League Observer: Trudy Gibbs
Present: Trustees Kathy Dodd, Joel Kurzman, Stephen Leonard, Senta Plunkett, Daniel Sullivan, Julie Wolf and President Bob Bielinski
Preceding the Village Board meeting, (26) 8th grade students from our LWV-W League of Student and Government Leaders program were paired with six Village Board members and five village administrators. The session helped students prepare for their roles in two mock board meetings in mid-March. The League is grateful to our elected officials, administrators and Wilmette Junior High School staff for the generous time spent with the students. The students stayed to observe the first hour of the Village Board meeting.
Topics Not Discussed
The majority of the issues before the board for the February 13th meeting were approved by consent agreement. Although the board and those attending the meeting had the right to remove any of the items for discussion, none were removed. Prior to the meeting, more than 200 pages of information about the items on the consent agenda were available for review in the online Village Board meeting packet.
The single item that was discussed involved a complex zoning issue. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) had denied the applicant’s request. Their submission of the case to the Village Board was in hopes of obtaining an override of the ZBA ruling. At issue was a request to allow the retention of 1) an air-conditioning unit in the applicant's side yard, 3 feet from the property line and 2) a grill island and pergola in their backyard.
The complexities of the case resulted in over 90 minutes of discussion because: 1) all the items in question were non-conforming to Village code, 2) some of the work had proceeded without permits and penalties were involved, 3) the construction had taken place over a span of six years, and 4) the applicants were new to Wilmette and first-time homeowners at the time when much of the work had been completed.
Further complicating the case, the contractors who did the work should have known permits were needed and about the Wilmette zoning codes. Moreover, the construction was bothersome to a next-door neighbor.
The Village Trustees were divided between those who felt the applicants had not intentionally avoided permits and conformances and those who felt the law is the law and needed to be respected. They wrestled with their sympathy toward the owners mistaken understandings, the rights of the next-door neighbor and the rule of law. On the advice of the village attorney, the case was remanded to the ZBA for a fresh look because the case involved legal issues that could not be dismissed by the board.
Innovative Programs Introduced for Managing Zoning Issues
John Adler, the Village Community Development Director, explained how two recently introduced administrative practices have improved the processing of zoning cases.
The Village Board has asked Director Adler to give a brief overview of zoning cases prior to any discussion and to specifically lay out the issues that the Village Trustees are to address. This opening perspective helps orient the boundaries of the case for the Village Trustees, applicants and those in the audience. The intent is to provide a framework for the applicant’s presentation and a focus for the trustee’s discussions, thus shortening the time spent.
Director Adler also explained the Wilmette Zoning Board of Appeal’s Administrative Review process. Under the Administrative Review regulations, minor zoning disputes can be processed by the Community Development Department staff. For those applicants who qualify, the option has reduced the number of cases that need to be handled by the ZBA. The Administrative Review process also serves to reduce construction delays for residents. For more information about the qualifications for using Administrative Review, see pages 80-84 in the Zoning Ordinance posted on the village website.
Prior to the regular Board meeting, there was a chance to view the potential rainwater containment plans that the Board is considering. Residents had a chance to look at the drawings and give feedback to the Board. That meeting ended at 7:35.
The regular Board meeting began at 7:55. All Board members were present. President Bielinski thanked residents who were tuned into the meeting as well as those in the audience.
Allyson Haut, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Wilmette announced that Rebecca Boyd, a member of the Wilmette LWV had been selected by the LWV of the United States as an observer to attend the 23 rd U.N. Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany. At that conference it was agreed that for the preservation of the earth, climate change needed to be addressed by local governments to safeguard public health.
Rebecca Boyd, LWV, who had been to the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, thanked Trustee Wolf and Trustee Plunkett for attending the North American Climate Summit in Chicago the prior week. The Paris agreement charged local governments to implement plans to address climate change. She believes there is momentum in Wilmette for helping address climate change here.
