Kenilworth, News

Drainage chamber under development site has Kenilworth, MWRD working out a deal

Drainage equipment buried underneath property that the Village of Kenilworth hopes to develop could be removed if the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is on board.

An intergovernmental agreement was unanimously approved by Kenilworth trustees during a 40-minute special board meeting on Tuesday, July 2. They also approved an engineering agreement with Ciorba Group, of Chicago, for services related to the potential removal.

The Village has been looking to develop a vacant parcel of land at 604 Green Bay Road for several years. Earlier this year, the land was sold to Daniel and John Michael, with Arya Capital. Reportedly, the developers are considering creating retail space and residential units on the land.

But about 30 feet underneath the property is a “drop chamber,” which is the bottom of a manhole shaft.

The MWRD, whose responsibilities include stormwater management and water treatment, sent an agreement to the Village where they asked that the drop chamber be abandoned.

Interim Village Manager Dawn Wucki-Rossbach, however, said the Village would rather see the drop chamber removed and replaced.

Because the MWRD and Village have different ideas of what they want to do with the equipment, Wucki-Rossbach said they need to negotiate.

She said that if the MWRD agrees to let the Kenilworth remove the drop chamber, the Village would be responsible for the entire cost of the work, plus any long-term maintenance costs.

“And I know Don (Leicht, public works superintendent) even confirmed that, even with the existing drop chamber that’s there, very little maintenance has been done to the drop chamber,” Wucki-Rossbach said. “So, they don’t figure it’s going to be costing us anything long-term that was going to be hurtful to the Village budget.”

When asked by trustees why the Village is seeking removal instead of abandonment, Wucki-Rossbach said the drop chamber is located in the area where construction is likely to take place.

“And if (MWRD) go put anything into the ground, it’s likely that we may hit it,” she said.

Village President Cecily Kaz added that if it is abandoned instead of removed, “there will need to be an easement provided to MWRD in perpetuity as long as that chamber exists on the portion of the site that is trying to be built out.”

Most of the discussion centered on potential costs of relocating the drop chamber and whether it would be a better option to just abandon it.

Trustee Christopher Ottsen suggested that the Village abandon the structure and “advise the property owners that they have an … abandoned structure 30 feet underground” and letting them know of its exact location.

Trustee Walter Kelly said that the cost of a potential removal was one of his concerns, but he also wondered what keeping the drop chamber would do to the property.

“Does it diminish their ability to build what they have in mind?” he asked. “I don’t know enough to say how far they’d have to go underground. It’s not like they’re putting up the Sears Tower and they need to go 20 stories beneath into the sand.”

Kaz clarified that while the Village would like the option of removing the drop chamber, approving the IGA wouldn’t commit them to it.

“I think what would be helpful is to go into this knowing that we have the option to either abandon and leave in place or, once we understand more what is being proposed to be developed, remove it as needed,” she said.

Kaz later said that they have time since the closing date on the property isn’t until Feb. 24, 2025, with Wucki-Rossbach adding that no official development plans have been submitted yet.

“We will be learning more over the next few months,” Kaz said, which could help the Village in deciding what will ultimately be done with the drop chamber.

The MWRD will have its next board meeting on July 11, where it is expected to discuss Kenilworth’s proposed IGA. Wucki-Rossbach will report back to the Village Board at its regular meeting on July 15 on any action taken by the MWRD.

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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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