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Readers React to Park Board's Approval of Rosewood

Here's what readers are saying about the Park Board of Highland Park's unanimous vote 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 last 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.

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In the few days the article about the vote has been posted, readers have already left over 40 comments about the plan's approval.

"Finally," Patch reader Laurie Weiss wrote. "Hooray for a decision!"

Some who did not favor the plan before it was voted on are ready to move ahead now that it has been approved.

"While I was not in favor of the interpretive center, I respect the process and vote," writes . "Let's start building."

Others, however, are not ready to stop fighting against it. 

"The vote is complete but the process is not," writes Ravinia Neighbors Association Publicity Director . "The has cost the residents what they really wanted...just a few necessary amenities to highten their lakefront experience!"

Another member of RNA expressed her disappointment in the Park Board's decision, and what she saw as a failure on their part to listen to the community.

"I am of course more than anything disappointed in our park district leadership," writes . "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 five board members voted yes."

In her , Debra Rade said she felt the Park Board has disenfranchised residents with ther decision to maintain the interpretive center as part of the approved plan.

"I give the commissioners credit for trying to do a good job but perceive them as faiilng in the Rosewood Beach Project,"  writes. "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."

In a response to Rade's blog post, Mel Cohen wondered if the suggestion that the board was not looking out for the community's best interests was a fair statement.

"I use  and have for over 35 years. As a user of the Beach I support the project as designed (which included compromise)," writes . "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."