The League of Women Voters of Wilmette announced they were pleased that two Wilmette Village Board members attended the North American Climate Summit in Chicago the previous week.
Kate Gjaja LWV, spoke about the League’s commitment to the minimum wage in Wilmette and that the League supports the working group that has been formed to study the issue
Trustee Leonard requested that that the adoption of the ordinance amending the Village code for signage at West Lake Plaza be omitted from the consent agenda. It was removed. The Board then adopted the Consent Agenda.
Trustee Wolf spoke about her experience at the Climate Summit. She talked about new ways of tech monitoring of climate change and its effects. She thought it would be beneficial for the Wilmette Village to sign the Chicago Climate agreement which includes cities both large and small. She spoke about the Greenest Regions compact and thought Wilmette might be interested in joining.
Trustee Plunkett reported that there were mayors from all over the world, as well as Chicago and many suburban representatives attending the conference. She thought perhaps Wilmette’s Environmental & Energy Commission could be asked to study how Wilmette could take part in this effort and that the Board’s administration Committee might study how Wilmette might benefit from joining the Greenest Region Compact.
Mr. Frenzer reminded people about the holiday lights recycling program at the drop-off at Wilmette Public Works at 711 Laramie Ave.
Mr. Stein reported that there were plans for a local adjudication system in for non-criminal, non-jailable offenses to be heard in Wilmette. The local system would have and administrative law judge hearing the cases, have better arbitration hearings for local disputes, be less expensive to taxpayers, and give people an option to avoid Cook County Circuit Court. It would be handled by the Corporation Council’s Office and would start in late March. Anything criminal, like speeding would still need to be resolved at the Cook County Courthouse.
A representative from the West Lake Plaza owners asked for approval of two current signs being removed and replaced with new signs which would make it easier to see what all the businesses are at the Plaza. The new signs would mean the removal of the use of one parking space. The representative reported that their tenants are in favor of this. After discussion, the measure passed with the minimum votes. Voting “no” were Trustees Dodd, Kurzman, and Leonard.
After the presentation by the representative of the owner of 3110 Hill Lane who detailed the additional changes that were planned for the construction of a garage requiring variances. Trustees approved overturning the recent zoning board recommendation, but the final vote approving the project will be heard at the next Board meeting on January 9 th .
The last item on the agenda was a presentation by Artis Senior Living, which proposes a 3-story senior and disabled resident care facility on Ridge Road where the Wil-Ridge Plaza now stands. The planned building, as planned, would be 43’ tall instead of the 30’ current zoning. Artis estimated a doubling of property tax revenue for the property and has offered to donate $50,000 to Wilmette’s Housing Our Own. John Adler, Community Development, stated that any PUD (Planned Unit Development) building by definition must provide benefit to the Village. Trustee Wolf suggested a silver LEED building might help their case and was concerned about the lack of “green” space and landscaping. Trustee Leonard asked that Wilmette residents be considered first for the apartments. The Board postponed voting on the current proposal citing problems with the size and height of the building, insufficient stormwater control, and increased cost to the Village for emergency response. It was suggested that Artis return at the next Board meeting on January 9 th with plans to address the Board’s concerns
The LWV observer, Jan Barshis, left the meeting at that point around 10:00 pm.
Committee of the Whole Meeting
Storm Sewer System Improvements
All Board members in attendance.
Also attending: Village Manager Timothy Frenzer, Asst. Village Manager Mike Braiman, Director of Engineering and Public Works Brigitte Berger
The Board met to consider information about four alternatives under consideration for improving the handling of storm water west of Ridge Road. The meeting opened with over one hour of presentation and discussion of the financial considerations of the four options with Melinda Malloy. Ms. Malloy identified the improvements to the sewer system since 1990, other projected sewer system expenses and water system improvements, public safety pension payments, general operating expenses, and the annual tax levy increase.
