The downturn in the economy has resulted in several vacant parcels of land in , including the former site of the city’s Municipal Services Building at Laurel and Western avenues.
Once the building was demolished, the city intended to sell the property to a developer. However, the lagging real estate market has put an indefinite delay in those plans.
“The activity level and interest level for something to be developed immediately is not the case,” Third Ward Alderman Don Schoenheider explained during his ward’s annual meeting Monday night.
Third Ward residents gathered in the new Lake Forest Municipal Services Building on Field Drive to discuss the Laurel and Western Avenue site, as well as a variety of other concerns facing their ward and the rest of the city.
Schoenheider and fellow Third Ward Alderman Thomas Morsch explained that since the Laurel and Western site is not expected to be developed until the real estate market picks up again, the city’s main concern is clean it up or its eventual sale and development. This includes conducting environmental testing and clean-up. The city will remove some underground gas tanks that were part of the former municipal center, and the clean-up of some gasoline from the soil.
However, Morsch assured residents that there is no hazardous materials at the site. “There is not anything the residents should be concerned about environmentally,” he said.
Schoenheider, Morsch, and City Manager Bob Kiely were on hand to give residents an update, to answer questions, and listen to concerns of Third Ward residents.
The Third Ward meeting was the final one in a series of meeting held for all of Lake Forest’s four wards over the past two months.
Issues were discussed that directly affected the Third Ward were:
Route 60 Beautification
Residents expressed concern over the appearance of landscaping on the median on Route 60, hoping that it will be an improvement over the native landscape that was planted last summer.
“It takes more than one summer to germinate,” explained Dan Reeves, superintendent of Parks, Forestry, and Golf for Lake Forest.
Reeves, who retires at the end of the month, noted the city will keep the native landscape but will also be adding some plants and flowers to add to the aesthetics of the median.
According to Reeves, the city is hoping to get started on the planting process in late May after it goes through the city's channels for approval.
In addition, city officials said there are plans to install a “Welcome to Lake Forest” sign on the western entrance to the city.
Sidewalk Access to Lake Forest Hospital
Third Ward resident Francis Avellone expressed concern about the removal of a sidewalk along Deerpath Road by approximately four years ago. Since then, the has put a landscape berm in place to protect their property and the church from the traffic along Route 41.
“There is no pedestrian access to ,” Avellone said. “There is no way that anyone with a walking handicap could negotiate that trail.”
Kiely explained the sidewalk was removed because it was in disrepair, and the city had received claims from residents who had tripped and fallen in the area.
“The long range plan is to have a sidewalk along Westmoreland,” Kiely said, adding that the city needs to go through a series of discussions with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which merged with Lake Forest Hospital last year before any plans to add a new sidewalk are carried out.
Municipal Services Building
Residents inquired about how the new Municipal Services Building has improved efficiencies in the city’s Public Works Deparment.
Kiely cited a great improvement over the previous building on Laurel and Western Avenues, which was outdated, and even required a lot of moving around of city vehicles before employees could even get started each morning.
“Unlike the old building, they get their orders, the get in their vehicles, and they’re gone,” he said.
“We absolutely love it,” said Mike Thomas, superintendent of Public Works. “From an efficiency standpoint, it has helped us out greatly.”
City leaders explained it will take a few years to track the efficiencies of the new building before actual cost savings can be determined.
Lake Forest recently applied for a $100,000 grant to provide all residents with larger rolling recycling bins within the coming months.
However, according to Thomas, a survey of residents showed that they are split evenly as to their preference for the larger bins, or the current smaller ones.
If the city receives the grant, it is likely to be proposed that residents be given a choice as to which bin they would utilize.
If approved, the city hopes to begin rolling out the new, larger bins this coming fall.
Residents are encouraged to keep up to date with Lake Forest issues by visiting the city’s new Citizen’s Communications Center on their website at www.cityoflakeforest.com.