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Route 53 Right of Way Forum
Pioneer Press Article

Bypass land plan angers residents

January 18, 2007

By MARLENE HUNT Staff Writer

The proposal to use state-owned land for athletic play fields and park areas is drawing criticism from residents of the Cambridge Country subdivision whose properties adjoin the 32-acre site reserved for the proposed extension of Route 53 in Lake County, situated west of Mundelein High School.

For two years, state Representative Ed Sullivan Jr. has worked on a plan to allow the vacant lands to be used by Mundelein High School, Fremont Township and the Mundelein Park District.

"Today these groups are in search of green space for a variety of reasons. Primarily they are in search of available locations for youth sports teams to practice," Sullivan said in a press release issued last week.

Sullivan is coordinating a potential inter-governmental agreement between the state Department of Transportation and local agencies. If the agreement for a year-to-year lease is approved, it would open the northern section between Hawley Street and Route 176 for the use of three practice fields and a cross country track for Mundelein High School. The fields would be used only during daylight hours. No permanent structures such as lighting or parking would be allowed.

Under the proposal, the southern section would be reserved for one lacrosse practice field for MHS, and three multipurpose fields for use by Fremont Township and the Mundelein Park District.

A community garden and dog park are among other proposed uses for the remaining areas.

Neighbors object

Most of the Cambridge residents living on Pinehurst, Wilton, Summerhill, Buckingham and Woodhaven who have direct views of the open space are fighting the plan. Their worries center on drainage issues, parking and traffic.

Neighbors spoke with Mike Martin, an engineer with IDOT. "We were told that if the current drainage trenches are filled in, it will cause our backyards to flood," said Heather Rowan, a resident on Dunton Court. "He advised the flooding will affect the backyards of Dunton and Pinehurst and the basements of those properties on Buckingham."

Rowan, who lives on what was designed as a double cul-de-sac that backs up to the proposed athletic fields, is well-aware that people tend to park at the shortest distance from an athletic event.

"If no parking lot is available, the best parking will be on our street. Add to that consideration for a community garden and dog park, it will mean the land will not be used only for practice during school days, but seven days a week.

"From a political standpoint, this sounds like a great idea," Rowan said. "But 80 percent of the residents who back up to the land do not want it because of the potential effect it would have on their properties."

Parking at the nearby Scott Brown Park is very limited said neighbor Jill Harper, the mother of two high school students. She fears the neighborhood would be overwhelmed by additional parking.

"I walk that area quite often during nice weather. There is parking for the ball field there, but to get from that area to the proposed ball fields, it would require walking through neighborhood yards. The big question remains, 'where will people park?'"

Their concerns are addressed on the website http://rt53rightofwayforum.tripod.com/

School, park district respond

"We're very sensitive to the concerns of the residents," said John Barbini, interim superintendent of Mundelein High School. "We will be happy to work with Rep. Sullivan and the residents to come up with a plan that can accommodate our needs and address some of their concerns.

"IDOT stipulated that no permanent structures could be erected on the land. The agreement calls for daytime use only. Only one field (on the south side) would be designated for lacrosse use. This would minimize the issue of parking," Barbini suggested.

Key to the proposal is the costs for preparing the land for athletic use.

"Mundelein High School does not have resources to sink a lot of dollars in time or efforts. It will take a while to grade the land, plant the seeds and have it ready for actual use," Barbini said. "We want to be good neighbors and work with members of the community."

Village not involved

Cambridge residents have taken their cause to the village of Mundelein and the Mundelein Park District, but not to Fremont Township as Rep. Sullivan is also the elected supervisor.

"The village of Mundelein is not in a decision-making role with regard to the use, or non-use of this property," replied Mayor Kenneth Kessler in a November letter.

"I have spoken to Rep. Sullivan and his staff about your concerns over trespassing, traffic on your street and parking and the like. It is my understanding that any plans for the use of the Route 53 right-of-way for something other than a major highway taken into account these and other potential concerns."

Mundelein Park District officials have not scheduled any meetings or actions on Sullivan's proposal.

"We did meet with some of the residents," said President Pat McGrath. "We don't have jurisdiction on the matter. How it would pertain to the Park District remains to be seen. At this point we are waiting for more information."

According to Sullivan, IDOT is in the process of creating a contract for the leasing agreement. Through his charitable fund, Sullivan has offered to pay the cost of the initial year's lease which amounts to $1,500.

Sullivan has pledged to hold a public meeting on the topic after release of the lease proposal.


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