Ms. Malloy discussed the use of bonds to fund the storm sewer improvements. Bonds could be repaid through existing sewer fees, a new storm water utility fee (as Winnetka and about a dozen other Illinois communities have implemented), or property taxes (not advisable as it is likely to lead to the bonds being downgraded and more expensive).
Joe Johnson of Stantec presented the four options under consideration for west Wilmette storm water relief. Those options include reduced cost options that the Board asked Stantec to investigate and present.
Relief sewer – most comprehensive solution providing for elimination of flooding for 10-year storm via new larger storm sewer pipes (8 miles of new sewer pipe).
95% structures/97% properties
Reduced relief sewer plus neighborhood storage – combination of less sewer pipe and underground storage in Kenilworth Gardens
81% structures/79% properties
Reduced relief sewer – reduced cost option that would install less sewer pipe in west Wilmette
74% structures/61% properties
Neighborhood storage –underground storage at Thornwood Park, Centennial Park, and the Community Recreation Center
71% structures/67% properties
Other Items of Interest: After approximately 2 ½ hours, the board opened the floor for brief comments from the public about the four options under consideration. Of the ten individuals who spoke, at eight stated they live in the affected areas. One person noted that the flooding in west Wilmette affects 1260 houses. Several individuals stated that the Village had done sufficient due diligence and that expedited action should be taken. Some residents and Trustee Kurzman noted that the storm water flooding streets and backing up into basements mixes with wastewater – leading to lawns, streets, and basements being exposed to fecal matter. Most of the speakers were in favor of Option 1, with a few in favor of Option 2. Several residents spoke in favor of the storm water utility fee.
The Board took a break at 10:00 pm – after public comment – and returned to discuss the options. The observer had to leave at 10:00 pm.
The full packet of materials is available on the Village of Wilmette website: https://www.wilmette.com/download/agendas_and_minutes/committee_of_the_whole/packets/2017/11-27-17-Storm-Water-Agenda-Packet.pdf
Next storm water meeting: December 12, 2017, 6:30 pm at Village Hall
Observer: Lisa Bragança Meeting Length: Over 3 hours – observer stayed for first 3 hours.
League Observer — Trudy Gibbs (via cable TV)
All village trustees were in attendance except for Julie Wolf
During the October 24th Village Board meeting, the major issue under consideration was the Loyola Academy request for special use zoning variations for the “Loyola Forward 2025” expansion. The nearly six-hour Village Board meeting included detailed testimony from consultants and Academy personal. Throughout the evening, there were multiple acknowledgements of the compromises and collaborations that had occurred as the result of constructive meetings with residents and Loyola Academy representatives.
Village trustees actively questioned experts speaking on behalf of the school as well as the senior officials who attended the hearing from Loyola. President Bob Bielinski also called on Village of Wilmette police and fire chiefs and legal and professional staff for their expert opinions on traffic and legal issues. Eight residents from the community stayed well beyond midnight to air their remaining concerns, largely focused on traffic and parking issues.
In the end, Wilmette trustees approved the special use zoning request for the first phase of the expansion in a vote of 5–1*. Included in the approval was an increase in the school’s enrollment cap that came with conditions (see below). The need for further traffic studies and review of future plans were also conditional parts of the approval.
Traffic Issues: A new traffic pattern was introduced that would direct vehicles coming to the high school to drop off or pick up of students to positions in the parking lot rather than along Laramie Avenue. The plan was well regarded as a viable step to reduce congestion. A new traffic study was mandated to occur after the first phase of the construction work is completed. This “look-back” study would evaluate the effectiveness of the new traffic pattern as well as the general impact of combined traffic for Loyola Academy and New Trier High School’s Northfield campus. The prior study was conducted on a day when New Trier was closed. The new study will be paid for by Loyola Academy but overseen by village staff and the traffic consultant.
