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Park Board Will Go Forward With Rosewood Proposal

After over a year of meetings, planning, beach tours and conversations with residents, the Park Board of Highland Park voted unanimously in favor of the entire Rosewood Beach redesign, including the controversial interpretive center.

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."

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Doug Purington August 24, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The vote is complete but the process is not. The PDHP won the battle but not the war! They have too many hurdles yet to cross for the plan to come to fruition. Too bad...the residents of HP will suffer when the entire plan is tossed out, rather than the great swimming and recreational portion to the south of the entry way having been approved and separated from the contentious edifice called the IC or beach house. The solely up or down vote cast has cost the residents what they really wanted...just a few necessary amenities to highten their lakefront experience!
Walter White August 24, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Oh brother. We have another 1,000 posts about the IC to look forward to. Give it up already.
Dan Jenks August 24, 2012 at 09:05 PM
To be absolutely honest, I don’t really understand the level of opposition to the IC. I supported the plan that passed last night, but if the PDHP Board had said “it’s unworkable” based on our due diligence or “we think it is unwise”, I could have lived without the IC. The IC will be out of sight – it is on the edge of the property and, protestations to the contrary, it isn’t a large building. The cost, in the context of the whole beach improvement and the PDHP’s budget and reserves, isn’t that great either. If you are swimming on the beach or walking your dog on the boardwalk, I just don’t get how the existence of the IC will change that experience. Yes, Rosewood may not be as deserted as it is most of the year, but I don’t think the walk down from the bluff or the water views are going to differ.
DLM054 August 24, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Amen, Walter. Initially I had reservations about this project even though I felt strongly that our beach was in truly shameful condition for a very long time, especially for a community like Highland Park. But as I spent time studying the proposal and 'walking myself through the plan' imagining it's use in my life now and what it might have been like had it been available when I was a young mom, I changed my mind. The process was inclusive and I look forward to seeing and using the improved Rosewood Beach.
Amy Lohmolder August 24, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Reading this article on the Park District vote last night, I get a different impression of the meeting than I did as I sat there and experienced it for myself. Once again, equal time was given by the media to both sides, regardless of how many actually supported each side of the discussion. Anyone reading this piece would believe that the IC was better supported by the public than it actually is. A count of the number of oppositional statements that significantly outweighed supportive statements factually proves this. 900 petition signatures against the IC -representing the voices of 900 residents were tossed out by the Park District on the pretext that these expressed hopes for "just bathrooms" or "basic amenities" were no longer valid because the opinions were expressed before the official unveiling of the plan. (200 older petitions, signed by many who were at the meeting, and still obviously opposed, more specifically addressed the 2010 version of the plan) This is outrageous. But we didn't hear anything about this in this piece, even though it was again brought up at the meeting. Instead the "excitement" of those (far fewer) who want this was highlighted. The media has helped the Park District get away with sweeping public opposition under the rug and buffering the board from the need for accountability. Needless to say, I am disappointed in the portrayal of these proceedings.
Amy Lohmolder August 24, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I am of course more than anything disappointed in our park district leadership -- Yet we have become so accustomed to their selective listening (only to those who say what they want to hear) that it is hardly worth noting. Nobody was surprised at the pre-written statements that served to justify the vote that they knew would go against what a vast majority stated that they wanted at this last meeting. Nobody was surprised that all 5 board members voted yes. But I did not expect them to get away with it without the media at least reporting it.
forest barbieri August 24, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I think the opposition had total and complete ability to state their case throughout the process. As I stated earlier, I too oppossed the IC. However, let's get through this and move on with the approved plan that will enhance our communities beach. This was voted on and passed unanimously by our elected officials. The plan was brought forward by a cross section of our community. You do not have to agree with the whole plan nor do you need to like all aspects of it but wow, lets go to the taste, enjoy the art fair, be careful driving as our kids are back in school and move on. Even if the 1,000 opposition number is viable, that leaves what....10,000 other residents? We have an elected governmental system in place and guess what, we lost, just as I did in the Park Board election and the guy that beat me is doing a bang up job!
