beach environment, because, after all, if you want to learn about the beach environment, you’re not sitting inside a building on the beach! This, of course, raises all sorts of questions about the good faith of the HPPD in dealing with residents and the government grantors.  At the first HPPD open meeting there were several people passionately supportive about the ability to bring students to the beach's "Interpretive Center", as if that were the primary purpose, and it isn’t.  The primary purpose is rentals.  Likely one of the reasons the HPPD finally flopped the sham name to the "Beach House."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Richard H Heineman Jr August 25, 2012 at 07:10 PM
I have many issues with the above, but here I am only going to comment of the last statement. Rentals of the facility are expected to be a very small use of the building. They expect only about $5,000 from this or 100 hours during the entire year. The vast majority of revenue and usage is for park district programs and classes. There is already an over subscription for the lake front programs currently at the Yacht Club. The demand is there. When you just make stuff up it discredits any parts of your arguments that may have a basis in fact. Though, it appears that there is very little fact in this posting.
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM
There is so much revisionist history here. I'm writing my column this week on the topic, but let's point to one such "fact". " A unifying point for all the people who signed that petition, whenever they signed it, was and is that they were and are opposed to an "Interpretive Center" " I was asked to sign the petition at an event in Ravinia in summer, 2011. At that time, the plan was to cut into the bluff, build a 4000 single building, and there had been very little public discussion. I might actually have been willing to sign against some of those things, but I didn't because I trusted the PDHP to represent my interests and get it right. The RNA can't on the one hand claim credit for forcing PDHP to abandon much bigger plans and yet continue to criticize them for the progressive disclosure of the revisions to address RNA concerns. The real question - what is so wrong with a beach house?
Debra Rade August 26, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Per PD's website: "How will the interpretive space be used? The glass enclosed room will be available for community use and rentals during off-hours and seasons. (room capacity 35-50 people, restrooms, utility sink). Construction cost will be funded through approved grants and Park District reserves. Revenues generated through rentals and programming will help offset the cost of operation and maintenance." When attempting to gather support for the original 4000 sq. ft building, now 1960 sq. ft (twice the footprint of my two story home), the focus was on the alleged purpose of being an IC -- the initial spin. Later, named the beach house. Thanks, Richard, for letting us know that there is overflow demand at the Yacht Club. When residents proposed to the Park District that an IC, if any, be placed at the Yacht Club, we were not told the Yacht Club had such demand, another example of how this entire process lacked transparency & dialogue. It was not until the first public meeting that residents were told about the rental use. At the outset, most people thought that the Rosewood Beach Project was intended to improve the beach and its environment. Everyone would support that! Instead, it has turned out to be a business project for the Park District, including concessions, building rentals, and camps, and little respect for the people who currently use the beach, or the beach itself.
Debra Rade August 26, 2012 at 02:25 PM
If you had previously signed the petition, you could notify the RNA that you no longer oppose the beach house. Petition numbers would surely be revised. However, as you didn't sign the petition, it's not right to speak for the rest of us. While the PD shrunk the beach house from irresponsibly gargantuan to large (twice the footprint of my own home), that doesn't mean the PD can silence 1000+ voices and call all of this "purported" significant opposition and their petition "obsolete." You'll likely answer your rhetorical question in your next op-ed with PD perspective. However, if it were a real question, you'd want to start with giving those 1000+ people, your neighbors, some respect. Working with the moderate RNA, many have compromised on big issues, accepting elements that many consider unpalatable, environmentally harmful, and a poor use of funds but recognizing we can't all be satisfied. As the beach house is very stand alone, it could have been lopped off the plan, left for another day, a better economy, or just to gain more support. There were so many alternatives proposed to the PD for placement of park camp and party room - even on the top of the Rosewood property. Instead, the PD holds a meeting last week, commissioners arriving with their decisions written and in hand, and they conduct a meeting that promoted further divisiveness in the community by presenting the sham of listening to public comment that was clearly and entirely irrelevant to the outcome.
Dan Jenks August 26, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Debra, I will rephrase Ed’s question, “how is the beach house going to affect your personal experience at Rosewood Beach”?
Dan Jenks August 26, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Is there anyone in the RNA who can say “I disagree with the Board’s decision but I can understand how a reasonable person might come to a different conclusion about the IC than I did?” Does every spending or policy decision have to be approved by a referendum? Are we going better results that way? Why do I think reasonable people might disagree on this issue? First, each Commissioner made concluding remarks prior to the vote on Thursday. While you might not like the conclusions drawn, these remarks were generally detailed, logical, thoughtful and well-reasoned. Second, given the acrimonious opposition by the RNA, why would the PDHP Board put themselves through this much grief unless they had principled reasons for approving the IC? Don’t most politicians seek the path of least resistance?
