North lot removed from Roosevelt redo for now

Pending a more comprehensive study of parking

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By Deb Kadin

Contributing Reporter

Much of the controversy surrounding the Roosevelt Middle School renovation project will be shelved — at least for now — while community officials work on a comprehensive solution to parking in the neighborhood around the building.

Fearing that its plan to fix up the outside of the building will be rejected by a commission and then trustees, the District 90 Board of Education Monday night unanimously voted to file an amendment to its application, removing the north parking lot from consideration.

The north lot plans included not just the parking lot — the issue that drove a lot of discussions in the waning days of an expanded subcommittee studying the entire renovation project — and the gathering space, desired by a group of community residents. Some stormwater issues will also be addressed as part of the district's application. 

"Following discussions I have had with Village President Cathy Adduci, [Village Administrator] Eric Palm and a number of others … it will be extremely difficult to gain village approval without looking at a solution to parking around the area," said Patrick Meyer, president of the D90 school board.  

The district, however, may be able to do the rest of the project, including landscaping, bicycle parking, the library book-drop and other elements this year. The school board will come back to the issue of the lot when discussions with the village, park district and library are concluded, Meyer said. Those discussions could start later this week, said Adduci.

The park district has recreational space in that area and the library is located directly to the north of Roosevelt School. 

Gaining village approval — first before the Development Review Board and then from trustees — is necessary because D90 is seeking an amendment to a planned development permit granted in 1997 on renovations to the school's gymnasium. 

One board member, Liz Fischer, wanted to let that process play out. Fischer also seemed to imply that the district would not be offered anything in return if it went ahead and took part in the discussions and resolved the parking issue.

Meyer said the district had an obligation to resolve the issue.

"I have a hard time wrapping around the conclusion that this is our land. We need to look at this issue as comprehensively as we can. I am not thinking about what's ours and what's yours," Meyer said.

The clamor to resolve the parking issue came to the fore last week when residents living around the school told district administration that the parking and the related traffic issue will only get worse if the project went forward. In addition, residents wondered aloud about the role of the comprehensive plan, the village's official policy guide for land-use and development, and how zoning figured into the district's plan. 

That discussion, plus statements by the library board president Alice Calabrese-Berry and board member Tom Smedinghoff, convinced Adduci, who attended the residents meeting, that a more comprehensive plan was needed. Calabrese-Berry made similar comments during the pre-filing meeting the previous week, a meeting Adduci did not attend. 

A flurry of conversations between Adduci and Meyer and others this past weekend prompted the district to take some time to talk through the north lot issue, and Meyer agreed, she said.

"I wanted to change the conversation from divisiveness on the north lot to what is possible in that north lot," Adduci said.

A first sign of potential trouble for getting a positive recommendation for the project came after the pre-filing meeting, held earlier this month, when the DRB failed to muster a second on a motion waiving the requirement for an economic impact statement and a professional economic analysis. Residents voiced concerns that parking and congestion would diminish property values around the school and make it more dangerous for children and pedestrians.

Contact: deb@oakpark.com

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