Park Ridge voters to decide Youth Campus purchase
A rendering of plans for the Park Ridge Youth Campus if voters approve a Park Ridge Park District referendum on April 9.
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:19AM
PARK RIDGE — It’s official — voters will be weighing in on whether the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District should acquire the former Park Ridge Youth Campus site for new recreational activities.
The Park Board of Commissioners tonight (Jan. 17) voted 5-1 to place a referendum on the April 9 ballot asking voters if the Park District should issue $13.2 million in bonds to purchase the 11-acre site at 733 N. Prospect Ave., demolish several buildings and add new amenities.
If approved, property taxes will be increased to pay back the bonds, resulting in an additional $72 annually for the owner of an “average” Park Ridge home with a value of $458,000, according to calculations provided by the Park District.
If the referendum is successful, plans for the Youth Campus call for the creation of a sports field along the eastern portion of the property, a walking trail around the site, an outdoor performing arts area, two paddle tennis courts, a spray pad, playground, open fields, picnic area, an open area for winter ice skating, parking lots and park shelters.
Plans also call for maintaining two existing buildings on the Youth Campus — Wohlers Hall and Haake House — and leasing Solomon Cottage to the Park Ridge Historical Society.
“This is precisely the kind of question that needs to go to the voters,” said Park Board President Rick Biagi in expressing his support to place the referendum on the April 9 ballot.
But Commissioner Stephen Vile had a different view. He cast the only “no” vote, saying he was doing so on behalf of the city’s older citizens.
“The group of people I probably talk to the most — the senior community of Park Ridge — is really a segment of the population that is very much not in favor of doing this,” Vile said of the Youth Campus plan. “I think the reasons are obvious. They are all on fixed incomes and they are concerned their taxes are going up.”
Commissioner Mary Wynn Ryan said there are over 8,000 seniors living in Park Ridge and she did not believe all share the same view.
“I don’t think we can say we should keep this (referendum) from the public because a handful of people said they don’t like the idea,” she said.
Commissioner Mel Thillens and Richard Brandt said whether the Park District purchases the Youth Campus should be up to the citizens themselves.
“I think empowering the citizenry to make that decision is important,” Thillens said. “To not even ask the question is irresponsible.”
Commissioner Jim O’Brien was absent from the meeting.
Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said an agreement is being drawn up between the Park District and the Park Ridge Historical Society for the society’s use of Solomon Cottage if the referendum is approved.
Paul Adlaf of the Historical Society said the group hopes to lease the building at a “nominal” amount for a period of 50 years. Creating a history center inside the 105-year-old cottage has been a goal of the Historical Society.