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Steven N August 28, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I am disappointed by this decision and feel that the interpretative center is not only a waste of money but a manifestation of a lack of listening skills. Bad decision supported by all of the members. Sad
David Greenberg August 28, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I agree. Once again, the Park District Board didn't listen to the Public. They claim to have done so, but they continue to miss the point that they've missed all along for the past 30 years w/r/t the Interpretative Center - THE PUBLIC DOESN'T WANT IT. We have enough facilities to take care of. We don't need more. And especially right at the water's edge on the beach. 30 years ago, the original Referendum on this type of issue failed miserably. In 2008, the PD asked to exceed the tax levy cap - and I believe that about 12,000 people said "no!" In 2011, we changed the Board because of their pension and other antics (including an over-the-top design for Rosewood). Now in 2012, the Board has basically said "Let them eat cake!" and gone ahead and done what they wanted to. I suggest we remember this when election time comes around - VOTE. EVERY. ONE. OF. THEM. OUT..... again.
Walter White August 28, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Maybe they will listen if you post the same thing another 500 times.
johnclark2 August 28, 2012 at 08:05 PM
it better not cost much
Lynette Paulson August 28, 2012 at 08:34 PM
How do they expect us to pay for this. It hurts me to pay for my gas bill. I have started riding my bike to save some dimes. I just hate spending money. Back to the point i cant justify spending money. Iv been saving pennies for the last 15 years of my adult life now in case of emergencies and having to spend them on this would make my honorable grandpa Yoel Abraham Glickstein roll in his grave. He taught me everything i know.
Chilawyer August 28, 2012 at 11:16 PM
The Highland Park Park District, government of the Board, by the Board, and for the Board shall not perish from our City. But, as always, the public be damned. Just pick their pocket for what they don't need or want.
Chilawyer August 28, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Don't worry, John, only $4.6 million, or $155.40 per person for each of Highland Park's 30,000 residents, for a single taxpaying household of four, an average of just $622. How do these Park District Board members look in the mirror?
Ed Brill August 28, 2012 at 11:36 PM
The Park District lowered its tax base this year, the only local agency to do so. The project funding is coming from a variety of sources, including the Army. The rest is out of reserves, even despite the lower tax income for the agency.
Chilawyer August 28, 2012 at 11:56 PM
If the Army (presumably Army Corps of Engineers) is helping to fund this, that just means it's coming out of more taxpayers' pockets. Are any private entities contributing funding, and if so, how much?
David Greenberg August 29, 2012 at 12:43 AM
The project funding is coming from 5 sources: Local Taxpayers, 3 State of Illinois Grants, 1 Army Corps of Engineers Grant. The local taxpayers get the lions share. The State of Illinois grants are supposed to come from three different agencies (OSLAD, DCEO, DNR) - and all have various restrictions and caveats that come with them (yes, I've read ALL the grant contracts - if anyone's interested, I'll be glad to email them to you). One of the agencies is all but bankrupt itself - and can't really cover it's bills for maintaining the State parks it's charged with, and they only pay 90 days after we put up the money and do the work, so that's iffy. The worst of the bunch though is the Army Corps - for the initial costs, they cover 60% of the amount, we get 40%. But in exchange for that, we're saddled with maintaining whatever they put in for the next 50 years, and the lifespan of this stuff isn't 50 years! So we're going to have to tear it out in about 20 years, and rebuild it - at our expense. That's a lousy deal. Add in that the Army Corps has done similar projects up in Michigan that adversely affected the littoral flow and lawsuits ensued. The Corps was held 30% responsible - guess who got to cover the other other 70%...
David Greenberg August 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM
What's a 'decent living'? Perhaps the persons making more than minimum wage are satisfied with that (or perhaps not, but they don't have any other skills to warrant a higher salary so this is the best they can do). Some persons can live on less money than others, but that's not for you or I to worry about - it's a deal between the employer and employee. If the employer makes an offer at a certain amount and there's no takers, they need to figure out another option - which may be an increased salary. So long as that amount is over minimum wage, it's legal - so I don't see any problems with that. Of course there's much more to the employer-employee relationship to consider - things such as turn-over, the candidate pool to choose from, etc. and when one looks at the costs involved, the way to offset turnover problems/costs and increase the candidate pool is to offer a higher salary. It's all a balancing act - as is everything in business. Perhaps if the employees who worked for the Park District didn't demand pensions and other benefits, they'd be more competitive and still have jobs. If they choose not to be more competitive, then they do so at their own peril, and there's nothing saying that the taxpayers have to pay them more.
David Greenberg August 29, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Give me a sec to write a bot Walter. What if I let it loop for 1000 times? Is it guaranteed then?
Debra Rade August 29, 2012 at 04:24 AM
A brief correction concerning reference to my statements. The act of disenfranchisement took place when the Park District's Executive Director issued a letter stating there was only "purported" significant opposition to the interpretive center/beach house and unilaterally proclaimed a petition signed by more than 1000 residents to be obsolete. There was and is real significant opposition by these 1000+ voting residents. And, likely thousands more, if the Park District would hold a referendum. By calling the opposition purported, and the petition obsolete, the Park District Commissioners absolutely disregarded and denied the existence of these voting residents. When was the last time 1000+ signed petitions were gathered in HP? If the Park District Commissioners had said that "even in the face of such substantial opposition, we're moving ahead with the beach house," I would have said the Park District ignored, disregarded or disrespected the residents. However, they disenfranchised their constituents when they ignored the fact of the petition. FInally, thank you, Jacob, for pointing out that the beach house has been the sole source of contention for many in Highland Park. The Park District would have had tremendous support for moving forward with every other element of the Project to improve Rosewood. They could have simply lopped off the beach house (permanently or for later review) but simply refused to compromise or even recognize very real and substantial opposition.
