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Group Voices Rosewood Complaints to City Council

Ravinia Neighbors Association heads to Monday's City Council meeting to object to the interpretive center that's part of the proposed Rosewood Beach redesign.

After months of speaking out online and at Park District meetings, the Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) has taken its concerns to another source: the Highland Park City Council.

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At Monday's meeting, the community group asked the city council to "note our deep concerns" about the plans, according to an email sent out by Ravinia Neighbors Association last week. The focus of the objection is the proposed interpretive center, a roughly 1900 square-foot building the organization feels doesn't belong at Rosewood.

"We like the plan," RNA Publicity Director Doug Purington told Patch last week. "We've seen [architect] David Woodhouse's perspectives and we're fully in support of the entire concept, without the interpretive center."

An unprecedented move

The redesign proposal has been developed over the past year by a task force assembled by the Park Board. Working with a construction manager and David Woodhouse architects, the group has been meeting regularly to assemble a plan that they will bring to the Park District Board of Commissioners on June 21.

"We've worked so hard on this for a year and we don't appreciate this attempt to blatantly go around what we've been working on," Task Force Chairman Dave Fairman said at a Task Force meeting last Monday. 

Fairman expressed concern that RNA's statement Monday could encourage the City Council to eventually vote against the project, assuming it's approved by the Park Board at the end of this month.

"It would be unprecedented that our efforts would be ignored because for a special interest group things weren't going their way," Fairman said.

Purington told Patch that the Task Force has "a set agenda" regarding the interpretive center, and hopes that the public objection will rattle their resolve.

"The residents of Highland Park are being given lip service by the Task Force," Purington said. "We don't feel the Park District is being very fair."

An open process

Before Monday's meeting,  told Patch he was glad that RNA members would be speaking. Though the City Council is not actively participating in this project yet, it will eventually. 

"It does make sense for all of us on the council to pay attention to this discussion," Frank said.

The councilman also commended the Park District for its transparency throughout the design process. The Park District held

"The Park Board has done a great job seeking public input and discussing the project and being very open with their process," Frank said.

After some residents spoke against the interpretive center at the community meetings, the Task Force met on Rosewood Beach to see where the controversial building would be placed and whether or not it would feel obtrusive. , though at its last meeting the group approved a version of the building that would be slightly smaller than the 1,960 square-foot structure first proposed.

"We have listened," Task Force member Barney Ruttenberg said. "We've made accommodations."

But reducing the size of the building has not appeased those who don't want it there to begin with. According to Purington, the RNA wants the Park District to put the interpretive center somewhere else.

How they'll vote

City Councilman Steve Mandel . However, he doesn't feel his opinion on the Park District's plan should affect whether or not the plan goes forward.

"I personally might not agree to do things the way the Park District did but that's not what I'm elected to do," Mandel said, pointing out that the two governing bodies are separate entities.

The councilman currently serving his fourth term while also believes the City Council should sign off on the Park District's plan assuming it meets all land use ordinances the city has in place.

"Whatever we have on our land use ordinance is what we have to look at," Mandel said. "It would have to not meet a standard in our city ordinance … to not vote for it."

Frank, on the other hand, is less sure about how he and other councilmen will vote should the proposal eventually land in the council's agenda.

"No one can say what the ultimate outcome is going to be," Frank said.

Check back later this week for more about the Rosewood project, as well as an in-depth look at a Task Force meeting.

