WINNETKA – While stormwater discussions have been going well, Winnetka is exploring options to alter its stormwater plan after discovering legally mandated fees would drive up the cost substantially.
During discussions with the Cook County Forest Preserve, the magnitude of the government fees became apparent, Trustee Chris Rintz said at a village council meeting on Feb. 7. Winnetka would be required to pay a license fee for using the property on the Forest Preserve, as well as a construction permit for use of adjacent areas for staging and construction, tree removal and replacement fees, as well as fees to the Army Corps of Engineers for mitigation of wetlands.
The tree removal and replacement fees alone are significant, with an estimated price tag as high as $15 million, on a portion of the plan that was originally estimated at $12 million, Rintz said. These fees are essentially non-negotiable, since they were established by ordinance.
The village has been looking at ways to keep the project within the $57.7 million estimate that was proposed by Strand Associates in June 2016, while maintaining its goal of achieving protection from a 100-year storm. The Winnetka Park District and New Trier High School have also been involved with discussions — both own property that is being considered as potential sites for underground storage.
Rintz described a challenging process as the village moves forward, noting it was a little like a water balloon. Squeezing in one place, causes something else to pop out at the other end. Nonetheless, the village is contemplating digging water detention spaces deeper to make a smaller footprint while holding the same amount of water. This possibility would reduce the number of forest preserve trees that need to be cut down. The village is also looking at storing more water away from the Forest Preserve.
Rintz spoke optimistically about discussions with New Trier, the Park District and the Forest Preserve. “The overall color of our relationship with the Forest Preserve has been extremely positive. They are proving to be very open and willing to discuss just about anything we bring to the table,” he said.
Likewise, Rintz said New Trier was very pleased with the idea of storing water under Duke Childs Field, after initially resisting above-ground storage on that site. Rintz said Duke Childs was “pretty much a slam dunk.”
Moving forward, Rintz, President Gene Greable and Village Engineer Steve Saunders will present new ideas to the Forest Preserve. If the Forest Preserve finds these agreeable, a draft memorandum will be created and the issue will return to the village council, as well as the Cook County Board, to discuss.