Residential sport court plays on, but trustees blow whistle on turf field
A Wilmette family celebrated a partial victory when the Wilmette Village Board advanced a proposal for a multi-sport structure on Tuesday evening.
The family’s original plan, however, included a large turf field, which was removed from the proposal prior to the trustees affirming vote July 26.
“I understand the outdoor recreational oasis you want to create for your family,” Village President Senta Plunkett said to the applicant. “Any of these elements as individuals, I think that’s cool; when I look at everything together, I think wow, that’s not a lot of natural surface left in the yard.”
Emily and Adam Paris own neighboring properties in the 1500 block of Central Avenue. One lot contains their home, while the other is open land. The Parises submitted an application in April to develop a 27-by-57-foot sport court that stretches between the two lots at the rear of the properties and a turf field covering the majority of the vacant space, as well as a fence addition.
Emily Paris told trustees the purpose of the project was to encourage more outdoor play among her children, while building amenities that were favorable to neighbors and the environment.
Paris said her family spoke about their plan with neighbors, multiple of whom wrote letters to Village officials in support of it.
The project’s landscape architect, Gina Giannetti, also showed off a piece of the sport court’s modern surface, which reportedly drains like a natural surface.
The proposal was seeking variances to the Village Code items pertaining to impervious surface area, yard setbacks and fencing regulations.
The Zoning Board of Appeals considered the application on June 1 and unanimously voted to provide a negative recommendation to the Village Board. According to village documents, zoning commissioners found the property owner did not meet the “hardship” standard that necessitates the variance requests.
The board expressed a similar concern and also questioned the removal of so much natural space.
Trustee Kathy Dodd took issue with the appropriateness of such a project, an opinion shared by Peter Barrow.
“Of course we want kids to play outside, but for me, I don’t want mini sports facilities to be added into any of our neighborhoods,” she said. “In my mind, this is a mini sports facility.”
Multiple trustees echoed Plunkett’s thoughts about the project’s removal of too much natural land. Residents are allowed, under proper conditions, to install artificial grass in their back and side yards; however, Plunkett and company felt that along with a sport court and rear deck, the property would have too much unnatural surfaces.
Emily Paris told the board she was comfortable removing the artificial grass component of the project, and the board agreed before voting 6-1 — with Dodd in dissent — to approve the sport court and fencing.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319