Winnetka, News

Village asks park district for more info on Elder-Centennial plans

(Editor’s Note: Some content, including the headline, in this article was updated to better reflect the nature of the information exchange between the Village of Winnetka and Winnetka Park District. The park district does not have to resubmit its entire application.)

The long process of getting Elder and Centennial beaches refurbished continues after the Village of Winnetka requested clarifications and further information related to the park district’s permit application.

Director of Parks and Maintenance Costa Kutulas provided the Winnetka Park Board an update on the permits and the project timeline at its regular meeting Thursday, May 23.

The beachfront-improvement plans were submitted to the Village of Winnetka on April 3. The park district is seeking a permit to allow for the renovated swimming beach and new viewing pier, breakwaters, boardwalk, landscaping and off-leash dog park, among other features.

Kutlas told commissioners that the Village requested more information on April 22.

“The information we submitted (on April 3) was whole, to the best of our knowledge, based on the current reviews of all the new ordinances and everything else that had been put in place between lakefront construction, steep slope, and so forth,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Winnetka Village Council approved new guidelines for lakefront construction.

“We’re the beta test for this,” Board President Christina Codo said regarding the new rules.

“We kind of are the beta test, especially for a public entity,” Kutlas replied.

Since receiving the Village’s request, Kutulas said park district staff have been working with the consultants on the project to answer all the Village’s questions.

“There was some back and forth to make sure that we address the steep slope ordinance correctly and identify between simple slopes and compound slopes,” he said. “It was a little bit hard to understand at first, but then working with Village staff to better explain and understand that, I think we were in a good position.”

Kutulas said the goal was to have the revised permit submitted by Friday, May 24.

Once the plans are resubmitted, Kutlas said the Village will review them again and have a chance to ask more follow-up questions.

If there are no more questions, he said the permit will be placed on the Village’s public-review schedule. Specifically, the park district will need to appear in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Plan Commission and the Design Review Board. After that, the park district will make its case to the Village Council, which will hold two votes on the application.

Commissioner Cynthia Rapp asked Kutulas if it matters which order the park district will have to follow when it appears in front of commissions.

“Does it have to be in this specific sequence or it just kind of depends on when the permit’s ready and then which board is meeting when?” she asked.

Kutulas said as long as the three appearances are done prior to going to the Village Council, the order doesn’t matter.

“It’s been suggested that it might be beneficial to go to zoning and then planning, but we’ll see what the schedule allows and what the Village ultimately schedules us for,” he said.

In response to a question from Commissioner Colleen Root as to when he expects to appear in front of the ZBA, Kutulas said he’s “hopeful” it will be in July, but it could be in June.

“Until the Village reviews our comments back, we won’t know that definitively,” he said.

Executive Director Shannon Nazzal said that, while the permit application needed updating, she doesn’t believe there will be a delay.

“When we got the comments back, we started working on the responses to those as fast as possible, making sure that the consultants have the information that they needed and we were able to get that information put together,” she said. “I don’t think that, at this point, it’s a delay on either organization.”

Kutulas said, while there’s still work ahead, staff and consultants have been working together to make sure everything is ready.

“But we’re excited that we’re moving onto the next leg,” he said. “And hopefully we’ll get some understanding as far as direction to be able to move forward with an actual permit submittal to state and federal regulating bodies of the (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) and the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers for Centennial.”

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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