Third Ward Residents Question Need for Hospital Expansion
Topic dominates ward meeting as the date for the next Plan Commission will be moved to later this month.
The fifth meeting between Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital and the Lake Forest Plan Commission will be moved to later this month, Community Development Director Cathy Czerniak said at Monday night’s Third Ward meeting.
Czerniak said the meeting, originally on the docket for May 9, could be held May 22 pending confirmation from Plan Commission members that they would be available.
At that meeting, the Plan Commission could choose to recommend the hospital’s master plan draft. Their recommendation then would come before the Lake Forest City Council.
However, Third Ward residents, particularly those whose houses border the hospital campus, believe recommending the master plan would be a mistake. The topic took up more than an hour of the nearly two-hour ward meeting at the Municipal Services building. This is the first of annual Ward meetings conducted by the city. No dates have been set for Ward meetings in the first, second or fourth wards.
“There are far more suitable places for this to be built,” said Melissa Knorr, who resides on Lorraine Lane. “Look at the size of this development relative to my house. It’s massive.”
'Does This Really Belong Here?'
While the emphasis of the last Plan Commission meeting focused primarily on the Phase 1 construction of a new hospital facility, a 100,000-square-foot medical office building, adding 25,000 square feet to the Health and Fitness Center and 600 additional parking spaces, what has these Third Ward residents even more concerned is Phase 2 expansion that would add even more structures and associated traffic and safety concerns to the hospital campus.
“I look at this massive project and ask myself, ‘Does this really belong here?’ ” said Linda Shields, who lives on Melody Road. “This is Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital’s Lake County campus. Does it belong in a residential area of Lake Forest? And I’m not against the hospital. But I’m beginning to wonder. This form of the hospital has gone from expanding the hospital to exploding it into this massive duplication of what we have in other places.”
Alderman Don Schoenheider said the hospital’s expansion proposal is a result of a lack of space for both medical personnel and care facilities.
“They are simply out of space,” he said. “Part of the driver is not to just wanting to create a monument to Northwestern Hospital, part of it is that they just don’t have the space anymore.”
Another resident believes that more important questions need to be asked before the specifics of the master plan are addressed.
“As a community, we need to step back and say, maybe we’re happy with the hospital as it stands today,” he said. “Maybe we don’t want a Level 1 Trauma Center. Maybe Level 2 or Level 3 is good enough. Maybe Highland Park is a great hospital, and it's right down the street, so why duplicate. These are the questions we need to ask before we even get to the details.”
Alderman Tom Morsch, who will close his six-year term as Third Ward alderman in two weeks, believes the process will address those questions.
“I think the process does allow that input to happen and to understand those issues at the city council level,” Morsch said.
Hospital officials have put a firm timetable on Phase 1 expansion to be built by 2017. There is no date for Phase 2, and hospital officials have said to the Plan Commission that they are not even sure it will happen. However, the master plan would include both Phase 1 and 2 expansions.
Widen Scope of Issue
One resident at the ward meeting who does not live near the hospital indicated the expansion issue seems too focused on just the residents who live by the campus and needs to become wider in scope.
“My suggestion is that the community is barely aware of this other than ‘OK, the hospital wants to do something, sounds pretty good, and we want a good hospital,’ ” he said. “Something that got my attention is the traffic, and the community as a whole would probably suffer from the traffic.”
Fred Montgomery, who lives on Gage Lane just north of the hospital campus, criticized the hospital’s traffic study because it focuses only on the hospital’s concerns and not the community’s.
“The traffic study does not address any entrance onto a road other than if it is in or out of the hospital. And that’s the point,” he said. “The traffic study is incomplete. They have to look at all of the entrances onto Waukegan Road and Deerpath whether or not you are going into the hospital.”
Another Gage Lane resident who has lived there for more than 50 years believes in the process, and that the issues can be resolved.
“I want the best hospital in the world built here,” he said. “I want to use this opportunity to correct the problems with traffic we already have. We should use our expertise to help our boards come up with some good solutions to the problems we see. I’m two miles from that hospital, and I want the good care.”