Richard H Heineman Jr August 26, 2012 at 07:07 PM
The demand at the Yacht Club is for programs not rentals. I learned this at one of the open meetings of the park district. If the people against the building had not been blinded by hatred of the Park Board and the proposed facility they might have been able to listen to the presentations.
Debra Rade August 27, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Rest assured that most who have been opposed to the beach house have done so primarily out of love for Rosewood Beach and this community, while others may view it simply as a financial issue. I personally very much appreciate and respect all the commissioners and their willingness to serve the community. However, appreciation and respect for the commissioners should not blind anyone to recognizing the major flaw with Rosewood Beach Project nor the flaws in the process that have left 1000+ residents disenfranchised. None of this is personal, even when voters may not wish to elect public officials who fail to represent their constituents. There is no reason to ascribe such negative emotions to people who simply do not agree with you. Let's keep our community on a higher level than that...
Ed Brill August 27, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Yes it's clear from your main article that you "personally very much appreciate and respect all the commissioners and their willingness to serve the community", as you said: "Remember these names because they will likely be presented again for another election to the HPPD or elsewhere in the City or County. Hold them accountable for their votes on the Rosewood Beach Project.... Hold your Park Board Commissioners accountable for how they treat you, your neighbors, your Park District and your funds. They are elected by us, and it is our job to ensure that the right people sit in the seats -- people who can be good stewards of our tax dollars." Once again, a contradiction. Either they are the people who you appreciate and respect or they are the right people, which is it?
Ed Brill August 27, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Apparently the answer to that question isn't in the Ravinia NIMBY Association talking points, Dan.
Debra Rade August 27, 2012 at 02:25 AM
@Ed Brill: I voted for these park commissioners and was responding very specifically to Mr. Heineman's statement, from which you extracted certain statements out of context. Yes, I do still appreciate our commissioners' desire to serve our community and respect them for trying to do a good job. After they disenfranchised 1000+ residents, I am deeply disappointed in them. It would be great if they could repair this situation (and I do hope they do so, as it is within their grasp). I will hold them accountable and will advocate that 1000+ who signed the RNA petition do the same, as well as thousands of others who may agree with the disenfranchised (but this can't be confirmed or denied without a referendum). This is a big issue for the City and many believe the commissioners have failed to represent them. Holding people accountable in business and politics is not personal but is essential. I give the commissioners credit for trying to do a good job but perceive them as faiilng in the Rosewood Beach Project. I give the RNA credit for trying to help the commissioners do a better job, even if, ultimately, they are not successful in the face of the bureacracy. There is no contradiction in trying to respect our neighbors, even the ones with whom we disagree. Respect. One of the pillars of HP's Character Counts, and does NOT require agreement.
Debra Rade August 27, 2012 at 02:50 AM
@Ed Brill. Though I am a member of the RNA (and do not live in Ravinia) I am not a RNA spokesperson. All my comments are my own. Frankly, your comment in response to Dan Jenks's perfectly fine question just isn't respectful. If you have been to the Park District public meetings, you would have learned at least way in which the beach house will negatively impact my personal experience at Rosewood, a beach I've enjoyed most of my life, at least since the Park District took away my preferred swimming beach at Park Avenue so many years ago. You'd have also heard Nick Patera, one of the Midwest's finest landscape architects, talk about how it will impair the experience for so many others, and he is not part of the RNA. He's got the education to advise all of us on this. And so many others answered this question as well. You seem tomcharacterize this as a RNA against the Park District issue. Not so. People across the City are opposed. And this particluar blog entry Is about the disenfranchisement of residents throughout Highland Park, and was never intended to be a whole argument about the Project. @Dan Jenks, thank you for your question. I'd like to provide an answer, perhaps in another blog entry, because The beach house will infringe on my appreciation of this beautiful beach in many ways. For now, I've my business to run and work to do, so I may not be able to follow up on this as soon as you'd like. Hope you'll understand...
Mel Cohen August 27, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I use Rosewood Beach and have for over 35 years. As a user of the Beach I support the project as designed (which included compromise). I further support the HPPD Board and am offended by the suggestion and implication (if not accusation) that they are not acting in the best interest of the communitiy that they represent which last time I checked included over 30,000 people. The use of the term "disenfrachised" is clearly wrong as its meaing relates to being denied the rights of citizenship or the right to vote, not the fact that an elected body cannot please 100% of the citizens all of the time. Finally, I find the comparison of square footage of the beach house or interpretitve center (call it what you want) to one's own personal residence to be really strange as they serve different purposes.