DFB August 29, 2012 at 05:01 PM
It is unfortunate that this controversial matter apparently cannot (or will not) be put up as a referendum this November. It appears the Park Board is ignoring a large amount of comment and simply plowing ahead with spending tax payer funds for unwanted projects (the Interpretive Center). As the silent majority came to life as much as it did for this matter, I would be immensely surprised if the referendum would find a majority of our citizens in favor of that needless eye sore on the beach. If it passed a majority test, I would willingly accept it as a feature wanted by more than the Park Board and a few others. If it is not put to a general vote, at least I will have good and rational reasons for the way I choose to vote when the Park Board comes up for re election.
Steve Firestone August 29, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Anyone know why they feel they have to do this? If it's been around for 30 years, someone really wants it. Why? I go to that beach all the time. I love it. I'm afraid about what they are going to do. They don't maintain the stairs from Central Park, or the washroom facilities that were at the beach, because they claim a lack of resources, then they can spend over $4 million? Seems like something isn't right. Can we get the environmentalists involved? One of those organizations might put a crimp in their style. Leave the beach alone!
Can't We All Just Get Along August 29, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I was curious about how much we pay in a given year for the park district. According to the 2011 tax bill the levy is 0.393%. That translates to $655 for a home valued at $500,000 which I believe is less than neighboring communities including one without Lake Michigan. The Park Board, as mentioned in other posts, reduced its levy so this project did not increase anyone’s tax bill. Of course some will argue that the bill could be even lower if we cut this project or other park facilities. In my opinion that is a bit short sighted as long term home values are tied to the amenities a community has to offer. I doubt anyone would argue with this (well maybe not, it seems nothing is unanimous). It seems to me that very few people disagree with every aspect of the project but take exception to certain pieces. I don't find that unusual however you don't usually get everything you want. The project appears to accomplish a major improvement to one of Highland Park's most valuable amenities and most people like certain aspects of it. This bickering just seems a little silly to me but hey what do I know?
David Greenberg August 29, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The Park District always says "The community survey asked for improvements to the lakefront." - uh huh, well shame on us for not being MORE specific. We wanted bathrooms, and some sand. That's what we wanted. We didn't want to spend $4M+ on all this other unnecessary stuff. We have more than enough facilities, parks, and programs (2800+) in our Park District already - if that's not enough to act as an attractant, then I don't know what will. We don't need to spend $850K on a "board walk" to "tie everything together into a holistic group". We have a very nice, functional asphalt trail that's in great shape. We don't need a boardwalk to maintain, and repair. Someone's had a bee in their bonnet for a Beach house/IC for 30 years+ - we didn't need it when we voted it down the first time. We didn't need it when we voted down the increase in the levy the District asked for in '08. We didn't need it when we threw out the last park board over the Pension fiasco, and we still don't need it now. What we do need? A Park Board that 'gets it' - that our taxes are too high and that we want to see them continue to go down. Spend less. If that means we offer less - so be it. Continuing to grow the taxes only serves as a deterrent to home buyers. When someone can get more house and the same or similar amenities in a nearby community, why would they want to buy here? We've reached the point of diminishing returns, and it's time to pull back a bit.
Ed Brill August 31, 2012 at 06:27 PM
That's a pretty strong royal 'we' David. And it's not accurate. PDHP reports that 53% of the emails to the Park District received since the plan was unveiled in May were in support of the full project, including the interpretive center. Only 26% were against the interpretive center, and another 5% were against any improvements.
Walter White August 31, 2012 at 07:24 PM
David never lets facts get in the way of his story.
Dan Jenks August 31, 2012 at 08:46 PM
David, our taxes aren’t going to go up because of the Rosewood beach project. Moreover, it seems to me that the housing market in HP is slowly picking up, given the recent teardowns I’ve seen and some of the “SOLD” signs. Thank goodness that all those buyers and builders are ignorant of our profligate spending ways (and our AAA rating). Perhaps they like our Park District, which offers more recreational opportunities than any other community on the North Shore and helps to differentiate HP from other communities like Winnetka and Evanston. Speaking of differentiation, the housing market, like the market for consumer products and automobiles, is segmented. Many of us chose to live in HP because we wanted to live in a community with stuff like the Water Park, Rec Center, Centennial, golf courses, beaches, PDHP sports programs, loads of parks, etc. We didn’t choose to live in HP because we wanted to live in a town that would minimize our tax bill. We just wanted to receive good value for the taxes that we paid…………
Sandra Sandoval September 03, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I agree with some of the other comments regarding the Boards selective listening. I also believe that decisions like this should be put to a community vote. The only enhancements that are needed is a bath house. Why do we need all the rest? My grand daughter has been going to the beach every summer for 13 yrs when I told her about the changes, she actually cried and said why do they have to ruin this place. I think that Glencoe did a good job and they cleaned up the beach but did not do anything that was over the top like this conservatory bldg. Also I was at Rosewood Beach yesterday morning a couple were taking pictures, they came over and said good morning this is a lovely spot, I said oh you are visiting, they were from Cleveland, Ohio. They went on about the beach, I told them well enjoy it today because it won't be like this next year and told them about the plan, they couldn't believe it, they said why would they want to lose all this charm, and I said yes why would they want to do this, especially without getting the consent from the community as a whole, not just a few. This project is way too much and not at all needed
