After over a year of intense planning, and sometimes heated public debate, the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to approve the Rosewood Beach redesign proposal.
The unanimous vote means that the entire project will go forward, that has . The plan also involves a guard house, restrooms, concessions and a boardwalk. Construction is planned to take place in the spring of 2013 and the total estimated cost for the project is $4,661,372.
"As a business owner and a realtor… I can testify that a restored Rosewood will be a benefit to the entire community," Park Board Commissioner Elaine Waxman said before casting her vote in favor of the proposal.
The vote followed a two-hour-long public comment portion of the meeting, where many residents spoke passionately both in favor and against the plan. Most residents that argued against the plan said they favored all components of the plan except for the interpretive center.
"You have failed to provide any valid reasons for why the vote tonight should be an up or down vote," Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) Publicity Director Doug Purington said during public comment, urging the board to separate the interpretive center from the proposal.
Other residents that spoke on Thursday voiced their excitement about the plan's passage and its eventual construction.
"People have no idea how wonderful this is going to be," said .
Many familiar faces spoke before Thursday's vote, including Purington, RNA President Don Miller, and .
"A large majority of Highland Park residents are urging you to separate the controversial interpretive center from the plan and approve the rest," Tarm said.
At one of the evening's more heated moments, and a testament to how passionately residents care about this project, Tarm went over the three minutes allotted for public comment, and Park Board President Scott Meyers stopper her. Many in the audience booed, and Meyers threatened to end the public comment portion of the meeting.
"If you cannot behave yourself we will bring public hearing to a close," he said.
Meyers recommends work on Ravine Beach
During the public comment and throughout the yearlong discussion surrounding the project, many residents said they opposed the plan because the buildings and boardwalk would take away from the natural beauty of Rosewood Beach.
In a direct response to these concerns, Meyers recommended Thursday that the park district demolish the water treatment plant at Ravine Beach. Doing so, he said, would make that beach the natural, scenic destination some residents are looking for at Rosewood.
"My recommendation is that, in addition to proceeding with the proposal, we also demolish this waste treatment facility and establish a natural beach environment at Ravine Beach and Millar Park," Meyers said. "What a great opportunity... not even for a compromise, but to give the community everything that they wanted."
For Purington, however, the Ravine Beach suggestion was not what he wanted to hear.
"There's no compromise," he said. "It's not over yet."
Purington plans to continue his opposition to the proposal as it makes its way through the Park Board to the city's commissions and eventually the City Council.
"They've won the battle," he said. "We're hoping very much that they lose the war."
, who watched the vote take place along with Councilman , said he was looking forward to reviewing the project when it reached the City Council.
"I'm looking forward to reviewing the entire project from top to bottom," he said.
'Made for memories'
After the vote, Park Board Vice President Brian Kaplan said that while the opposition made some compelling points, he ultimately felt voting in favor of the project was the right decision for future generations of Highland Parkers.
"To the future kids of Highland Park, this will be a good project," he said.
Commissioner Waxman agreed. She said she was excited to have "a live beach again, where memories will be made."
"That beach is made for memories," Waxman said. "Hopefully, we'll get there."