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Could Park Plan be the Magic Bullet for Flood Remediation, School Overcrowding?

Commissioners say this new plan makes sense for all Elmhurst residents while retaining the interest of Berteau developer.

A deal with a home builder for the old Elmhurst Hospital property on Berteau could be days away, Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers said last week. (Patch file photo)
A deal with a home builder for the old Elmhurst Hospital property on Berteau could be days away, Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers said last week. (Patch file photo)

For many months, city, school and park officials have been in a quandary over how to handle some major challenges in Elmhurst: flooding, overcrowded schools, preservation of park land.

The three entities have known all along they would have to work together.

In a nutshell, the City of Elmhurst said it wants to use park and school property for rainwater detention. It supports Elmhurst Memorial Hospital's sale to a home builder of an 11-acre parcel on Berteau Avenue. This has been a concern to some residents, who worry flooding will be exacerbated by the 50 or so additional homes. It also concerns Elmhurst District 205 officials because children in those homes would flood into Field School. There has even been talk of redistricting.

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A committee composed of school, park and city representatives was formed several months ago to address these problems. And, after many discussions among them, the park staff last week drafted a plan they say should make everyone happy.

The Park District position is this:

  • The developer buys the property from Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and is responsible for cleanup. 
  • The developer applies to the City for subdivision of the property.
  • The City trades to the developer its portion of the parcel (3 acres in alignment with existing homes), along with financial contributions from the Park and School districts. In exchange, the developer will trade 5 to 6 acres elsewhere on the site to the City.
  • The City trades those 5 to 6 acres to the Park District, and the Park District turns over to the city its entire Golden Meadows Park.
  • The City constructs expanded stormwater storage at Golden Meadows, arguably Elmhurst's least desirable park and a "logistical nightmare" for park patrons and neighbors, Park Executive Director Jim Rogers said. East End Park, which the City also wanted for stormwater detention, could remain untouched, he said.
  • The Park District moves its current Golden Meadows programs (soccer and garden plots) to the Berteau site.
  • In the future, the Park District would swap its 5 to 6 acres at Berteau to District 205 for a comparable amount of open space elsewhere so a new school could be built on the Berteau "park" site.

Park commissioners last week enthusiastically endorsed the plan, which was also presented to the city. Rogers said preliminary discussions with school officials indicate they also are intrigued. He said the plan is good for the Park District, "but it's good for the community, as well."

"There is a need for stormwater management in this area of Elmhurst. Everyone knows that," he said Wednesday. "We're hopeful if something like this were to be pursued, that Golden Meadows could be used for something larger and deeper, and East End wouldn't need to be touched."

The hospital's sale to a developer may be just days away, Rogers said. There has been no feedback from the city yet, only that city officials are interested in continuing the discussions, Rogers said.

The School Board meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, and a closed session on property acquisition/lease/purchase is listed on the agenda. He said he hopes District 205 will review the proposal so the two entities can go together to the city to put the final pieces of the puzzle together.

Park Commissioner Vince Spaeth said the plan makes "logical sense."

"What's been presented (thus far) has been kind of a hodgepodge: East End would be messed up, Golden Meadows would be messed up, Field School becomes a mess. This couldn't make more sense. Consolidating all that stormwater helps Brynhaven, East End, Pine Street. I think it's phenomenal."

The plan won't "desecrate" the parks, Commissioner Carolyn Ubriaco said. 

"This takes desecration out of plan and puts stormwater in an area with far less impact," she said.

Commissioner Patricia Morissette-Moll, a teacher at Churchville Middle School, said, "as a parent and as an educator, I'm thrilled we are thinking about rebuilding Field School and moving it to a more centrally located area. That will eventually address the need for a growing population. This is a total win-win."

The new school might not be built for "six or seven years," Park Board President Colette Kubiesa said, "but at some point, the property is there."

Rogers said he hopes the developer will "see this as a positive." If developers know the new homes won't flood, and there is a 5-acre park or school on the property, it becomes a selling point, he said.

Spaeth said the park's position document addresses one piece of a larger puzzle in the city as a whole.

"How we interact on this piece will set the tone," he said. "I'm excited because we've got all the right things coming into alignment that could make it great, but we all need to be team players here."

The Park Board did go into closed session to discuss some of the potential financial implications of the deal. When they returned to open session, they unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Rogers to negotiate the plan with the intergovernmental partners in a manner consistent with the Park District's position paper. 

Rogers was scheduled to meet with city representatives today, Monday, Jan. 13.

Ken January 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Looks like the old shell game to me.
Dante Laudati January 14, 2014 at 02:01 PM
Sounds like the deals Hawkeye had to make to get a new pair of boots.
5DecadesInElmhurs January 14, 2014 at 04:41 PM
By trying to please all, they please none. A bad, overly complicated plan. These machinations ignore the fact that water will always travel to the lowest ground. The open area flood storage needs to be in the lowest area of the always flooding neighborhoods. Also, the Hopspital (being in the wellness business) should recognize that open land benefits the health and lives of Elmhurst residents and theefore, the Hospital should deed the old EMH campus to the Park District. However, by allowing it to be developed, the Hospital is saying "Screw You Elmhurst. We don't care about your mediocre humdrum lives....!"
Sleeping Bear January 15, 2014 at 02:10 PM
where is the land that is to be swapped to the developer coming from? Where would the school find land to swap besides Field school site. My wallet is screaming OUCH!! Somewhere, somehow, someway this would be at a huge cost to the taxpayers. Also, why is the city giving valuable land away? Just like the Addison Rd garage. A developer walks in buys something and turns to the city to bail him out for overpaying.
Candace Marolda Lech January 21, 2014 at 09:42 AM
I'm just relieved that the hospital property was sold and remains on our tax roles.

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