Kenilworth, News

A referendum for Kenilworth beach project? It may be up to the Village Board in December

Four options for beachfront and water plant improvement range from $1.5 million to $10 million

With four possible water plant and beach design and upgrade options — and their potential costs — now in hand, Kenilworth Village Board members may decide Dec. 11 whether they want to help pay for two of the more expensive options with a bond referendum on the March 2024 primary ballot. 

Such a decision, which could allow for a September 2024 construction start, has to be made by Jan. 2, Cook County’s deadline for putting referendums on the ballot, Village Manager Patrick Brennan told a small audience at a Nov. 30 information session held at the Kenilworth Assembly Hall. 

The range of potential project scopes presented at that session range from minimal upgrades that could cost about $700,000 and be paid for with existing village funds, to a major revamp of the former plant and its beach facilities that could cost about $8.5 million and require a $5 million bond issuance.

Shoreline protection plans for the existing beach areas could cost $1.5-$1.9 million. Since the village has determined it must take on that work no matter which plan is chosen, that would add to each option’s cost; for instance, it would bring the total cost of the largest option to $10 million or more.  

“Funding is a big issue, but understanding the choices we make drives the funding,” Brennan said.

Brennan and Andy Tinucci — of Tinucci Woodhouse Architects, chosen in 2022 by the board to create beach and building improvements — walked the audience through all four project scopes, labeled minimal, moderate, moderate-plus and full, as well as payment strategies for each. 

Brennan urged audience members and other Kenilworth residents to take an online survey, which should be available by Dec. 4 to give the Village Board one last tranche of resident input by its Dec. 11 meeting.

A concept for the Kenilworth beachfront includes multiple lookout points and access points near the decommissioned water plant. | IMAGE BY WOODHOUSE TINUCCI ARCHITECTS

Both the survey and a video of the Nov. 30 presentation should be available on the village’s website on Monday, Dec. 4, Brennan said. A special newsletter with the same materials will also be sent out, he said. The website already includes a timeline of Kenilworth officials’ consideration of beach upgrades, plus videos of previous public sessions, held in February and May of this year.

Tinucci emphasized that actual designs must await a village decision on which of the four scopes to go with. As presented, they are as follows: 

• The minimal plan “is almost to do nothing,” Tinucci said. It would maintain existing amenities, but offer only surface improvements to existing washrooms. Residents who replied to previous input requests said improving or replacing washrooms were a high priority for them. The rest of the building would be shut off, and access to the beach — another high priority issue with residents — would stay the same, including elevators that aren’t always accessible. It could be paid for from the village’s current fund balances. 

• The moderate plan could cost about $3.3 million and would place new staff facilities and restroom facilities closer to the beach. A new access ramp would make it easier to reach the beach, and landscaping could “soften” the beach facility’s overall look, Tinucci said. The rest of the building would still be decommissioned, he said, but would still cost the village for necessary maintenance. This scope could still be paid with village funds, but much of what might be done under this scope might end up being wasted, if the village decides in the future to go with a more ambitious plan.

The “moderate plus” level of work would include everything involved in the moderate scope, plus adding a new multi-purpose room in the building and fully renovating the second floor, while closing off the first floor. It could cost $5.05 million and would be the first option level to require going outside village funds for $2.5 million of the required dollars, Brennan said. That could be done via a bond issuance, but it also could be tackled with a fundraising campaign, he said. The board would have to decide if such a campaign was realistic, he added.

• Like that level, the final level, listed as “Full,” would use $3.4 million from village balances and need a $5 million bond issue to pay for the rest. According to Tinucci and Brennan, it would include the new multi-purpose space and the renovated second floor, plus a fully renovated lower level with new concessions, storage lockers and recreation spaces. Work on the beach north of the building, which wasn’t addressed in previous scope levels, would allow the Kenilworth Sailing Club to move its boat storage inside the building. 

The few questions from audience members at the Nov. 30 information session focused largely on costs and how they would be met. One listener wondered if plans for a large ramp to allow for easier beach access would add too much concrete to the location, and another audience member worried about how safe a renovated north end beach would be for children who might swim there without benefit of lifeguards. 

At the session, Brennan said he would probably present the board with potential referendum language when they meet on Dec. 11. That would allow Kenilworth to get a referendum onto next March’s ballot. 

The board could theoretically choose to put a referendum onto the November 2024 ballot, if they decide to go for a later construction start, he said on Dec. 1. And while the village has put in for possible federal grant funds, it doesn’t know when it will get an answer on that, he said.

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Kathy Routliffe

Kathy Routliffe reported in Chicago's near and North Shore suburbs (including Wilmette) for more than 35 years, covering municipal and education beats. Her work, including feature writing, has won local and national awards. She is a native of Nova Scotia, Canada.

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