A two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission wasn’t enough for commissioners to take a vote on a controversial request by Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 to build a new parking lot and relocate its tennis courts to just north of Hollywood School.
The commission asked for more information from the school and continued the hearing to March 12. The commission wanted RBHS to conduct a parking study, an expanded traffic survey, provide landscaping details and do a photometric lighting study of the impact to the neighborhood of lights for the tennis courts and parking lot.
“The plans have not been approved and require some tweaking,” said Heather Milway, the Brookfield Village Planner.
Milway said that the school’s proposal did not meet all the requirements for a special use permit and variances from the Brookfield zoning code.
District 208 is seeking a special use permit to build a 90-space parking lot just south of Rockefeller Avenue where the tennis courts are presently located. Five new tennis courts would be built on what is now an open field just north of Hollywood School. District 208 is requesting a zoning variance to erect a 10-foot high fence around the tennis courts and to be exempt from setback requirements.
The south end of the tennis courts would be 65 feet from the north wall of Hollywood School. Between the school and the tennis courts would be a long jump and pole vault area for track-and-field competitions.
During the hearing, school officials and its experts said the parking lot was needed and that construction of a 63,000-cubic-foot underground vault would greatly reduce storm water runoff.
Milway indicated that village concerns about flooding have been satisfied.
“Storm water running off the site to surrounding properties will be significantly reduced,” Milway said. “The rate at which storm water enters our combined storm sewer will be slowed and in some cases prevent sewer overflow.”
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said efforts to control water runoff far exceed what is required by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD).
“We are doubling the amount of water detention beneath our tennis courts from what MWRD would be requiring,” Skinkis said. “The current storm water runoff would be reduced by 93 percent, so we have listened to the concerns.
“I think at times we may have even over-addressed the concerns to make sure that everybody understands that we want people to feel good about this project.”
Many Hollywood residents, however, still don’t feel good about the project. Several came to the meeting in the council chambers at Brookfield’s Village Hall, which was filled to capacity. Hollywood residents are particularly concerned about the impact on Hollywood School.
“Paving over the green space will create many unwanted and unnecessary distractions for the students,” said Alice Enochs, a Hollywood resident. “The entire side of the building is all windows.”
Residents also worried about the increase in traffic and congestion that the addition of a new 90-space parking lot would bring and urged school officials to work with the Brookfield Zoo to share parking.
“The current plan is no compromise at all,” said Sam Levin, an outspoken opponent of the project. “Instead, the current plan is a capitulation to the zoo and disregards many of the feelings of and the arguments made by many of the residents of Hollywood.”
Commission member Patrick Benjamin asked about the school’s attempt to work with the zoo. Skinkis said that he has been talking with zoo and Cook County officials for two years but no agreement has been reached.
“I don’t see any solution coming anytime soon,” Skinkis said.
Skinkis also said that even if the school and the zoo reached some agreement to provide additional parking for RBHS, the school would still need the new lot.
“Regardless of what we gain from the county, we would still be asking for the additional 90 spaces,” Skinkis said. “That’s the only undeveloped land we have.”
The ball fields directly north of RBHS are owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District, and the county will not sell the land or pave over the green space.
Assistant Principal of Student Affairs John Passarella told the commission that in the past year 65 students who applied for parking permits at RBHS had to be turned down for lack of space.
High school officials said that they need additional parking for students and for special events because they don’t own their existing parking lots.
Many opponents of the new parking lot say that the driving force behind the request for a new parking lot is the school’s desire for more special-event parking for things like AAU and summer league basketball tournaments, Chicago Mustang semipro football games and other non-school related activities.
RBHS’ traffic expert said a survey indicated that the new parking would only increase waiting times at busy Golf and Washington intersection by two to four seconds if turn lane striping was added.
However, village staff — who did not give the school’s application its seal of approval — found fault with the traffic survey that was done in December, saying it should have also included busier days in the fall or spring.
High school officials argue that the increase in traffic caused by a new parking lot would be mitigated somewhat by having fewer parents having to drop kids off at school.
Skinkis acknowledged that Hollywood residents still are largely opposed to the plans but he said that he has to do what’s best for the entire district.
“It’s not Hollywood High School,” Skinkis said. “I’m trying to fix a tough situation.”
RBHS officials had hoped to begin work on the parking lot by April 1, but now that looks doubtful. Assuming the Planning and Zoning Commission takes a vote on March 12, the soonest the village board could address the issue would be March 23, and the village board would likely not vote on the matter until April 13.
The Planning and Zoning Commission’s vote is only advisory. The village board will make the final decision.
Skinkis said he was satisfied with the hearing.
“I think the commission was very receptive to our petition, and they have a tough job in front of them,” Skinkis said. “They have community members that are voicing their concern, but again I think it is very limited to the surrounding properties close to the high school.
“We serve [six] communities, so I have to look out at what’s best for the overall population. And if this is the process we have to go through to try and make a change, that’s what leadership is about.”