Enrollment Cap: In 1993, the Village Board placed an enrollment cap of 2,000 students on Loyola Academy because traffic studies had shown that access to Lake Street was adversely affecting area residents. Enrollment has exceeded 2,000 on a number of occasions and became central to the objection to the expansion plans. The agreement conditions which are yet to be formally drafted require Loyola to agree to:
Parking: The trustees encouraged the Loyola administrators to promote car pools, public transportation and local offsite parking in public or arranged business lots to reduce congestion during starting and closing times. Issues with off-site private parking were discussed without resolution.
Stormwater/Green Space: Engineering studies suggest that flooding issues in the neighboring area should be improved with the new designs for the plan and the expansion should not contribute to any increase in residential flooding. One of the compromises worked out prior to the meeting was an agreement that Loyola Academy would forego plans to pave over two green fields on the West side of Laramie for student or faculty parking.
*Trustee Kurzman voted against the agreement stating that he supported keeping the current enrollment cap of 2,000. He was also concerned about the impact of an increased enrollment on the safety of students biking to neighboring elementary schools.
Present: Trustees Dodd, Kurzman, Leonard, Wolf, Plunkett, President Bielinski
Absent: Trustee Sullivan
Public Comment: Three audience members indicated that they wished to comment. The co-president of the League of Women Voters of Wilmette read a statement on behalf of the LWV-W about National Voter Registration Day and County Wage and Sick Time Ordinances. A resident read a statement about County Wage and Sick Time ordinances. After this statement, President Bielinski announced that in the upcoming issues of The Village Communicator, the entire President’s message is dedicated to the minimum wage issue: his opinion and recounting of what has occurred as well as his rationale for supporting the opt out.
Next another resident read a statement about County Wage and Sick Time ordinances and several other concerns. The final statement was notable as the Village President interrupted the resident, initially to refute a statement the resident made about the Land Use Committee. After this initial interruption, the President continued questioning the resident, refuting details of the resident’s statement, reading emails that the resident had sent to a business in the community, and accusing the resident of harassing businesses and misrepresenting the Village’s actions. Approximately five minutes passed in this manner at which point Trustee Kurzman asked if he might interject. President Bielinski agreed and Trustee Kurzman stated that he “could not stand by idle while a resident was being treated in this manner while advocating to his beliefs”; that he was not comfortable with how the meeting was proceeding. President Bielinski acknowledged that the resident should be allowed to complete his statement. The resident completed the statement and then left the room.
President Bielinski subsequently apologized for “losing his cool” and also offered a defense of his actions. At the time of the apology, the resident who had made the statement was no longer present.
Trustee Kurzman requested removal of two items from the Land Use Consent Agenda:
Item 3.5: Appointment of Land Use Committee as a Special Zoning Committee to review the Village Board vote requirements for Zoning Board of Appeals recommendations.
Item 3.6: Introduction of Ordinance #2017-O-59 regarding technical amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.
President Bielinski read each item to Trustee Kurzman and asked if he wanted that item removed from the consent agenda, Trustee Kurzman responded “please” to each; the items were removed.
Consent Agenda minus the above mentioned items passed with all Trustees voting in favor.
President Bielinski read a Proclamation declaring October National Domestic Violence Month. A resident read a statement regarding the work of Shalva, an agency that provides services related to domestic violence for the Jewish community in metropolitan Chicago.
Significant Topics Discussed:
There was a motion and second to approve Items 3.5 and 3.6. The floor was opened to Trustee Kurzman who stated he wanted to bring awareness to Items 3.5 and 3.6. Trustee Kurzman asked several questions about the purposes of the ordinances, looking for clarification and was answered by Lisa Roberts, Assistant Community Development Director, sitting in for Mr. Adler Community Development Director.
1) RE Item 3.5: Trustee Kurzman asked why it is necessary to expedite Zoning Board of Appeals matters. Ms Roberts replied that it was not the intent to expedite matters rather the issue is that Zoning Board member attendance has become a problem and it is often not possible to take a vote on items. Without a vote, the item then proceeds back to the Village Board without a positive recommendation which can be misinterpreted as a negative vote. There was discussion of this problem. Trustee Leonard noted that attendance is a problem; the Land Use Committee intends to discuss options for increasing attendance or possibly the way ZBA members are recruited. The Zoning Board of Appeals can only consider items based on existing zoning code; the Land Use Committee can evaluate the appropriateness of the Zoning Code itself.
