Park District of La Grange to seek voters’ approval of $13.86 million referendum in November

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The Park District of La Grange Board of Commissioners on June 10 agreed to put a $13.86 million referendum question on the November ballot.

However, after stiff opposition from community members, a synthetic turf field for Gordon Park will not be part of the refurbishing of District facilities.

“There’s been a lot of passion and concern about synthetic turf,” Jenny Bechtold, park district executive director said. “We have been looking at other options.”

At an estimated cost of $71 yearly to a taxpayer with a $500,000 home, the plan focuses on the Community Center and Denning, Elm, Gilbert, Gordon, Rotary, and Sedgwick parks. The specifics of a draft plan can be found on the Village’s website, under the May 13 meeting agenda, when it was first unveiled to Village Trustees.

Consultant Skyler Wright presented the result of a detailed community mail survey on residents’ feelings about a proposed referendum. The survey had 13 questions sent to 6,228 registered voters’ homes and 7,000 text messages to registered voters identified as cell phone owners.

Wright said 1,137 surveys were returned, a response rate of 15 % of registered voters in the district.

“Seventy-three percent said definitely yes, or probably yes, 19 % said probably no or definitely no, and 7 %t was undecided,” Wright said of the question to residents of which way they would vote on a referendum. “When we asked people ‘what are the reasons you would vote no,’ there was certainly a lot of echoing of what this group’s feedback has been tonight.”

Wright pointed out that there was significant opposition from residents to synthetic turf fields for environmental reasons, but support from soccer teams who liked the year-round usability.

“It’s a divided issue,” he said.

Indeed, the opposition to synthetic fields was much in evidence during public comment.

Rose Naseef, chairperson of the La Grange Environmental Quality Commission, is opposed to synthetic turf, the loss of trees, and the planned increased parking.

“A synthetic playing field takes the environmental destruction even further by replacing plants with plastic,” she said, noting that synthetic turf included harmful chemicals.

And she wasn’t happy about the proposed increased parking, saying “expanded parking is not forward thinking at all.”

Many of the 30 residents gathered at the meeting agreed with Naseef.

“I heard that there’s a thought for synthetic fields and that should be a non-starter,” Andrew Griffen said, echoing Naseef’s comments about hazardous chemicals. “It’s not a good look, it’s not a long-term thing.”

Joyce Carlson said, “I agree with everything Rose said … I think need to think about our children and how it would affect them.”

Several other residents expressed similar concerns, especially about plans to increase parking.

Commissioners also expressed concern about the environmental effects of synthetic turf.

“I understand why the turf option was raised,” Brian Opyd, commission president, said of the desire for longer playing time and reduced maintenance costs. “On the other hand I think there’s a lot of negative impacts that turf has. I don’t support turf at this point in time and I think grass fields are the way to go.”

Opyd also agreed with the residents who were concerned that there was too much emphasis in the plan on increasing parking available.

“I don’t really know a lot about synthetic turf, but it did make me feel uncomfortable,” Stephanie Posey said. “I am not in favor of synthetic anything…I don’t know enough information right now, but what I do know, I feel uncomfortable about. It’s not right for me, that environmental risk.”

One alternative to synthetic turf options is an improved irrigation system at Gordon Park.

“What we’re talking about is instead of doing a turf field, we’ll regrade the soccer field at Gordon Park, we’ll add an irrigation system,” landscape architect Patty King said. “A lot of times, adding that irrigation system manages the turf better, and the irrigation system would really improve the grass at that field.”

With a deadline of August 19 to get the question of the November ballot, staff will have to make whatever changes to the plan soon before it votes on the final wording of the referendum question.

Hank Beckman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press. 

Hank Beckman , 2024-06-11 23:05:13

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Author : New-York

Publish date : 2024-06-11 21:05:13

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