The transition from sprawling residential facility to open fields and recreation has begun at the Park Ridge Youth Campus.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 22 gave its OK to rezone the 11-acre property at 733 N. Prospect Ave. to an open space use, and signed off on a stage one planned development for the site.
But the planned development, which will now go before the City Council for formal action, comes with some caveats. The commission asked the Park Ridge Park District, the property’s owner, to include more landscaping on the site, particularly in the parking lot area. Commissioners also asked that shrubbery and other landscaping be added as a barrier between the park and neighboring homes to the north, east and south, and that the park district submit a master plan showing how signage will be used on the site.
Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said the park district is open to the landscape suggestions.
“I think there will be more discussions regarding what was submitted and what they are asking for,” she said.
Separately, the park district must obtain approval from the Park Ridge Appearance Commission, meet tree preservation and planting requirements, and comply with storm water detention requirements from the city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. A final plan will then be presented to Planning and Zoning and the City Council.
Preliminary plans show a rain garden and two above-ground detention basins: one on the northern portion of the property and one at the far southeast corner. The basins, which are grassy areas that slope inward, will only hold rainwater following heavy storms, said Steven Halberg of Planning Resources, Inc., the project’s landscape architect.
Concerns about whether the proposed stormwater detention is adequate were expressed by some neighbors, who say they currently deal with flooding and water run-off from the campus.
“The water runoff will be a tremendous problem if you do it the way the architects designed it,” claimed Russell Pearl, a Washington Avenue resident.
Concerns were also expressed by Commissioner John Bennett, who called for berms around the perimeter to prevent water run-off into residential yards and more water detention in the site, particularly within the athletic field, which he said should be lowered to accommodate large amounts of rain.
“It’s a great area for temporary storage until (sewer) systems can keep up, and I’d like to see this property used in that regard,” he said.
Mountcastle responded by saying said the park district did not purchase the property “to be just a floodwater detention area,” but did say officials will work with the city engineer to fulfill storm water detention requirements and “try to help out as much as we can.”
A representative from the engineering services firm hired by the park district said water run-off will be reduced and the overall design “is going to help those residents.”
Bennett went on to vote against both the rezoning of the land and the planned development, saying he would prefer single-family homes on the Youth Campus site instead.
“If we were planning Park Ridge right now, would this be the ideal spot for this park? I don’t think it would be, especially with the other amenities in the area,” Bennett said.
Third Ward Ald. Jim Smith shared a similar view.
“Why is this project getting off the ground? It’s building a park in an area of the city that is already filled with parks,” he said, adding that forest preserves on the city’s Western edge contain “tremendous recreational resources” for residents.
Planning and Zoning Chairman Joe Baldi countered by saying that if single-family homes were constructed, the amount of surface that could absorb water would be much greater than the open park land proposed under the Youth Campus plan.
Voters in April approved the park district’s request to borrow $13.2 million to purchase and redevelop the Youth Campus site, resulting in a property-tax increase.
Among the proposed amenities for the park are two paddle tennis courts, outdoor performing arts area, spray pad and sand play area, a picnic area, athletic field, playground equipment, a new multi-purpose building, a walking/jogging/bike trail and 153 parking spaces. It was also shared during the Planning and Zoning meeting that a small area near the spray pad may be used for ice skating in the winter.