2) RE Item 3.6 Trustee Kurzman asked why we need a special Zoning Committee. Counsel and Village Manager commented that any change to zoning code requires that there be a special zoning committee. Trustee Kurzman noted that it is concerning at a time when we are working to address storm water management, that we are becoming more lenient in our application of ordinances. He stated that more prudent Land Use will eventually be the only way we have left to handle storm water. Trustee Dodd stated that the technical amendments in this Ordinance represented more of a “cleaning up” of the zoning code including removing some contradictions in the code.
Mr. Frenzer provided an overview of the Budget and thanked the Budget team. In answer to a Trustee’s question, he confirmed that nothing in the budget would preclude any of the stormwater options that the Board is currently considering. Future meetings at which the budget will be reviewed were publicized.
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations: N/A
Other Items of Interest:
1. Next Budget Workshop: October 3, 7:00 pm
2. Finance Committee Meeting: November 13,
Agenda: MInimum Wage/Earned Sick Time
3. Land Use Committee Meeting
Next Meeting of Village Board: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Observer: Allyson Haut Meeting Length: 1 hour
All Trustees were present. The purpose of the meeting was a 2017 Mid-Year Financial review and a 2018 Budget/Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Preview.
Significant Topics Discussed:
There were three main areas of discussion:
The first two hours of the meeting were spent discussing the General Fund. Village staff reviewed with the Board the General Fund revenues and expenses to-date and year-end projections. 2017 revenues are projected to be higher than budgeted while expenses are projected to be lower. Large variances in both areas were reviewed. The Board discussed whether any expenses could be moved up from future years into 2017 because of the projected surplus. There was also a discussion of the Villages reserves and what is the appropriate level to maintain.
Preliminary projections for 2018 revenues and expenses were presented to the Board. The Board began a preliminary discussion of 2018 Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs) and the Capital Equipment Replacement Fund. The Board also discussed the Village Road Program and projected roadway conditions through the next approximately 20 years based on the current roadway funding plan.
Unfortunately, the observer had to leave after 2 hours and so missed discussion of the water and sewer funds, as well as a discussion of the tax levy, pensions, and solid waste fees. The meeting adjourned after 3.5 hours at approximately 10:30 pm.
The presentation from the meeting can be found at:
The 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program can be found at:
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations: N/A
Observer: Kate Gjaja Meeting Length: 3.5 hours (Observer present 2 hrs)
Next meeting: 2018 Budget presented on September 26, 2017
Other items of note:
Village of Wilmette Board of Trustees - June 27, 2017
Wilmette Village Board Votes to OPT-OUT of Cook County Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave:
Tuesday night, members of the LWV-W attended the Village Board meeting at which an ordinance was considered to opt-out of the Cook County Ordinances for minimum wage increases and earned paid sick leave, scheduled to take effect on July 1st. LWV policy firmly supports programs and policies to prevent or reduce poverty and to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families. Co-president Allyson Haut read a statement on behalf of the LWV-W (click here to read LWV-W Statement) and members of the League spoke during public comment, asking the Village Board not to opt out of minimum wage and sick leave requirements and instead to act for the welfare of workers in our community.
Unfortunately, the Village Board voted 6-1 to opt out of complying with minimum wage ordinance (only Trustee Kurzman voted not to opt out) and 5-2 to opt out of complying with earned sick leave requirements (both Trustee Kurzman and Trustee Leonard voted not to opt out). As a result, employees in our Village will not benefit from the Cook County requirement of either an increase in minimum wage or the opportunity to accrue paid sick time as of July 1st.