Javier August 29, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Right on, Mel. This isn't about disenfranchisement. It's about a group not liking a plan. The beach is a benefit to the entire city, not just Ravinia, so how the RNA claims to be the project's guiding voice is beyond me. This doesn't have to be a consensus. I'm sure not everyone will be pleased with a plan but one has to look at it as a whole and maybe help shape the plan to benefit the whole city and not just one's own personal enjoyment, and then move on.
Doug Purington August 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
We (the RNA) have ALWAYS seen the Rosewood Beach plan as a huge benefit to the entire city of Highland Park and have championed its implementation from the get go......WITHOUT the interpretive center/beach house (IC)! The IC is not at all necessary for Rosewood to be just what the majority of residents want.....a properly restored, well maintained beachfront for swimming and recreational purposes with the appropriate minimal amenities available to ensure pleasurable experiences for families whether they choose to stay just for an hour or for the day.
Steve Firestone August 29, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Do an environmental impact study!
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 01:57 AM
I find it hilarious when people claim this is a NIMBY issue. Would it interest you to know that I do not live in that neighborhood, that I'm opposed to the IC, and oh yeah, that I'm also a member of the RNA? The RNA actually proposed relocating the IC to "upper Rosewood" - in the park. So it'd still be in their neighborhood - just not at the beach...
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 02:03 AM
"Does every spending or policy decision have to be approved by a referendum?" - surely not, I don't think it'd be appropriate to have a referendum to decide what kind of plastic cups to buy for the recreation center. But where I believe referendums are proper are for multi-million dollar optional facilities such as the Rosewood Beach project/IC. Recall that the PD held a referendum on this issue back about 30 years ago - it failed miserably. In 2008 the PD had a referendum question asking to exceed the tax levy cap - 12,000 people told them no. In 2011 - we kicked out the Board for the costly pension fiasco, and ostensibly for their hubris in even proposing that 4,000 sq ft monstrosity at Rosewood. So now here we are in 2012 - the PD is flush with OUR MONEY in the reserve fund, and rather than spending it on future needs for renovating and maintaining facilities, they've got it burning a hole in their pocket and are spending some of it on a project that the Public has said multiple times that they don't want. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We give them TOO MUCH money. We need to give them just enough money to operate the District, and force them to come to us with every decision that requires adding a new facility. They've proven time and again that they can't be trusted. And it's time to replace them - again.
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Mel, I made the initial comparison of the square footage of the IC to houses in HP as context for the size of the facility. I intended for the average citizen to be able to understand just how big the facility was proposed to be. Saying "Ummm, it's 80x70x80" doesn't compute for some persons. Saying "hey, this is going to be bigger than many houses in Highland Park" gives them a reference point they're familiar with...
Dan Jenks August 30, 2012 at 03:27 AM
David, the comparison of a single family home's size to the IC's size is "strange" - it's kind of like saying that Centennial Park is 200 times the size of the average homeowner's lot. I guess the implication is that we should downsize Centennial Park because of its size..........
Dan Jenks August 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM
David, you and the RNA make for strange bedfellows - they are purportedly okay with spending money ($4+ million) on the boardwalk, beach restoration and even the IC (if it isnt' on Rosewood) - you aren't okay with any of it. Does this difference in viewpoints ever seem incongruous to you? And how can you be a member of an organization that supports this much wasteful spending?
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Dan, not everyone was OK with every part of the plan. Just about everyone (myself included) agrees that permanent restrooms are needed, and as the issues were discussed persons (including myself) agreed to compromise - too bad the Park District didn't compromise - even in the face of 1100 petitioners asking them to do so. I would like to see some sand, and restrooms at the Beach. I don't really think a concession stand is needed, but if it were of the proper design, it could be used to teach older kids some needed business skills - they don't need to run deep fryers or anything dangerous - just regular ole pre-packed "beach fare" - but perhaps they could run it in conjunction with the Youth Committee's HIRE! program (which I participated in once upon a time...). I'm opposed to an IC because it's not necessary, and we don't need another facility to maintain, operate, and subsidize. I'm no fan of spending tons of money on these projects either - $850K for a boardwalk, hundreds of thousands for concession stand, etc. I'd rather see a different plan which isn't in the cadillac style of building, and which costs less. I've never claimed to be a fan of the Army Corps proposal - there's too many issues that go along with that as well.


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