Two weeks after Wilmette’s village board started its 2024 slate of work with an hours-long meeting that featured a contentious development proposal, trustees breezed through the regular business of their second session of the year seemingly faster than the blink of an eye.
Although the board wrapped up the public-facing proceedings of its Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting in under 10 minutes (the meeting included a lengthy executive session in which deliberations were closed to the public), trustees still took action to finalize provisions related to a well-debated special-use application it granted in late 2023.
Trustees voted unanimously at the Jan. 23 meeting to approve an ordinance amending fines for parking violations for specific locations within the village. The board’s adoption comes on the heels of its decision to approve a request from Loyola Academy that will allow the private high school to install and operate permanent outdoor lights at its athletic stadium on the northeast corner of Lake and Laramie avenues.
As previously reported by The Record, trustees voted 6-1 in late November to approve Loyola’s plans to install four 80-foot light poles, two on each side of Hoerster Field, at Sachs Stadium on its Wilmette campus.
Over the course of multiple public meetings, many residents of the neighborhood near Loyola expressed their opposition of the school’s plans, arguing it would create additional noise and impact safety around the area. But perhaps the most adamant concern raised by locals throughout the process related to parking and traffic management.
A key point of contention raised by residents throughout public deliberations was already frequent and ongoing parking violations during the school pick-up process.
According to a memo from Village Manager Mike Braiman, village staff analyzed the pick-up process at Loyola during December and confirmed “such violations were routinely recurring.”
Officials noticed the majority of violations resulted from cars waiting to pick up students after Loyola Academy’s dismissal, the memo says.
An approved traffic management plan was part of trustees’ acceptance of Loyola’s special-use request. That plan stated cars should wait in the designated line that moves from Laramie Avenue into the Loyola parking lot and exits back out onto Laramie during the pick-up process.
Village officials said that violations were mainly occurring in the neighborhood directly west of Loyola, which includes east of Manor Drive, west of Laramie, south of Illinois Road and north of Lake Avenue, according to the memo.
Wilmette officials counted upward of 40 violations of the traffic management plan over an eight-day span in December, according to Braiman, who also noted that “the number of observed violations reduced over the course of the month as Village Staff worked with Loyola to discourage such activity.”
With the hope of discouraging similar violations in the future, trustees approved a minimum fine increase from $40 to $100 in the neighborhood immediately west of Loyola at the Jan. 23 meeting. Village staff also recently installed “no stopping/no standing signs.”
“Based on the feedback we heard during the special-use process from residents and ongoing email communications, we understand that there are still some problems and concerns with traffic management related to school pickup,” Braiman said during the Village Board’s Jan. 9 meeting.
Braiman added that village officials hope the signs and fines will have a similar positive effect as they did on the area near Gillson Beach.
“In general, with the parking and traffic management, our police department and our public works department have a lot of experience managing football games and with our experience at Northwestern we are confident we can properly manage this and the extra fines will help with the school pickup,” Braiman said.
Two residents who live nearby Loyola Academy addressed the board during its Jan. 9 meeting to plead for tighter and tougher traffic management and parking regulations in the area.
Lynn Wilk, who lives on nearby New Trier Court, called the level of fines and traffic management plan “inadequate.” She also protested that the streets north of Illinois Road should be designated as resident-only parking while critiquing the “lack of specificity” in the ordinance granting Loyola approval.
Josh Wechsler, who lives on Riverside, urged the board to “protect” his street.
“What legacy do you want to leave here — do you want the legacy of someone getting injured in a mistake that was made in not writing an ordinance that thoroughly took care of our neighborhood or do you want the legacy of protecting our streets that is so vital with our tax-paying, unified-thinking community of west Wilmette,” he said.
Braiman responded to residents’ concerns at the Jan. 9 meeting, clarifying that the ordinance does not restrict parking on any street. He did note that parking is currently restricted on the streets west of Loyola through a separate process that was put into action by the village’s transportation commission.
“The village staff does have the ability to install temporary parking restrictions on other streets like the ones north of the neighborhood we’ve discussed tonight on certain events like we do for Northwestern football or basketball games,” he said. “That is certainly something we can do and work with the neighbors and our engineering department and police department to determine if that is appropriate before the first football game.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.