While the LWV-W is disappointed with the outcome, we commend the Wilmette community for the interest and passion it showed on this issue. Speakers with varying opinions addressed the Board and were treated with respect at all times. Without a doubt, the Village of Wilmette modeled civil public meeting behavior on Tuesday night. We thank all the LWV-W members who wrote letters to the Village Board over the past two weeks and an added thank you to those who took the time to attend the Village Board meeting. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
The LWV-W will continue to support minimum wage increases and earned paid sick leave for workers in our Village. We trust that the Board will adhere to the stated plan to continue to study these issues in committee and have the Board reconsider in the near future.
To be added to a list for future updates from the Village, send your request to Assistant Village Manager Mike Braiman, email@example.com
Remarks at the June 27, 2017 Village Board Meeting by President Allyson Haut:
My name is Allyson Haut, I live on Maple Avenue in Wilmette.
I am the co-President of the League of Women Voters of Wilmette and am speaking on behalf of the League of Women Voters.
Two weeks ago, the League of Women Voters asked you to remove from the consent agenda, the Village Ordinance to opt-out of the Cook County Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Time requirements, stating that it was necessary to immediately begin the examination and discussion of this ordinance.
We thank the Board for sharing with the community, via the website, materials related to this matter over the past 10 days. We know you have heard from a lot of our members, many of whom feel quite strongly about this issue, some of whom are small business owners.
The League of Women Voters, as do all residents of Wilmette, expect our Trustees to give proper time and attention to decision making, through unbiased, thorough research and analysis of variables relevant to the issues and policies. The amount of time that has been devoted to a thorough study of the issues before us tonight, does not strike the League as sufficient, and we are troubled by the process that has gotten us to this point.
But, of greater importance, the League of Women Voters supports programs and policies to prevent or reduce poverty and to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families. The League unequivocally supports the Cook County minimum wage and sick leave ordinances, which were also supported by almost 70% of Wilmette voters in the 2014 and 2016 general election referenda. These ordinances must be in place to create and maintain the proper environment for the businesses, the workers and the residents of our Village, now and in the future.
While many of our wonderful Wilmette businesses may already pay above current minimum wage and provide sick leave, we must guarantee this for all, now and going forward.
The League of Women Voters asks the Village of Wilmette - please do not opt out of complying with the Cook County ordinances. A living wage and earned paid sick time reflect the values of the wonderful community in which we live. Wilmette has been a leader on issues regarding the well being of the community; ordinances regarding smoking and coal tar based pavement sealants being two recent examples.
Wilmette can and should be the community that is a leader among its peers on these issues. As always, we appreciate the time and effort the Trustees expend on behalf of the residents who elected you to serve, and thank you for this time tonight.
Village of Wilmette Board of Trustees – July 11, 2017
Trustees Kurzman and Sullivan were not present.
Significant Topics Discussed:
During public comment opportunity at the beginning of the meeting, LWVW Co-President Allyson Haut reminded the Board of its stated intention at the last board meeting to study the minimum wage and sick leave issues. Allyson asked the Board to keep the community apprised of the status of the study. President Bielinski stated that the Village staff had already sent a request to Board members for instructions on what they should study.
President Bielinski stated that in the coming weeks, the Village staff and Board will be revisiting the various options available to address sewer issues in the Village.
All items on the consent agenda were approved by Trustees Dodd, Leonard, BIelinski, Wolf, and Plunkett.
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations: N/A
Other Items of Interest:
After the meeting, we discussed with President Bielinski that the LWVW Eyewitness/Observer Corps will also be observing meetings of other elected bodies including New Trier Township, the District 39 and 203 School Boards, Library Board, and Park District Board.
Observers: Lisa Bragança, Georgia Gebhardt Meeting Length: 25 minutes
Next meeting: July 25, 2017 Board of Trustees Meeting
Other items of note: July 19, 7:30 p.m. Village Hall - Wilmette Zoning Board of Appeals
July 29, 9-noon Centennial Park parking lot – Document Destruction Day