LAKE FOREST — After months of discussions between city officials and residents of the Winwood Drive subdivision, the Lake Forest City Council opted not to force the expense of a special service area (SSA) on those who live there.
During a meeting April 17 at City Hall, the council rescinded the action it took earlier this year requiring residents to foot the bill to put them on the city’s sewer system rather than continue to use their septic tanks.
Residents of the Winwood neighborhood in the northwest part of the city west of Waukegan Road are among the 85 who still have septic tanks and are not on the city’s sewer system, according to City Manager Robert Kiely Jr.
When the city first proposed the SSA last year, residents objected, claiming they wanted control over their property, according to a proposed resolution reopening a public hearing on the issue.
During the initial public hearing December 5, many residents said their septic tank systems were working fine, according to the resolution. The Aldermen continued the hearing with plans for the residents to work with members of the council’s Public Works Committee. The hearing was reopened January 17 giving residents and officials more time to come to an agreement.
On March 20, the council proposed two options, said Alderman Catherine Waldeck, the public works committee chair, at the April 17 meeting.
One proposal would schedule the public hearing and ultimately establish the SSA unless more than 50 percent of both the property owners and voters in the area voted to reject the concept. The other resolution would rescind the proposed SSA restoring the status quo.
The opposing resolutions sparked a spirited debate among the aldermen before a 6-2 vote dashed any possible public hearing. Then a 6-1 vote with an abstention rescinded the public hearing, leaving the Winwood residents to handle the situation themselves.
“This has been a long process with a lot of meetings. It is time for a resolution. The process is important. This is the process we have used for every other SSA,” said Waldeck. “We should follow the process,” she added saying a majority of residents can vote it down.
If the residents reject a SSA, the city cannot propose it again for two years, according to Victor Filippini, the city attorney. Alderman Raymond Buschmann said he and Alderman Jack Reisenberg have been working with the residents. Buschmann said that given more time, he believed an agreement can be reached.
Buschmann said that if the amortization was increased to 30 years from the proposed 20, the average interest savings for the residents would range from $15,000 to $17,000. He said with more time, he was hopeful a resolution was possible for an SSA. Both Buschmann and Reisenberg sided with the residents.
“I believe in process but outcome is more important than process,” said Reisenberg.
Alderman Stanford Tack sided with Waldeck, saying the city should stick with its procedures. Tack expressed concern about the possibility one of the resident’s septic tanks could fail and that resident would be burdened with the expense of connecting to the sewer system on his or her own.
The potential expense to a few residents created internal conflict for Alderman George Pandaleon before he sided with the majority.
“I’m really torn here,” said Pandaleon. “This is a time bomb for the residents.”
Alderman Prue Beidler, who also voted with the majority, said it is important to maintain procedures but this was an exception. She was persuaded the SSA as structured will be a financial hardship on a number of the residents.
“This town has a lot if diversity in its neighborhoods and there is diversity in this neighborhood,” said Beidler. “This is complicated. A lot of people here will be severely impacted.”
Also voting with the majority were Aldermen Michelle Moreno and Tim Newman.