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.