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New Community Group Favors Rosewood Redesign

As the Park Board gears up to vote on the proposed Rosewood Beach project, two groups of residents continue to argue for and against it.

As the Park District Board of Commissioners inches closer to determining the fate of , residents continue to debate its proposed redesign.

There are currently two community groups discussing whether or not the plan should be adopted by the Park Board. Ravinia Neighbors Association (RNA) , a roughly 1900-square foot multi-purpose building that would cost between $579,000 to $630,000 to build, while the newly formed Friends of Rosewood (FOR) .

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"[RNA] keep trying to speak for the entire town of Highland Park and we thought that was enough," said Michelle Holleman, FOR organizing committee member. "We've formed more to promote the plan we believe in."

Though RNA members have and spoken at meetings against the proposed plan, the group favors every aspect of it except for the interpretive center, according to RNA Publicity Director Doug Purington.

"It's not all or nothing," Purington said. "We want every single part of that plan to move quickly except for the interpretive center."

Purington says that in addition to creating a larger environmental footprint and unnecessarily blocking the view, the building will lead to more people on the beach than the space can handle.

"They want to get the whole ball of wax and they've been pushing for that," Purington said about the plan's supporters.

Holleman, however, thinks RNA's opposition stems from its members not wanting these facilities and the increased activity they may lead to in their backyard.

"We are lucky to have this space and we need to use it for people responsibly," Holleman said. "We're just here to generate support."

What happens if the board votes 'no'

The Rosewood Beach task force presented its redesign plan for the beach to the board on June 21, after a year of meetings with architects and a construction manager to come up with a plan its members felt fit the whole community. The task force's plan includes a boardwalk, the interpretive center, viewing areas, a concession stand and bathrooms. 

"It's not just, 'I grew up in New Jersey and we have boardwalks there,'" . "We've kept in mind how Highland Parkers use that beach."

The project's estimated cost is $3.8 million, according to the Park District's website. Construction cost would be funded through grants and Park District reserves and revenues generated through rentals and programming would be used to help offset operational and maintenance costs.

The board expects to vote on the plan as a whole at its July 26 meeting, according to board president Scott Meyers. If the board approves the plan, the next step is to develop a schematic for the city of Highland Park and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

"The final vote is up or down to provide preliminary approval of the entire task force proposal as a whole," Meyers told Patch this week. "If we vote against the plan we will go back to the drawing board and figure out why it didn't pass."

The voting process will not include the opportunity to remove parts of the plan, like the controversial interpretive center. Doing so would be inconsistent with how the board first outlined this process, according to Meyers.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to just lop off part of the project," Meyers said, pointing out that the task force was enlisted to create a singular vision for the beach. "We owe it to the public and the task force to call for an up or down vote."

If the board votes against the redesign, the proposal process would most likely restart. The task force would probably be reconvened, or a new one would be created, according to Meyers. He said it would be very time-consuming.

"No one is looking to slow down the process, but at the same it's time better that we get it right than we get it right now," he said.

Embracing multiple viewpoints

The last time two community groups were formed to favor or oppose a citywide topic was when . The Park District , and has received hundreds of emailed comments about the plan, in addition to feedback from FOR and RNA members. Meyers told Patch he's happy to see so much community participation in this process.

"My hope is that having more view points available will hurt misinformation," Meyers said. "We sincerely want to hear what people think."

Though Meyers declined to provide his impression of the proposal while the board is deliberating on it, he did give an example of how resident participation has helped the process along. After a number of residents emailed concerns that birds might fly into the glass used for some of the structures, the board reached out to various environmental services and found out that the type of glass proposed would create visual noise, decreasing the chances of bird collisions. 

"We want information," Meyers said. "We're listening to comments as they continue to come in."

The Park Board meets for a workshop meeting on Thursday, July 12 at 6 p.m. at West Ridge Center.

