The City fathers of Lake Forest and its residents have in the past been pioneers, trailblazers, and visionaries. Where are those visionaries today?
Today, we struggle with an empty parcel at Waukegan and Everett. What bold, forward-looking project is the City considering for that site? An unimaginative, past era, car-wash-gas-station-mini-mart squeezed into an intersection suffering from the highest collision rates in the City (except for Highway 41). A car wash petitioned for that site in 1991 and 1992; it failed because of traffic congestion. In 2014, the City petitioned for a grant to mitigate traffic congestion and air quality at the site. Since 1992 and 2014, nothing was done and the intersection has gotten worse.
At a time when the breathtaking Lake Forest Hospital is about to open, we are reminded of the collaboration between the City, contractors, and residents who achieved a balance between greatness and civic integrity. Has the present City Council lost their vision for Lake Forest? Over 500 residents surrounding Everett-Waukegan have repeatedly expressed their reservations about the project. The noise is unconscionable. It is aimed directly at the historic St. Patrick’s Chapel and homes. The congestion is intolerable. The environmental hazards are dangerous. The architecture is uninspiring. And the services are not needed – there are 18 gas stations and 22 car wash facilities in the immediate area.
How could 5 of 8 members of the City Council vote in favor of this new atrocity in the first round?
Prue Beidler, a long time civic volunteer who lives nowhere near the site, displayed zero empathy for the neighborhoods surrounding the site, when she voted in favor because the parcel has been empty for so long.
James Morris and Tim Newman voted in favor allegedly because of economics. They are finance experts. But, the City cited annual potential revenue from Waterway at $90,000. That represents 00.01% of the City annual budget. Compared to the detriment to surrounding homes’ values (including lower tax revenues), and the deterioration of quality of life, Messrs. Morris and Newman should know better.
Dr. Stanford Tack voted in favor, despite his experience with traffic injuries and the future prospects of more.
Jack Reisenberg voted in favor. With his management and human resources background, how could he tolerate the new City burdens from policing this project.
Mayor Lansing refused to recuse himself from voting. He indicated he favored the project, despite his opposition to noisy leaf blowers and his first priority public safety mantra. Because of this family relationship to the owner of the parcel, he needs to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, to reassure the citizenry that he puts the interests of the residents above the personal interests of his wife and himself.
What were the motives of the City Manager? A citizen investigation revealed that Mr. Kiely funneled nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds in small denominations to pay for a lobbyist to entice Amtrak to build a passenger terminal next door to the proposed Waterway site, without City Council approval. Is there some connection between Mr. Kiely’s behavior, and the enticement of Waterway to Lake Forest?
At the next meeting, the City Council has one more chance to get it right. They should pronounce the project non-conforming and unsuitable. Then the landowner should sit down with the City Planners and residents and develop something bolder, more imaginative, and more economically sound.
–the Lake Forest Integrity Caucus ([email protected])
Coordinators: Edward Sachs, David Kaz, and Richard Sugar
— Home Owners Associations: The Lake Forest Chateau, Colony Square, and The Villas;
— Scores of home owners from Conway Farms to Ridge Road;
— Scores of home owners from Green Bay Road to Sheridan Road;
— more than 500 petition signers, including 140 St. Patrick’s Church members