Kenilworth voters will play a major role in the future of the village’s beachfront.
The Kenilworth Village Board decided on Dec. 11 to add a referendum to the spring ballot requesting permission to borrow up to $2.5 million for lakeside improvements.
The Village estimates the borrowing would add $126 annually to the property tax bill of a Kenilworth home valued at $1 million. The next election is March 19, when Kenilworth residents will see the referendum question on their ballots.
The decision is a major milestone in ongoing plans to fortify the beach and reimagine the town’s decommissioned water plant. The Village previously separated the beach safety and protection work from the other renovations, and Village officials and consultants presented four renovation and pricing options on Nov. 30. Less than two weeks later, trustees made the call to move forward with a referendum that could help fund the two highest-cost options.
The Village is set on contributing $3.3 million from its reserves to the project, a number that could fund improved accessibility to the beach, restrooms and landscaping, but would leave much of the water plant as is. The next level would need an approved referendum and the top level would also need another funding source, such as a fundraising campaign.
The second-highest level (projected cost: $5.05 million) features improvements that would include a multi-purpose room and renovated second floor in the water plant. And the top level ($8.4 million) would include features from the other plans plus a renovated first floor of the water plant with new concessions, storage lockers and recreation spaces. This option would also allow storage for the Kenilworth Sailing Club and in turn, improvements to the north beach.
The Village’s Board’s decision Dec. 11 was significantly informed by early results of a communitywide survey — which residents can continue to fill out online — on the beachfront plans. Trustees were presented with the results, which showed that a vast majority of respondents (179 on Dec. 11 and 207 as of Dec. 18) considered the project important to the Village — 53 percent marked “extremely important” and another 26 percent “very important.”
“For as long as I’ve been on the board, (the beachfront) has been a topic of conversion at the board level and as a resident been a topic of conversation since I lived here,” Village President Cecily Kaz said. “We have a very unique building sitting down on that beautiful site that’s not just underutilized but is not the right fit for the needs of community at this time.
“I’ve always heard from the community, ‘Let’s do something down there.'”
A majority of respondents (55%) wanted the Village to pursue the most elaborate option, while another 13 percent preferred the second highest option.
To fund the top two levels, Village staff recommended a bond issuance of at least $2.5 million, which needs voter approval; a fundraising campaign to raise at least $2.5 million; or a combination of the two. The combination option garnered the top survey response at 32 percent, while 29 percent voted for just private donations and 16 percent for just a property tax increase. Fifteen percent of respondents asked the Village to use hold off on the project until it has “adequate funds in hand.”
More than 60 percent of survey respondents said that they would support a property tax increase at the level the Village is proposing, while 24 percent said they would not and 13 percent wanted more information.
Kaz said the Village Board hoped a referendum could fund at least the second-highest level of improvements, but the highest level is not off the table; it would just need a complementary fundraising campaign. Details on any potential fundraising would need to be developed, but Kaz said the Village would start with a fundraising committee.
Kaz said the Village is already planning information sessions and community outreach to communicate the referendum with residents in the first quarter of 2024. She hopes more information will be provided at the Village Board’s January meeting.
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