Ed Brill August 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Very well said, Forest. I don't get the whole "we had more people speak against than for at the hearing therefore they went against the will of the people." RNA members conducted FOIA requests and know that the PDHP received plenty of positive input as well, on a topic where no one would ever expect a community to significantly organize in favor - that's what we elected the park board to do for us was to make favorable decisions.
KarenLovesHP August 25, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Ms. Lohmolder & RNA, Your petition has been dissected and the majority is counterfeit. Ms. Lohmolder, I was in attendance last night and the RNA was outright disrespectful and barbaric. I also witnessed your rude behavior - theatrical gasps and being disruptive to others around you by commenting and speaking while others, including the Board, spoke. I would have asked you to please be quiet but the gentleman next to you beat me to it. And for Mr. Purington to refer to this as a "battle" and "war" just shows the destructive mentality of your RNA group. Thank you Board for your due diligence. I look forward to taking my grandchildren to an upgraded Rosewood Beach very soon!
Amy Lohmolder August 25, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Ed, Our FOIA request yielded 126 emails responses to the park district from their solicitation for comments after the May 2 and May 6 meetings. In tallying those “in favor of the Interpretive Center” (IC), I included not only the responses that mentioned the IC specifically, but also any that spoke of a desire for any function in possible relation to the IC (parties, camps, education, exercise class, multi-purpose room ) as well as those who spoke favorably of the Lake Forest or Glencoe beaches. The grand total of those “in favor of the IC” was 26. The tally of “IC neutral " responses included those that expressed a general enthusiasm that improvements would finally get underway or general statements of appreciation that did not include any mention of the IC. I also included 2 where the writers were not in favor of the IC but would accept it if that was what was necessary to get improvements. "IC-neutral" comments came to 31. Numbers tallied "against the IC” included those that said they did not want the IC as well as those who expressed liking the beach just the way it was or those who expressed not wanting any tax money spent on a new park district development. I would finish the report but Patch does not allow longer posts or two posts in a row. Sorry.
Ed Brill August 25, 2012 at 06:06 AM
But since then, the FOR organization also had a letter-writing campaign; I know it prompted me to officially contact PDHP elected officials instead of assuming my opinion columns were conveying my position. In a comment you either deleted or was otherwise removed, you claimed that there were 60 additional communications after the FOIA request and at least 55 of them were against the interpretive center. Such overwhelming dissent seems highly unlikely, given the FOR effort to likewise provide input.
Amy Lohmolder August 25, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I do not believe "barbaric" or even "disrespectful" is at all a fair or accurate characterization of any of the behavior of those in opposition, which, by the way were not by any means all RNA I invite others to see for themselves by viewing the film as soon as the park district posts this on their website. (Some people did boo when the PD would not let Eve Tarm, who was a task force member, finish her statement.) Slandering RNA or spreading false information has seemed a tactic used too often by some who want to discredit the group. Those who portray RNA as a NIMBY group do not seem to realize that the original alternative site RNA proposed for the IC was up above the bluff in the Rosewood Beach Park where it would be less problematic. Park district leadership indicated that this was not possible. At that point other possibilities were also suggested by the RNA which became perfect fodder for those wanting to obfuscate the real reasons that RNA has objected to the IC.
Amy Lohmolder August 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Ed, To finish my tally posted above of the 126 emails received by the park district – and further respond to the FOR letter writing campaign that you just mentioned -- The number of "against IC" comments originally came in at 50. The other comments were tallied as 10 for questions unrelated to the IC (including basic request for more financials), and 9 for unique single issue requests (biting flies, fishing pier, etc). Some people wrote multiple times, yet I only counted each person once. Brian Kaplan reported that total emails have since climbed to 180-something (I would check the video from last night's meeting for the exact number but the PD has not yet posted on their website) We know that of this 60+ increase in emails since our FOIA request, at least 55 emails were "against the IC" since these people took the time to copy the RNA. At least 105 emails have been sent against the IC, or a larger development. The number of those for the IC pales in comparison. I am happy to show you all of these.
