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February 2017 RNA Board Meeting


Ravinia Neighbors Association Board Meeting
Thursday, February 2, 2017

Laura Saret called the meeting to order at 7:10 P.M. at Full Circle Architects

In attendance, besides Saret, were Carla Arnell, Mike Babian, Dan Baigelman, Justin Kee, Jean Meier, Elliott Miller, Doug Purington, Davis Schneiderman, Jeff Stern, Lisa Temkin and Jeanne Vella. Also present were Highland Park Assistant City Manager Rob Sabo and guests Paul Cox, Larry Dunlap, Adele and Edward Kaufman, Mike Stroz and Gayle Taxy.

Asked to speak first. Rob Sabo said the city last June approved the Ravinia Festival’s plan to install nine DAS communications antennae to improve cell phone service during concerts, that the work was expected to be completed before the 2017 season began, and that all the antennae would be installed on the rooftops of Festival buildings. Schneiderman asked that any communications between RNA and area residents on this and other issues should be shared with the entire Board.

Sabo said Ravinia SSA and TIF property owners are scheduled to meet in mid-February to discuss self-imposed fees that would be needed to finance a plan to install lights on commercial buildings and put benches in front of businesses along Roger Williams Avenue. An agreement was needed by April for the city’s approval. Purington suggested business owners should be asked to attend meetings if the property owners can’t, and Sabo agreed. Saret asked if the Thursday night city-sponsored events might be held instead on afternoons to attract more people, and Sabo said he would look into it.

Sabo said that as of December 31, 2016, the SSA had a balance of $64,353, and that $90,000 would be added for 2017, providing a total of $154,353. Regarding the proposed TIF work, he said efforts were still being made to coordinate the above and below- ground work, but that nothing was scheduled to begin yet.

Concerned about how TIF funds are being spent in light of the controversial Ravinia Streetscape project, Purington was assured by Sabo that public input is invited before any city improvements are undertaken. Sabo added that the city always has to go through a competitive bidding process and require vendors who pay minimum wage. Purington committed to updating information about the TIF on the RNA website, which he said was out of date. Regarding plans for a new Ravinia fire station, Sabo said the city was working on a feasibility study, and that results of public meetings will be posted on its website.

Dan Baigelman said proposed lighting and bench improvements for businesses along Roger Williams Avenue would be presented at a Ravinia business owners meeting on February 13. Considering the installation of lights on the top of buildings to be useless, he said his firm has developed a bench that could go under store fronts, with lighting beneath plugged into outlets provided by building owners giving the appearance of a stone slab floating on two lanterns. The idea was to provide better lighting and a place for business patrons to linger after dark. Correcting Minutes from the last meeting, Baigelman said Carolyn Hersch, the City’s Manager of Business Development, indicated that approval of the plan was needed only from the RBD rather than from the City Council.

Purington had nothing new to report on RNA membership, saying the annual drive for new members and renewals would begin in May, and that he would try to keep the website up to date.

Regarding the Business District, Purington said Al Klairmont had told him he hoped an appraisal of the property for his proposed development on the 7-11 site would be authorized soon, allowing him to include the parking lot for his project. Purington said he expected ground to be broken in the next few weeks for the Witty’s Refresher restaurant at the Ravinia Barbecue site, and that the Paw Parlor had gotten good publicity for its new place at Piero’s former location. He said a new front is planned for Shelton’s, but no one knows what will go there.

Laura Saret said she and Jeff Stern attended the City Council meeting where the proposed new Ravinia fire station was discussed, and also the first of several monthly public meetings Chief Dan Pease plans to hold on that subject at the Central Avenue fire station. Saret said a good case was made as to why a new station was needed; that only inches separate the engine and ambulance parked side-by-side in the existing 1929 structure, and current training and exercise space is inadequate. Pease said other possible sites were not as strategically located. Saret said the biggest downside to the plan was the possible demolition of two homes on Pleasant north of Highland to replace and expand on current parking south of the alley behind businesses on Roger Williams. At least a year of planning still lay ahead, and the project wasn’t expected to start before 2022

Expressing interest in School District 112 developments, Adele and Edward Kaufman were told changes were on hold for a year owing to the defeated referendum and the resignations of the Board President, District Superintendent and two principals. For now Ravinia School will remain open. Saret said people should educate themselves on candidates for school board and other positions.

Temkin said RNA will sponsor a candidates’ forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2 in Ravinia School’s multi-purpose room, which is in the new section close to Roger Williams Avenue. Candidates for City Council and board positions with the Park District and School Districts 112 and 113 are expected to participate. The candidates were to have two minutes to present their positions. Temkin said she and Carla Arnell came up with five questions for candidates to answer, and the League of Women Voters planned a similar event on March 19.

Edward and Adele Kaufman expressed concern about the plan to build a ring road to ease traffic congestion and provide faster access to Edgewood School for emergency vehicles that was proposed when the district’s reconfiguration plan called for several hundred more students to be attending the school. Although the referendum was defeated, they wondered if the city still planned to build the road. Davis Schneiderman said the road plan was rushed through City Council at the time, and that RNA would look into it but had not yet taken a position on it.

Baigelman spoke about the third annual Historic Ravinia event that was being planned for Saturday, October 7 to promote historic tourism in Ravinia. He expected a second trolley would be needed to accommodate the popular event, which this year would focus on the Braeside and Ravinia Schools, and raise awareness of the rich architectural history of the area

Arriving late, Treasurer Mike Babian asked if he was required to attend all meetings since he belongs to another organization that often meets at the same time. He said he could easily put figures on RNA finances together ahead of time, which someone else could present. When board members concurred, he then gave his report, which indicated RNA had $5,252.82 in a CD, and $7,853.12 in its checking account for a total of $13,105.94.

Larry Dunlap complained that RNA had failed to support him and 109 other neighbors with homes near the Ravinia Festival’s west parking lot in their opposition to the Festival’s plan in 2015 to build a 1,500-square-foot structure there to house a DAS system which would be needed only 15 days a year. Temkin and Purington assured Dunlap that with new leadership since 2015, RNA would work with him and his neighbors to address any new concerns they might have, and would welcome their becoming members once again.

Jeanne Vella set a deadline of March 15 for submitting new newsletter articles.

There being no other business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:59 p.m.