Amy Lohmolder September 03, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The park district's reporting of the emails they’ve received is highly inaccurate and misleading. I can only imagine this is due to the selective listening and recording that has rendered my own public comment at task force meetings 100% affirming and utterly unrecognizable to me when reviewed in official minutes. The PD hears what they want and tosses out what they don’t -- just like the 1000+ petition signatures. The official reason given by PD Exec. Dir. Liza McElroy for tossing the 1000+ petition signatures out is that they were signed before the official presentation of the PD plans at the May meetings. I have all of the emails the PD received through mid June (126) via a FOIA request and came up with different results (26 “For IC” / 50 “Against IC ” / 31 “Affirming need for general beach improvements– no mention for or against IC”/ 19 single issue requests or questions regarding biting flies, the pier, financial information or neutral comments neither for or against IC.) A large number of these emails were short "reply" emails made in response to the PD's emailed public relations outreach effort. This mailing, which fished for greater support after the disastrous May 2 & 6 comments renamed the unpopular "Interpretive Center" (with public comments running 75% against the IC) to a more obtuse "beach house". The invitation for comment did not go out to all HP residents - just those on the PD's mailing list.
Susan Kozloff September 03, 2012 at 03:15 PM
One has to wonder who is gaining my ramming this project through? Certainly not the taxpayers. My current tax bill states that I owe over $500 to the HP Park District. I understand that the park need maintenance and that they do add to the beauty of our community. However, this unnecessary expenditure is ridiculous. Who in actuality will be using this facility? The rec center for many residents is cost prohibitive for many. I can't imagine anyone paying a fee for its use, except perhaps in its novel first year. Has a use study been made? I wonder. A referendum would have been the most pointed data the board could have used to measure the center's desirability among residents.
Ed Brill September 04, 2012 at 11:22 AM
I raised several questions about the petition in my column last week and nobody from the RNA has been by to answer them. http://highlandpark.patch.com/articles/ravinia-neighbors-association-declares-war-over-rosewood As far as the emails, what is wrong with the Park District asking those constituents on their email list for their opinion on the project? Not for the first time, you want it both ways. PDHP didn't reach out to the community for input yet they emailed their entire email list - how many thousands on it? - and asked for comment. They mailed information to all residents yet they didn't invite all HP residents to comment. The snapshot of emails from mid-June doesn't represent the finals, and that is why I understand Director McElroy contacted the RNA just prior to the vote with the final count. If their FINAL tallying of the emails they've received is "highly inaccurate and misleading", I assume you have the facts that will support challenging them. Until you have those, I'll continue to report the PDHP statistic that 53% of those received since the project was unveiled were in favor.
Albie powers September 04, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Perhaps there will be a bank at the beach. Highland Park can use another bank. This is just another ill concieved eyesore like all those banks. I love rosewood just the way it is, peaceful and natural. Why stop with this priject, im sure a casino is in the works. Oh by the way, on any given day, i can pick up 5 pounds of trash on the streets and in the woods of our town. How about that hidden gem!!!!! Albie Powers
Anthony Bilotti September 04, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I am pleased that the Park Board has moved forward to approve this project, as one of the 53% who responded in favor of it. When I hear my fellow residents talking about the 'natural' conditions of Rosewood beach, I point out that the environmental quality of the lakefront will not be degraded by this very, very small improvement. As someone who professionally evaluates environmental impacts of public projects, on a scale of 0 - 10, this one is a 0.2. It is true that people simply resist change, even if the change means an improvement for their community.
David Greenberg September 04, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Ed: Do you have a sample size to go along with those hollow statistics? Walter: Regarding what I've said: What specifically do you take issue with? Dan: As the District grows, so grows our tax bill to support the District's facilities operations, staff, maintenance/repairs, etc. As far as differentiation - we already have 2800+ programs, 44 facilities, and 660-acres of Park lands. We have an indoor ice arena, an aqua park, (soon) two golf courses, a recreation center, indoor tennis courts, nature preserve, etc, etc. We don't need an IC, and we sure don't need one right at the water's edge to add to an already bloated and expensive District. Potential buyers are already turned off by our tax burden. Why would someone want to live in HP with all the taxes/fees, when they can move to a nearby community, get more house, lower taxes, and still use our facilities? Even better, they can pick and choose what they want to use, pay the non-resident rate, and still come out ahead. Or, in some instances, they can pay nothing and still use our facilities - just take a walk through the Sunset Park Woods parking lot some day and look at all the vehicles that don't have a City of HP Vehicle Sticker (or indeed, any sticker at all).
Dan Jenks September 04, 2012 at 11:05 PM
David, I am not aware of any evidence that people are choosing to live in, say, Deerfield or Buffalo Grove, because of our taxes. In fact, if you look at this link, http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/April-2012/Chicago-home-prices-and-trends/, you will see that the median sales price in HP fell by 1% from 2010 to 2011, while the median sales prices in Deerfield and BG fell 13% and 12% respectively. HP wasn’t very much different from Lake Forest or Glencoe, where housing is much more expensive. LF was up 4% and Glencoe was flat. If your theory was correct, one would expect to see much greater differences in the data. Fact is, each community is unique and many factors go into which community to purchase a home in. In short, despite your fervent beliefs, it isn’t always “all about the taxes”…………

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