Amy Lohmolder August 25, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Ed, To finish my tally posted above of the 126 emails received by the park district – and further respond to the FOR letter writing campaign that you just mentioned -- The number of "against IC" comments originally came in at 50. The other comments were tallied as 10 for questions unrelated to the IC (including basic request for more financials), and 9 for unique single issue requests (biting flies, fishing pier, etc). Some people wrote multiple times, yet I only counted each person once. Brian Kaplan reported that total emails have since climbed to 180-something (I would check the video from last night's meeting for the exact number but the PD has not yet posted on their website) We know that of this 60+ increase in emails since our FOIA request, at least 55 emails were "against the IC" since these people took the time to copy the RNA. At least 105 emails have been sent against the IC, or a larger development. The number of those for the IC pales in comparison. I am happy to show you all of these.
Walter White August 25, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Wow, of 33,000 people who live in HP you got 126 emails. That's one heck of a sample size.
Doug Purington August 26, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Walter, give it up! If you had read all the postings on this and other threads re: Rosewood, you'd realize that we've communicated with the residents of HP in numerous ways, this latest sampling resulting from fliers handed out on July 4th. We've reached far more people than the PDHP has through our various means, the totals for which is approaching 1,300. By the time we're through, which may be some many months away, we expect to far exceed that number. The PDHP's efforts to reach the residents and "appear" to be transparent were minimal at best and indicated that they had already made their decision many months ago. Nothing was going to stop them; however, it's not a slam-dunk by any means! Stay tuned!
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Doug, the PDHP emailed and mailed every resident on their list more than once. I know I personally received at least two bulk emails from PDHP on the topic of the Rosewood prior to the two public hearings (seems more than appearing transparent to have public hearings) and the vote. They also maintain a very complete web page on the topic http://www.pdhp.org/index.aspx?page=516 which seems to answer almost of the concerns raised by the RNA, and that web page is linked right on the home page of pdhp.org. I somehow think all of efforts were much more comprehensive than you spending 30 seconds talking to someone at the 4th of July Parade and counting that as a "reach". (I watched you all at the parade).
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Amy, I understand in speaking with the Park District that they mailed the RNA a final tally of those for and against as of August 22. I'm going to report on that in my column this week, but since it was sent to the RNA, will you be updating this web page with those final numbers (not reflected in your comment above, either)? http://www.ravinianeighbors.org/announcements/email-responses-to-the-pdhp-regarding-proposed-rosewood-beach-development
Amy Lohmolder August 26, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Ed, In making your request of me to release Ms. McElroy’s numbers, it would not seem that you understand the situation or perhaps you are not clear on what was sent to us by Ms. McElroy. We were sent park district conclusions, without accompanying backup information. It would not make any sense for the RNA to publish park district results when we have found their conclusions to be completely skewed in the past. (Possibly, you could find Ms. McElroy’s conclusions on the park district’s website.) As far as updating our own report, this would require a second FOIA to obtain all the additional emails the park district has obtained since mid June such that our own conclusions would be complete and accurate.
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 06:54 AM
OK so let me sure I'm clear. The RNA has the position that the PDHP is lying ("completely skewed") to them. And you base this on your analysis of the FOIA request versus what you were told at the time. How divergent was the PDHP analysis of what you were provided versus actual? It appears you analyzed the 126 responses each of which you were provided individually, and at that time, the Park District had received a majority of responses (45%) which were in favor of the project or specifically the interpretive center, versus 40% which were explicitly against the IC. Now there are many more responses, and the written PDHP summary is unacceptable because it was sent without the evidence and their previous conclusion was 'completely skewed', do I have that right?
