A sign on the fence of the tennis courts near Heather Hill School appeals to village officials to save the courts. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Local News

Flossmoor trustees agree to buy land for storm water detention basin

Flossmoor trustees voted on Monday, April 15, to purchase the land and tennis courts there from the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District that will be used to create a storm water detention basin as part of a project designed to reduce flooding downtown and in the Heather Hill neighborhood.

The village will pay the park district $425,000 for the property at 1439 Lawrence Crescent that includes cost of the land and replacing the tennis courts.

Although the project has been in development for about four years, residents of the Heather Hill neighborhood and parents who have children attending Heather Hill School have recently begun opposing the project.

Several spoke out in opposition during the public comment portion of the board meeting. Mayor Michelle Nelson extended the public comment portion of the meeting so everyone who wished to speak could do so.

Barb Karstrom said the project has been referred to as the viaduct drainage project by village officials, so many residents were unaware it involved creating a 12-foot deep basin near the school.

Delores Noble-Knight said it can take only seconds for a child who might be chasing a ball or answering a dare to get over a fence and fall into the basin, where they might be injured or drown.

“It will only take one child who is injured, one child who is dead. And anything that you even hope to gain will be washed away,” she said.

Children play outside Heather Hill School on Monday, April 8. Some parents oppose building a storm water detention basin near the school. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Children play outside Heather Hill School on Monday, April 8. Some parents oppose building a storm water detention basin near the school. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Nancy Rice, a resident who said she had 40 years of experience as an early childhood educator, said the community could not afford to risk the loss of even one child. She suggested the village find a way to use underground storm water storage, even if it is much more expensive. Nelson said later that the cost of underground storage would triple the current estimate of nearly $8 million.

“This is not a real poor community. I bet that everybody in this room would rather raise taxes,” Rice said. “That would be worth more than losing a child.”

Village officials have responded to safety concerns by noting that they agreed to add a fence around the basin to help keep children safe and moved the boundaries of the basin away from the school playground. The current plan places the nearest edge of the basin 55 feet from the playground.

Nelson reiterated at the meeting that the basin will rarely hold water, and even after a big storm, water will drain from the basin in about nine hours.

“There will typically not be water in the basin. Ninety-nine percent of the time the basin will be dry,” she said.

David Linnear, who serves on the Flossmoor School District Board of Education, asked the board to reconsider the plan. He voted against an easement that was approved by the school board on April 8 to enable the development of the basin. A number of residents also spoke out against the plan at the school board meeting.

“We cannot simply dismiss the concerns of the voters of this village,” he said.

In addition to concern about children’s safety, some Heather Hill residents have objected to the removal of tennis courts to make way for the basin.

Signs posted on the tennis court fence in recent days included messages about protecting children and some objecting to the loss of the courts, including “We Love Heather Hill Tennis Courts,” “Keep Our Court,” “This is where Heather Hill neighbors come to play tennis together” and “This is where I learned to play tennis. I still play here today 50 years later. Keep our courts.”

A sign on the fence of the tennis courts near Heather Hill School appeals to village officials to save the courts. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
A sign on the fence of the tennis courts near Heather Hill School appeals to village officials to save the courts. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke said the park district plans to build new courts in Highland Park a few blocks south of the current courts.

The vote was 4 to 3, with the trustees split along racial lines as they were twice in March when voting on matters related to the firing of former Police Chief Jerel Jones. Black trustees Rosalind Mustafa, George Lofton and Joni Bradley-Scott voted against the land purchase. White trustees Gary Daggett, Brian Driscoll and Jim Mitros voted in favor. Nelson, who is white, voted in favor to break the tie. 

During board discussion prior to voting, Daggett asked about the projected timeline for construction. Brunke said the plan is to start about June 5 and end by Aug. 15 to avoid having heavy machinery at the site while school is in session. The only thing left to do in September will be landscaping, he said.

The basin is the first phase of a project that will include improving drainage at the viaduct on Flossmoor Road and running a new storm sewer line from the viaduct to the basin. Brunke estimated the whole project would be done by fall 2025.

Related stories:

D161 board approves controversial storm water detention basin easement (April 8, 2024).
D161 board vote will decide the fate of Flossmoor drainage plan (March 22, 2024).
D161 board, residents question village detention basin proposal (Feb. 21, 2024).
Open house offers residents closer look at drainage plan (Jan. 27, 2024).
Letter: Flossmoor resident urges consideration of flooding relief project costs (Jan. 17, 2024).
Flossmoor Public Works to host information events on downtown viaduct drainage, Brookwood Bridge/Butterfield Culvert projects (Jan. 16, 2024).
Flossmoor Road viaduct drainage improvements project gains traction (Aug. 19, 2023).
Flossmoor asks parks for land for flooding project (June 26, 2023).
Resident raises concerns about safety, cost of Flossmoor viaduct project (June 10, 2023).
Flossmoor Road flood reduction plan discussed at D161 board meeting (May 24, 2023).
Flossmoor Road Viaduct Improvements Project proposes second phase of flood mitigation plan (May 21, 2023).
Village officials, residents, public works all excited about Flossmoor’s Berry Lane work (Jan. 19, 2023).
Groundbreaking celebrates start of Flossmoor’s Berry Lane Drainage Improvement construction (May 7, 2022).
Flossmoor officials debate approach, cost of viaduct flood mitigation (Feb. 10, 2021).
Viaduct study to examine how to solve Flossmoor’s flooding problem (June 20, 2020).
Friday’s superstorm: Flooded viaducts, water rescues and a rampaging Butterfield Creek (Oct. 3, 2019).

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