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Sonny Cohen June 12, 2012 at 04:27 AM
In response to this comment, "It would be unprecedented that our efforts would be ignored because for a special interest group things weren't going their way," Fairman said." It is important to note that there is widespread opposition to the building of an interpretive center on the beach. This is not, in any way, a special interest initiative. In fact, almost 1000 residents signed a petition in opposition to this facility. Petitioners, including myself, range outside the Ravinia District. I appreciate the efforts of the Ravinia Neighborhood Association for assuming this leadership in opposition to this poorly conceived facility that leaves a dark mark on what otherwise is an acceptable project.
David Greenberg June 12, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I agree, 1000 petitioners does not make a special interest group. I don't live in Ravinia, and I'm opposed to the interpretative center. The Task Force has worked hard - thanks. 1000 people believe that you're doing something wrong by dropping a house-sized structure on the beach and are willing to make themselves heard.
Paul Wehner June 12, 2012 at 01:23 PM
There are also many people who support the Park District plan for Rosewood. Just because a commission or elected official does not agree with some person or group does not mean that they are "not listening" or "giving lip service". The Park District has gone out of their way to host community discussions and has made major concessions from the original design. Hopefully, the Park District continues to govern for all of us and is not overly influenced by what, in my opinion, is a vocal minority.
Amy Lohmolder June 12, 2012 at 02:00 PM
75% of residents voicing opposition to the Interpretative Center at recent public meetings were “responsively listened to”. Unfortunately, their comments only went to the Park District’s marketing and PR departments. At that point, the 1960 sq. ft. building (not 1000 as advertised by the PD for the main room within the larger structure) was simply renamed. And then the park district continued to solicit residents on how they would like a “beach house” on Rosewood Beach. The Interpretative Center is still the Interpretative Center, comprising 68% of proposed building space yet dedicated to functions that have nothing to do with swimming. The public has been asking for years for basic swim facilities on our only swim beach and the Park District for years has been trying to force a costly over-development on an unwilling public. It is time the Park District started to sincerely listen.
Ed Brill June 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
The petition has already been invalidated in several ways over the last few weeks. If a new petition issued today gathered 1000 signatures, I would personally be very surprised. The Park District has taken years of community input here and come up with the best possible plan for this beach. They said at the walkthrough that they would further adjust the scale of the interpretive center. When do we stop debating and start doing?
Michelle Holleman June 12, 2012 at 09:35 PM
The Task Force who made this recommendation was representative of our community and included residents from across our city. ANYONE could have applied. Indeed the RNA who claims to lack a voice in this process was well represented with a member on the Task Force and a strong voice in the process. The Task Force after extensive research and nearly nine months of work voted 6-1 in favor of the current plan. They then made that recommendation to the Park District Board -- who after listening to the community, voted to uphold the decision. The City of Highland Park and Park District of HP are different taxing bodies and neither has jurisdiction over the other. The city can make sure that building codes, etc., are upheld, but they do not or should not be determining or revoking the decisions of the Park District. The Park District is run by an independent, elected, board of trustees. If you don't like the decisions they make on behalf of our ENTIRE community, then I suggest you become active in the next round of elections. It's a democracy. Stop trying to prevent something a majority of our community wants and direct your efforts toward supporting or fielding candidates who share your views in the next round of elections.
Doug Purington June 12, 2012 at 11:10 PM
When you say "majority of our community" wants the IC, then you have mispoke! Where are your statistics to back that statement up? 75% of those who spoke up at the two Park District meetings were fervently AGAINST the IC! Where was your "majority" then? The Task Force is laden with those loyal to the Park District and has no intentions other than seeing this IC built against the many, many objections voiced thus far and that will continue to be voiced until the IC is stopped cold! There are many venues that will be involved in the decision-making process including the Natural Resources Commission, Design Review Commission, perhaps even the Traffic Commission. And the City Council can/will have a say regarding improper land use, which the concept of the IC on the beach surely is. The Park District is marching to their own drumbeat, NOT on behalf of the "entire" community! Stop saying that "a majority of the community wants", something that couldn't be farther from the truth!
Doug Purington June 12, 2012 at 11:26 PM
BTW, stopping the IC will not stop the Park District from moving forward with a lovely, natural swimming and recreational beach with nominal amenities which EVERYONE in Highland Park wants. The IC is not needed in any shape or fashion in order for Rosewood Beach to be the ideal destination for respite and relaxation! Why a FEW people are so insistent that it be part of the final plan is beyond me. Let's move on, let Rosewood be developed in accordance with the majority opinion to exclude the IC and then let the IC die a natural death!
Ed Brill June 13, 2012 at 12:29 AM
If I was a member of the Ravinia Neighbors Association, I'd be checking our by-laws to see how quickly we could force an election for new leadership. The tactics and misrepresentations by the RNA in this campaign are alienating other Highland Parkers. It sure makes me want to stay away from the Ravinia neighborhood, business district, etc. because despite having the only real public beach in Highland Park, they don't want to have it used year-round. 75% of speakers at two meetings doesn't represent a majority. It represents a majority of a few dozen people who bothered to speak. As I learned with the Fort Sheridan golf course, it's always easier to get people to speak against something than for it. There are plenty of people who have voiced support for the Interpretive Center. There is no hard data, from either side. Let the elected officials do their jobs.
Doug Purington June 13, 2012 at 12:47 AM
The misrepresentations are by the Park District and the Task Force! Where are these "people who have voiced support"? Why didn't they bother to attend the two PD meetings and speak up for the IC? Again, we don't need the IC to have a GREAT beach experience with respite and relaxation!
David Greenberg June 13, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I think this issue has been bandied about for decades. If memory serves, a referendum was sought by the PD on this issue, and it failed miserably. Yet, the PD continues to ask. The people have spoken several times on this issue, and the PD needs to put it to bed and move on without a Beach House or Interpretative Center or whatever you want to call it. Kinda similar to the "road through the middle of Sunset Park" issue that raises it's ugly head every so often. Never. Gonna. Happen.
David Greenberg June 13, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Actually, the Park District, or School District doesn't get to do whatever they want, City ordinances be damned. There is case law to back this up - from right here in Illinois, in a nearby North Shore community. We don't need an IC/Beach house, and during the meetings that were so widely touted by the PD, the large majority of the speakers came out AGAINST the IC/Beach House.
Ed Brill June 13, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I didn't need to speak, Doug. I sent my comments in writing. They have no less value because they were in writing than if I had been at the microphone. You are creating a strawman that does not stand up to common sense.
Doug Purington June 13, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Ok, I concede your 1 vote as if it'll make any difference. As for the silent minority....?
Paul Wehner June 13, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I was at the first meeting and there were plenty fo people who spoke out in support of the IC. Peggy L., Deb G. and Michelle H. in addition to a high school teacher and a number of others. I am not sure where the 75% number came from but I thought the speakers were roughly 50/50. I trust that the vounteer leaders of the HP Park District and Task Force will do their due diligence, fairly weigh all input and make a decision that they feel is best for the community as a whole.
David Greenberg June 13, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I found it interesting that a geologist got up at the first meeting and commented that he interprets the environment by experiencing it and believes that you're better off experiencing things first hand - outside - than you are learning about them in a building. There's no reason why kids can't learn about the beach, while they're on the beach, in the sand. They don't have to be sitting in an enclosed building.
Doug Purington June 13, 2012 at 07:00 PM
We also "trust that the vounteer leaders of the HP Park District and Task Force will do their due diligence, fairly weigh all input and make a decision that they feel is best for the community as a whole." Thanks, Paul, for stating so precisely exactly what we want!

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