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Park board agrees to sell property to Flossmoor for flood control

Homewood-Flossmoor Park District commissioners agreed to sell a Heather Hill site in Flossmoor that has two tennis courts. The land will be used as part of a dry bottom detention basin to relieve flooding in the downtown area.

The flood control project has become controversial in the past several months. Park Board President Brent Bachus reiterated that the park board was not directly involved in the flood control project. The board made a verbal agreement in June 2023 to sell the property to the village. The vote Tuesday, April 16, was 3-0. Commissioners Angie Coderre and Linda Ojobe were absent.

The Flossmoor Road Viaduct Improvements project calls for moving storm water from Sterling Avenue to a detention basin behind Heather Hill Elementary School. The new drainage structure would redirect the flooding through a large-scale storm sewer running south on Lawrence Crescent from Maryland Avenue to the school site. 

The H-F Park District board agrees to sell land on which tennis courts now sit to the Village of Flossmoor, which plans to develop a storm water detention basin on the site. (Chronicle file photo)

Heather Hill neighborhood residents have raised concerns about child safety and cost. At the park board meeting Kate Thierry, a mother of two young children, said, “it scares me to think that we’re going to have a moat around this school.” 

Another resident, who said she’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 35 years, argued for transparency saying elected officials aren’t listening to residents who knew nothing about the plan. The village board first opened discussions about downtown flooding relief in 2020 and has hosted information sessions for residents before trustees approved the land purchase at the village board meeting April 15.

One resident told the park board she’d go door-to-door to ask neighbors to raise their taxes if it would mean a different solution.

The park board agreed to a $425,000 purchase price. The land was valued at $75,000. The remaining $350,000 cost will help the park district pay to construct new tennis courts. The plan is to relocate the tennis courts to Highland Park, but the park district will hold a public meeting before it moves forward, said Doug Boehm, park district executive director.

The Village of Flossmoor has been studying ways to relieve village-wide flooding issues since 2019. It has installed permeable streets and storm sewers on several Heather Hill streets as a first step, and had engineers design several plans to help move water from the downtown viaduct area during torrential rains. 

Flossmoor resident Patrick Keating believed the park land wasn’t necessary because the village had other options for flooding relief. He said one plan to move water to Butterfield Creek is a better option. 

Speaking at the park board meeting, Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson said she wanted to address several incorrect comments. She agreed the Butterfield Creek plan is better than the Heather Hill option, but it’s not doable. It would require an 84-inch pipe down Flossmoor Road, which is not allowed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The largest pipe allowed would be 30- to 36-inches. Even if the size was reduced, Nelson said that project would not receive a permit from IDNR because it likely would raise the creek’s water level and impact neighbors. The $15 million cost was also a factor.

“You look for the best solution, and that doesn’t always work,” Nelson said. That sent the village board back to the drawing board to look for the best possible solution.

Some have characterized the detention basin as a moat, but Nelson said that is incorrect. It will be similar to the one the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed in 2016 to alleviate flooding. It is west of Governors Highway just north of Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

While the Heather Hill basin will be deeper than the one at Leavitt Park, Nelson said the pitch will be the same and not steep enough for children to fall into the basin. At the request of the Heather Hill School PTO, the village will construct an $80,000 wrought iron fence for safety. 

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