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Flossmoor asks parks for land for flooding project

Village of Flossmoor officials made an appeal to purchase Homewood-Flossmoor Park District land on Lawrence Crescent that has two tennis courts. The site could be converted to a detention basin that ultimately would relieve flooding at the Flossmoor Road viaduct downtown.

Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said making the request “was not a light decision” but one the village sees as a need to bring about a viable plan to help alleviate the ongoing flooding. She said it’s necessary “for the vitality of the village” and the safety of residents who are cut off from municipal services when the viaduct isn’t passable. 

Park commissioners said they understand the need for the project, and agreed to work collaboratively with the village.

The Lawrence Crescent tennis courts could be sacrificed in order to allow the village of Flossmoor to
build a stormwater detention basin on the site to relieve downtown flooding. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Parks Executive Director Debbie Kopas said commissioners shouldn’t consider it as losing something but rather getting the option for something new in return.

The park district’s tennis courts and playground are adjacent to Heather Hill School. The village earlier outlined its plans to the District 161 school board.

At the start of the June 20 meeting, resident John Yast addressed the park board asking that commissioners make a decision that would “save them (the village) from themselves.”  He previously brought his concerns to the village board earlier in June.

Yast believes the village’s solution to running the water from the viaduct down Sterling Avenue to Lawrence Crescent and the detention basin is too costly. It is estimated at $7.8 million. The village has about half of the money and is searching out additional grants. The village would sell bonds to cover the remaining cost.

The project is Phase 2 of a flooding relief plan for Flossmoor. Phase I was making improvements by enlarging the sewers and installing permeable street pavers in the area around Berry Lane.

Yast doesn’t believe Flossmoor would experience a flood as severe as it had in 2019 when 170 property owners incurred an estimated $600,000 in damage to both personal property and businesses in downtown Flossmoor. John Brunke, Flossmoor’s director of Public Works, estimated the severe flooding in 2019 was judged to be about a 75-year flood. 

Yast said the viaduct has become unpassable only a handful of times in the last two decades, with the September 2019 flash flood causing the most damage. 

Park commissioners listened and asked questions as a the village team outlined how the proposed detention pond would hold water redirected through a new and much larger sewer line down Sterling jogging to Lawrence Crescent, which runs in front of the school.

The drainage structure would redirect the stormwater from the viaduct downstream away from downtown Flossmoor and would offer a protection plan against a 10-year rain event for the viaduct. While the village aimed for a 100-year protection plan, it was not feasible due to cost and lack of land space. 

It is expected the detention basin will hold water for a maximum of nine hours, but it is not meant to be continuously wet like the village-owned retention pond in the Heather Hill neighborhood.

Brunke said the village has been studying its options for years and this is the best plan. The village already is using Leavitt Park for storm runoff from the old Flossmoor neighborhood. One plan considered putting in an underground concrete vault in Flossmoor Park for retention, but Brunke said it is cost prohibitive. Another option was taking the south commuter lot, but that property is higher than the viaduct.

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