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 11:22 AM
I love this dichotomy this morning: " It would not make any sense for the RNA to publish park district results when we have found their conclusions to be completely skewed in the past. " versus "In a August 22, 2012 letter, the Executive Director of theHPPD, Liza McElroy, tells Amy Lohmolder ... that '…your email is inaccurate in describing the purported ''significant'' public opposition to the Rosewood Beach Project'" in Deborah Rade's posting. http://highlandpark.patch.com/blog_posts/real-not-purported-significant-opposition-to-the-beach-house?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001 Either the letter is relevant or it isn't.
Amy Lohmolder August 26, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Ed, To answer your question above, no, you did not get it right. I would suggest that you go back and more carefully read what I have posted.
Debra Rade August 26, 2012 at 05:07 PM
A referendum is the principle of submitting to a popular vote a measure passed on or proposed by a legislative body or popular initiative.  It is a revered option in democracies, and is part of the checks and balances to avert elected officials from over exercising their authority and to ensure they listen to their constituents.  You can hardly compare the authority given to the Park Board for placing or replacing certain playground equipment in Sunset Park to a $5 million dollar project.  Rosewood owned by the residents, it has a delicate and complicated environment, and it is our tax dollars.  When a Board summarily discards 1000+ resident voices as obsolete, and rejects viable compromises, it is time for a referendum. If the RNA pursues this patriotic option, I will support it because right now none of us know what Highland Parkers really want.  We only know that the RNA has many more people who signed a petition against this decision.  Let's not deal with false consensus. Let's get a real answer from all the people who matter. I may or may not be happy with the answer, but will respect the process.
Ed Brill August 26, 2012 at 05:21 PM
OK - let me see, the RNA with a bank account of less than $10,000 and numerous disenfranchised members is going to lead a petition drive for a ballot referendum? For which you need 8% of the voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election? And for which you've already missed the deadline for the November ballot? And for which it is likely you could only place an advisory, not a binding, referendum? Yep, sounds patriotic to me.
Walter White August 26, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Maybe Doug can recreate FDR's declaration of war speech to rally the HP residents. August 23, 2012, a date which will live in INFAMY!.....
Walter White August 26, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Spot on as usual, Ed.
Debra Rade August 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thank you, Ed, for sharing your astute perspective on the politics of how easy it can be to disregard 1000+ voting residents and ramrod a beach house down their throats. I agree with you that challenges of a referendum and determining what residents really want are extraordinary. The HP Commissioners no doubt understood this very well and, for all we know, the timing of the three public meetings was set in recognition of deadlines for filing. Who knows? All we know is that the timing isn't good for a referendum and that the Commissioners disenfranchised a large number of residents. In any event, I assume you're right that the RNA has only limited funds. But, the Park District has millions and millions! Once the commissioners saw that this was a controversial project, with significant opposition, what stopped them from asking the question of their constituents in the form of a referendum? What stops them from holding a referendum now? With an election coming up soon, it would be very convenient to determine sufficient community support or to avert building the beach house, or the entire project for that matter, lacking confirmation. Then, whatever divisiveness caused by the process to date can be resolved in a way that will make everyone feel better - in a democratic fashion.
Marcia August 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I have lived in Ravinia for over thirty years. I have had three children grow up using the Rosewood Beach! I am sooooo happy that they finally have realized what a valuable asset a lakefront beach is to a community. We need this! I walk to the beach almost everyday and cannot wait for next summer, or the year after if it takes that long, to see this beautiful renovation take place! Finally!
Marcia August 27, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Do all of these people who are so opposed to this use the beach? I go there often and just wondered about this? I think the whole proposal sounds like a great plan.
Tom C August 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
memories, I remember when Park Ave Beach was for swimming and had guard house and showers, before it was turned over for long term storage for those who own boats, what a shame there no longer a swimming beach in the central part of Highland Park. The park district has turn a wonderful beach over to the special interest who would like store their boats on public property instead of at their own homes.

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