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David Greenberg July 18, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Dan, the IDNR, et. al grants come with their own set of restrictions and requirements that will dictate what we can and can not use that facility for, how we can offer programs to the public, what we can charge, how we can restrict access, and more. The restrictions alone are quite troubling and we ought to say "No thanks" to the grant money. Another issue is whether or not our broke State will actually cut a check for what they promise. As for the City of HP reviewing and overriding the PD's decision - it's not about the money the PD wants to spend, but rather WHERE they want to locate what they're proposing to spend our money on, and the USE of the property they propose to spend our money on. The City most certainly does have oversight on those issues, and there's been court cases decided in our neck of the woods (Wilmette), at the Appellate level which deal with this sort of issue. As for the referendum: We already had one on a beach house at Rosewood. We already said no.
Dan Jenks July 19, 2012 at 12:28 AM
I don’t know what the restrictions are in the grants and yes, the State of Illinois has major credit and payment difficulties – so I agree that these are questions/factors that should be considered and evaluated in determining whether to go ahead with this project. My guess is that the Task Force has evaluated whatever restrictions might exist in coming up with their recommendation. As for City determining WHERE the structure should be allowed and the appropriateness of the USE, I just don’t think the question of the Interpretative Center rises to that level. Putting up a modestly sized recreation building on the beach is well within the proper scope of the Park District. If you think this decision should be reviewed, then I’m not sure where you draw a “principled line.”
David Greenberg July 19, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I don't believe that the Task Force was charged with evaluating the impact of any grant restrictions, but I'd defer to the Chairman of the task force for that. As for calling the IC a modestly sized building - it's 1950 sq ft - which is larger than many houses in HP, so I don't agree that it's modestly sized at all. The fact is that the beyond the building itself, there's impact to the City to be considered: Parking, traffic, hours of usage, type of usage, security, type of construction, location on the property, design considerations, sound, lighting, etc. so the City does have a say so in the siting of the building. The principled line is defined by the various applicable City Ordinances. The Park District has to comply with them. The relevant Appellate case doesn't set out any "tests" but has more guidelines than anything else (cf: Wilmette v. Wilmette Park). The City can't deny something willy-nilly, but they can't be forced to allow something. Also, the Park District can't do whatever they want and claim immunity either.
Dan Jenks July 19, 2012 at 01:48 PM
In the context of the size of Rosewood park and for a public building, 1,950 square feet is modest. Comparing the size of this structure it to a single family home situated on a small lot is, well, fatuous. Were Rosewood a private property, you could easily build 10,000+ feet at this location under the City Code. As for your laundry list of City concerns, they would apply no matter where the Park District built a new structure. Unfortunately for you, I don’t think any of them apply in this case. For example, it is a stretch to believe that a structure with a capacity for 50 people will require a change in the traffic patterns on Sheridan (although I would love to see a sidewalk and cross walk at the entrance!). There are no lights on this property. There are no changes in hours of use or type of use. You get the point. Finally, I agree with you as a matter of policy that the Park District should follow all applicable City Ordinances and zoning laws, and that if a variance is necessary, the City and its Commissions must be involved. I am not aware of any variances that are required by the Rosewood project and so, logically, David, if this is the case then you have to agree, based on your principled line, the City Council should decline to intervene.
David Greenberg July 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Dan, I never compared the size of the proposed IC to a single family home situated on a small lot. I said that the IC's size was larger than many homes in Highland Park - I never referred to the size of the lot the home was situated on because the whole idea behind the comparison was as a point of reference for the kind reader. I don't agree that it's a stretch to believe that a structure with a cap. of 50 will require a change in traffic patterns on Sheridan. With the proposals pitched - there could easily be more than 50 people at Rosewood Beach for a variety of activities, some of which are planned to take place inside the IC. Moreover, as one activity ends, another would likely be scheduled - which means that as say 50 people are leaving, another 50 may arrive. Food vendors, cleanup crews, visitors, etc. all would be using Sheridan Road to access the Beach in some manner. Right now we have very few recorded accidents (about 2) in the past few years. Ramp up usage, and you certainly do have to look at traffic impacts. Sidewalks and crosswalks have their own set of considerations (siting, cost, etc.), not to mention the blind curve by the entrance. There's no lights NOW, but with more usage, comes the thought that lights would allow more usage. So it's certainly a possibility - we've seen it happen elsewhere in our fair City. Whether variances are necessary or not, the City and it's Commissions certainly have oversight and should be involved.

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