Riverside-Brookfield High School is getting a new parking lot for Christmas and the village of Brookfield will get out from under a lawsuit that’s been hanging over its head for more than a year courtesy of a settlement agreement passed by the Brookfield Village Board on Monday night and by the District 208 board on Tuesday.
Both sides unanimously passed an agreement that will allow the construction of a 50-space parking lot, plus three spaces for mini-buses, and five tennis courts on land the school district owns immediately north of Hollywood School.
In addition, the village and school district will enter into a new 20-year lease for 103 parking spaces along Rockefeller Avenue, which were created a decade ago to relieve the parking crunch created when the campus was expanded around that time.
In return, the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 board will drop its lawsuit against the village, which sought reversal of a 2015 decision by the village board to deny a special use permit and zoning variations to allow the construction of a 91-space parking lot.
“This joint agreement is the culmination of several months of productive open discussion and negotiations to design a project that mets the needs of the citizens of Brookfield and all of the customers, students, parents, faculty and visitors to the school campus,” said Brookfield President Kit Ketchmark in a joint statement released after the school board’s vote on Dec. 13. “This is a great net result for all of the texpayers of both RBHS and the village.”
District 208 school board President Mike Welch also expressed satisfaction that the lawsuit was settled.
“The district is pleased to have reached agreement with the village on this matter and looks forward to working cooperatively with the village to implement the terms,” Welch said in the joint statement.
The RBHS board reviewed the proposed settlement agreement at a special closed session meeting on the morning of Dec. 9. Board members took no action at that time.
It appears that the magic number for the combined number of spaces in the Rockefeller Avenue lot and new parking lot was 153. That was the number mentioned by Ketchmark in October, when the village offered to allow RBHS to build a 45-space parking lot in addition to the Rockefeller lot, which officials believed had 108 spaces.
But alterations to the Rockefeller parking lot configuration resulted in that lot containing just 103 spaces. School officials expressed interest in the village’s offer, if allowed a total of 153 spaces, and that is number stated in the settlement.
The school district was also in favor of the village’s proposal, which is part of the settlement agreement, to enter into a 20-year lease for the Rockefeller parking spaces at a cost of $1 per year. Right now, the school district pays $13,000 annually for the spaces, which are rented to students, for parking during school hours.
By agreeing to settle the matter, the school district will also be allowed to construct five tennis courts in an L-shaped configuration to the west and south of the new 50-space parking lot.
The westernmost courts will be set back 25 feet from the sidewalk, offering a sizable buffer from the residential neighborhood west of Hollywood Avenue. The school district has already constructed an underground storm water detention vault that reportedly meets requirement of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Once the school district approves the settlement, it will apply again for a special use permit from the village, which is required to promptly review it and hold a public hearing before the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission.
The village also has agreed to amend a portion of its zoning code to allow a tall fence to be built around the tennis courts. The plan no longer requires any zoning variations.
Construction of the parking lot and tennis courts likely will take place in 2017.
One interesting section of the settlement agreement concerns potential successful negotiation between RBHS and the Cook County Forest Preserve District and/or the village of Riverside to construct additional parking areas.
If the school district is successful in negotiating an agreement with either or both agencies for additional parking prior to Aug. 12, 2022, RBHS will have to eliminate an equal number of parking spaces from the Rockefeller Avenue lot.
It’s unclear from the settlement agreement whether the school district is actively negotiating with either entity at this time.
Both sides were eager to avoid a trial, which would have been costly and time consuming.
Whether the settlement agreement will be looked on favorably by residents of the Hollywood neighborhood remains to be seen. Homeowners living near RBHS were outraged by the prospect of the large parking lot the high school originally floated and almost immediately reduced in size to 91 spaces.
But even that size parking lot was too much for some neighbors, who felt it would bring noise and additional traffic to the area and worsen storm water problems.