While no official decision has been made regarding an appeal from a group of Flossmoor residents who wish to see above-ground pools allowed in the village, a resident and several elected officials voiced concerns this week over the idea of changing the village code that prohibits them.
Rebecca Strupeck, of Flossmoor, told the board Monday, March 21, that she thinks allowing more pools in the community could lead to a “negative outcome.” She shared what she called “disturbing information about pool safety” with the village board along with 80 signatures of residents opposing changing the village code that would allow for above-ground pools.
“Honestly, we did not work very hard to get 80 signatures,” Strupeck said. “We could have gone on and on and on.”
In addition to safety, Strupeck raised concerns about the aesthetics, responsibility issues for the village, flooding concerns on neighboring properties and noise, while reading comments submitted by others.
“None of us have any problems with having children playing in a pool on a hot summer day, but at what point does this impact neighbors who are enjoying a quiet afternoon?” Strupeck said.
Jenny Curtis, the Flossmoor resident who brought the petition to the board at its March 7 meeting, said she now has 134 signatures in support of the pools. Curtis reiterated what they see as the benefits of changing village code to allow for above-ground pools: no tax increases for the owners of above-ground pools, cost efficiency, increased safety of pools higher off the ground, avoidance of crowds in public spaces, increased physical activity and an outlet for improved mental health.
“To afford members of the community the option I think would actually enhance the attractiveness of Flossmoor to people coming in as well as many of the families that you now have here that have younger kids and teenagers,” Curtis said.
Curtis noted at the prior meeting that her family moved to Flossmoor 18 months ago not realizing there were restrictions against above-ground pools in the village. She said there are “quite a few families” within the community and would-be residents of Flossmoor who would like to see that change.
She cited other communities that allow for above-ground pools as examples of how she thinks Flossmoor could do it well.
Village Manager Bridget Wachtel noted in a report to the board that above-ground pools have been prohibited in Flossmoor since at least 1981. Ballantrae and Madison Meadows homeowners associations also prohibit them, and those covenants would stand regardless of any changes to Flossmoor code. But the village has received more requests to consider changing that ordinance since pandemic shutdowns went into effect in March 2020.
Wachtel said the board could modify its existing building code from 18-inch pool height to 24-inch pool height, which would allow for kiddie pools and lounge-like pools; permit temporary pools; permit above-ground pools with decking, facade or landscaping the board and community feel are appropriate; permit above-ground pools as a special use, as the board currently does with in-ground pools; place an advisory referendum on a future ballot to gauge wider public opinion; or leave the regulations as is.
Mayor Michelle Nelson said allowing above-ground pools would be a “significant change,” noting that Flossmoor tends to favor open spaces but more fencing would be required if the code changes.
She asked the board, if its members were interested in changing the ordinance, to consider safety and aesthetics to minimize the impact it would have on neighbors. She added that she has talked to people both for and against it.
“Those against seem to be concerned mostly with aesthetics,” Nelson said. “Those for above-ground pools want to be able to use their backyards to the fullest potential.”
Trustee Brian Driscoll said he has concerns about moving forward with any changes, noting it would take an overwhelming interest from Flossmoor residents and some convincing that it would not impact the community negatively to change his mind on the current restrictions.
“I did not run into a lot of pro-pool people,” Driscoll said. “People contacted me who were extremely anti-pool.”
Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott said with the village unsure just how many people would want to install above-ground pools, it is hard to know whether or not they could become a strain on village resources. Bradley-Scott said she was also hesitant to make a decision quickly.
“I would hate to miss this opportunity if it’s something we would like to do; however, I don’t know that we have enough information right now to do it,” she said. “I think we need to plan a little bit more, talk a little bit more, find out a little bit more.”
Wachtel noted if the village opted to make each pool subject to review, “it could be burdensome for the Plan Commission.” Building and Zoning Administrator Scott Bugner added that code enforcement would require more manpower, and a special use permit process would create more work, though just how much is unknown.
Trustee James Mitros said he is concerned about losing the open space, staff time required to manage above-ground pools as well as safety. He said he would never forgive himself if one extra person were hurt because the board allowed for more pools in town.
“I don’t have to see what anyone else is doing,” Mitros said. “I know one thing is I will never vote for them.”
Trustee George Lofton on March 7 said he was willing to entertain further discussion because he thought people deserve to enjoy their properties in the limited window of warmth the area gets. But he changed his mind after talking to roughly 20 neighbors.
“They were very much against it,” he said.
Trustee Gary Daggett said he would be in favor of trustees seeing if it is possible to solve for the issues people have with above-ground pools to see if the board could approve them in a manner that would have the “least impact” on the village. He added that he thought it would be a disservice to residents to not put in that work before making a decision. But Mitros said the board heard from both sides and did research, and it is the role of trustees to make a call. He said he would welcome a vote on the issue soon.
“It’s never good to beat a dead horse,” he said.
Wachtel told the board that drafting a new ordinance by the next meeting for a vote was likely not feasible but staff can work on something for a future meeting. Her report notes Flossmoor appears to be “in the minority” when it comes to its above-ground pool restrictions.