A new parking lot and five new tennis courts at Riverside-Brookfield High School are one step closer to being built.
In a vote that surprised no one, the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-0, Thursday night, to recommend approval of a special use permit to permit Riverside-Brookfield High School to build a new parking lot and new tennis courts on land the school owns north of Hollywood School. The approval comes in the wake of an agreement reached in December by RBHS and the village of Brookfield to settle the lawsuit filed in 2015 by RBHS against the village after the Brookfield Village Board voted 5-1 to reject a previous proposal by the high school to build a 91-space parking lot. The Planning and Zoning Commission had unanimously recommended approval of that plan.
The current plan for a 50-space parking lot, plus three spaces for minibuses, and five new tennis courts, now moves to the Brookfield Village Board which will consider the plan at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb. 13 and a vote on the special-use permit at its Feb. 27 meeting. Since the plan follows the detailed terms of the settlement agreement, approval by the village board is expected.
At Thursday’s 45-minute-long hearing, high school District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis outlined the basic elements of the agreement and briefly summarized the school’s case for a new parking lot.
“The district needs parking to run a modern suburban high school,” Skinkis said, noting that the district needs the parking for students and also needs parking for special events.
“The school is constantly being used, not just by the high school, but for the community,” said Skinkis, who explained that only four of the five new tennis courts will be lighted to lessen the impact on those who live near the courts. Community members, he added, will be allowed to use the tennis courts.
“The plan is that these courts would be open for community use when not being used by the high school,” Skinkis said.
But he did not expect the tennis courts to be lighted on any sort of regular basis for community use and would generally only be lighted when used by the high school in the evening.
Commission member Jennifer Hendricks expressed concern about the safety of students going to the parking lot at night because of fencing around the area.
But Skinkis said the parking lot would be very well lit and security cameras will be there although they will not be monitored on a constant basis.
In response to a question from commission chairman Charles Grund, Skinkis said he has not had any discussions the past two years with officials from Brookfield Zoo or the Cook County Forest Preserve District about working with those entities to create more parking for RBHS.
The tennis courts will be set back 25 feet from the sidewalk alongside Hollywood Avenue, surrounded by windscreens. School and village officials will collaborate to design some type of landscaping for the land between the courts and the sidewalk.
The agreement calls for the school to implement a carpooling incentive and to establish a bike-to-school incentive program for students and staff. The school is also required to establish a policy that students must report any conviction of a motor vehicle offense committed within one mile of the school. Upon conviction of such an offense, students would lose the right to park in the parking lot.
The agreement also calls for the school to establish dedicated drop lanes in the morning and pick up lanes at the end of the school day to alleviate traffic congestion. The school is also required to employ staff or traffic control professionals at the intersection of Washington and Golf Avenues.
Both school and village officials are happy to have finally resolved the contentious issue.
“I’m glad an agreement has been reached,” said commission member Karen Ann Miller.
Skinkis said the nearly three-year process has been a learning experience for him.
The initial parking lot proposal that was first unveiled at a school board meeting in April 2014 called for a 130-space parking lot. That proposal drew vociferous opposition from neighbors in the Hollywood community as the new parking lot will be built on what was a former field north of Hollywood School. By 2015, the proposed parking lot was scaled down to 91 spaces and the tennis courts were restored. When the village board rejected the 91-space parking lot, RBHS sued the village. After 18 months of negotiations, arguments, and some ill will, late last year a compromise agreement was reached resulting in the current plan.
“As a younger superintendent, I have really gained a lot from this experience and the importance of working with local municipalities, your neighbors, families, to try to put together a plan that can support all the goals of the school district, as well as the community around it,” Skinkis said.