The village of River Forest won’t consider River Forest Park District’s request to vacate the portion of Keystone Avenue that bisects Keystone Park until it gets a better sense of how it would affect the surrounding area and what exactly the park district wants to do with the land.

Last month, the park district’s board of commissioners formally asked the board to consider its request to vacate the land. In response, the village asked for a traffic and parking study and for a conceptual plan for how the park district planned to use the closed-off street. 

On Sept. 9, park commissioners decided to hold off on the traffic study, but they agreed to brainstorm more specific ideas for what they want to do

Park Commissioner Mark Brown first suggested the idea in June, arguing that the vacating the street would create more park land and improve safety. He suggested the new greenspace would be a good location for a dog park, something that residents have been requesting for years. 

Board President Ross Roloff said he felt that the village board asked “legitimate questions” regarding parking, utilities and what the park district would replace the street with, which will cost the park district money.

“The clear message we got is the village is not in the position to have any sort of meaningful conversation about it until we come back with traffic study and some level of design,” he said. “Even if we’re being really optimistic, we’d look at $20,000 to $25,000 investment.”

According to a memo to the park board for their Sept. 9 meeting, the park district expects the traffic study to cost $25,000 and a professionally prepared plan would cost $10,000. 

Commissioner Lynn Libera said she understood the village’s position.

“If you’re going to vote on something, you want a clue,” she said.

Holding off on ordering the traffic study right away, commissioners agreed that each of them will come up with the list of what they’d want to replace Keystone Avenue and share them during the next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Village clears the way for synthetic turf

When the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners voted in July to install artificial turf for the Keystone Park baseball infields, it seemed like the controversial issue was put to rest.

But, in August the River Forest Village Board informed the park district that the change was significant enough to require a minor amendment to Keystone Park’s existing development plan. The ruling sent both opponents and proponents of installing artificial turf to the Sept. 9 meeting of the village board to make their cases.

While the park district vote was a close 3-2, the overwhelming majority of village trustees felt that they didn’t want to second-guess and override its decision, approving the turf by a 5-1 vote. 

Before the village trustees’ vote, park district board President Ross Roloff urged the village board to defer to the commissioners’ judgment.

“The park district urges the village to support the work of the park district, respect and defer to the authority of the park district,” he said.

Trustee Katie Brennan cast the only vote against approving the change in the park’s development plan, wondering whether the turf change was a minor matter.

Village President Catherine Adduci argued that the request was a minor change in terms of what that part of Keystone Park was used for. If the park district wanted to, for example, build condominiums, she said, that would be a major amendment.

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...