Thursday, August 27, 2009

How would you like a new signal tower in your front yard?

Down the Drain in HP was started as blog to address the Master Plan for Storm and Sanitary Sewers and the serious lack of professionalism, consideration and responsiveness from the City Manager and his office, as well as City Council, to residents and their complaints. In a future blog, I will return to the status of the Master Sanitary Sewer Plan, specifically that the City has not taken one step to correct its mistake and to reimburse individual residents for the thousands of dollars they were coerced to pay for that ill-conceived, unnecessary and inequitable plan.

Today, there is another issue of relevance to HP residents, including the Ravinia and Braeside neighborhoods. Here, again, is another instance of residents complaining to the City Manager’s office and being treated with disregard leaving the concerned residents with no choice but to appeal to City Council.

For the last several months, at least since spring, there has been a construction mess at underpass at Cherokee Road, where so many families go to access the Ravinia Festival or Braeside School, or the Green Bay Road Trail. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo right now.) Throughout the spring and summer, there has been standing water to the north and south of the sidewalk as a result of some blockage of water flow. (It looks so bad, even my thirsty dog won't try to drink that water.) There is gravel and other construction material strewn about the area. It has been an eyesore and, most likely, a public health issue for months.

Adair and Harold “Happy” Fell and Tina and Rick Fishhaut live closest to this construction and have also complained to the City Manager about the Northwestern/Metra constructing a large tower at this prominent location. It appears their initial complaints fell on deaf ears, as they needed to escalate this to the City Council. Thanks to the Fells and Fishhauts, nine neighbors went to the last City Hall meeting to share their concerns and appeal for the City to oppose this construction. Turns out there will be a concrete base (in place now) with a metal shed, fencing and a signal pole to be placed on the top in the coming weeks. The concrete base is sitting at the sidewalk level adjacent to the underpass. A wire fence will enclose the upper portion. The shed on top of the base will make the overall structure 15’ high (not including the light pole) and 17’ wide. It will not be missed and, most likely, cannot be hidden by landscaping.

As Adair points out, this will be an eyesore and a potential safety hazard for curious children. It will likely have a negative impact on the neighborhood and property values. Shouldn’t the City Manager’s office have been concerned about this construction even without residents complaining? Isn't this what we expect from the City and its professional management?

Yet, it is apparent from the information distributed by these neighbors that their initial complaints to Mr. Limardi were ignored. Why does it take the mobilization of 9 neighbors to stand before City Council before the City Manager’s office does the right thing for our neighborhoods? Adair advises that Mayor Belsky asked for the Corporation Counsel to research ways to deal with the railroad on the issue. Surely this is not the first time the City of HP has had discussions and negotiations with the railroad. Why don't they just make a call first? The Council asked Mr. Limardi to contact a high level railroad official, and make it clear that this issue is relevant to the Council. Couldn’t Mr. Limardi have done this when the Fells first contacted him? Did he have an opportunity to complain about this construction from the outset? It's my understanding that no construction takes place in this city without first notifying Public Works, even for the railroad easments. Clearly this construction spilled over onto HP property.

According to Adair, Mr. Limardi’s response at the City Hall meeting was that he suggested that since the base for the structure was already in place, the best they might hope for is landscaping. Aren't you underwhelmed at Mr. Limardi’s lack of zealous representation of HP? Does he think a few trees might adequately hide a 15' by 17' structure? Is he not concerned about the children passing through this underpass every day? Perhaps Mr. Limardi could do a better job if he were the one living in this construction mess for months, and if it were his property being devalued by a large signal tower in his front yard. It’s really time for the HP residents to step up and say that it is unacceptable to have a City Manager who doesn’t care about your front yard and your property values. When will City Council act to change this situation and ensure that we have a City Manager who cares about and is responsive to residents?

Let’s thank Adair and Happy, and Tina and Rick, for being vigilant about their neighborhood. If you’d like to learn more about this issue and how you can help, you can contact Adair at Let’s look forward to an appropriate resolution of this matter – preferably a signal tower that is placed in an area that will not be an attractive nuisance to children or an eyesore, and perhaps not in HP at all.

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