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Flossmoor officials say village emergency vehicles – ambulances, fire trucks and police cars – have a difficult time getting out of the 38-year-old municipal complex.

Large firefighting rigs, when returning to the station, must make a sharp left turn off Berry Lane just a few feet south of Flossmoor Road.

Police have only one way in and out of the municipal complex at 2800 Flossmoor Road.  Officers must enter and exit the municipal lot just east of the village hall.

Village board members this week approved a zoning change that police and fire officials hope eventually leads to more room for getting in and out of the municipal complex. Following the board vote, the empty lot at 1117 Berry, formerly residential property, is now zoned for public use. Flossmoor officials hope to convert the property into more parking and also provide additional space for emergency vehicles to enter and exit the police and fire stations.

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Flossmoor purchased the house on that site, last known as the Village Artist studio, in 2010.  The structure was later demolished. Since purchasing the property, village officials have said they wish to use it for parking and access to the police and fire stations.

The zoning change was recommended by the plan commission, which conducted a hearing on the matter in July.

At Monday’s village board meeting, two residents who live in houses on Flossmoor Road just west of Berry objected to the new zoning.

Randy Schmidt made it clear that he does not want police or fire officials to have a hard time getting out of their respective stations. He said, however, that he has never seen emergency vehicles encounter difficulties in leaving the village complex. He fears that building a new entrance on the former residential lot will create a hardship for his family and neighbors and possibly affect property values. He has asked the village to make the lot available for residential development.

James Mooney, who lives next door to Schmidt, said he has surveyed the current parking situation at village hall and found the existing lot to be severely underused. He counted 53 spaces and said it is common for only about a dozen cars to be parked in the lot.

The two neighbors also objected to the rezoning before the plan commission.

“This isn’t about parking,” said Trustee James Mitros. “It’s about public safety. It’s about ingress and egress for the police and fire departments, and about the best way to send ambulances, fire trucks and police cars on their calls.”

Trustee Philip Minga, himself a fire department captain and paramedic, said the village hall parking lots are very crowded on days when municipal court is in session, and also when training is taking place at the firehouse. It is already difficult to pull large fire trucks onto Flossmoor Road, which he said “can be a parking lot,” especially at school dismissal times.

Fire Chief Chris Sewell said there have been numerous “near misses” when fire trucks head back in the station, and some instances when cars have rammed into the back of rigs that are turning left off Berry.

Sewell and Police Chief Michael Pulec wrote memos to the village board supporting the zoning change and proposed parking and driveway projects.

The plan commission zoning recommendation came with a stipulation that the new parking areas at 1117 Berry be screened with bushes so that the additional concrete is not an eyesore for neighbors. On Monday, trustees agreed that it would be best to wait on the screening until the new parking and driveway are built.

Currently, no plans have been drawn for the improvement; the project is budgeted to begin next year. When it is completed, police and fire officials say they will have more ways in and out of the village complex, and will be better able to provide emergency services to Flossmoor residents.

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