'Tis But a Scratch
This one goes out to all the Monty Python fans. You, my Holy Grail of readers, are in for a treat. Our network of supersleuths has been at it again with emails, FOIA requests and more.
And according to our good friend Math, we’ve discovered more flaws in Dan Powell’s Ski Hill Disaster. No, it’s not the killer rabbit. But there are two possible outcomes:
Either Round Lake becomes famous for the number of ski hill accident victims sent to local hospitals, or the property at Fairfield and Route 120 becomes home to a 200 foot tall mountain encased in concrete sitting atop vacant land which will never be sold or reused for any commercial purpose.
How’s that possible, you ask? Well, sit back for a little engineering lesson from the people who make ski hills. Oh, and if you were wondering, Dan Powell is not one of those people. A community member first called Briton Engineering, makers of Snowflex, in the UK on August 15, 2022, asking whether representatives there had contact, knew of, or had spoken to Dan Powell, anyone representing CHDS, LLC, or knew of a proposed Snowflex Ski Hill in Round Lake, IL. She was told they were unaware of any planned project in the Midwest US. You can hear her comments on the audio from the public hearing held to discuss the annexation of the property beginning at 1:09:00.
Snowflex is the year-round system at the center of Dan Powell’s Ski Hill proposal. You can visit the Snowflex website to see how turnkey Briton has created this product. From setting up your business plan to designing your ski runs, lodge, and parking lot, Briton Engineering does all of it, and you cannot simply buy their product without the other design, installation, and consulting costs associated--something Dan Powell has neglected to fully disclose, pursue, or discuss to this day.
His initial proposal to the Village of Round Lake did not include cost estimates for building the Ski Hill using Briton Engineering services, supplies, or materials--including the Snowflex itself. Later meetings and public hearings still have not produced any cost estimates associated with using Snowflex.
The following screen captures reflect an email exchange between Janet Smart, a Round Lake resident, and Chris Thomas, Design Manager for Briton Engineering in the UK. Redactions are made to remove Janet’s personal information, such as her email, address, and phone number.
Janet’s email to Chris took place on August 20, 2022.
A reply from Chris came back on August 23, 2022.
Here are the pictures of the slope in Northern France included with the email.
Again, please note how Briton Engineering designs Snowflex hills. From top to bottom, there is one main carpeted area of Snowflex material. In the second photo, you can clearly see the misters dotting the white astroturfing. This is how Snowflex works. It consumes a lot of water to keep the surface wet enough to provide for skiing when there is no snow--and not all of that water will be recycled. Snowflex’s own website says only 70% is recycled on a hot, humid day (just like our summer).
In the winter, you can ski and snowboard and tube when the surface is covered with frost, ice, or snow. However, the hill requires “grooming”, which the Briton engineers teach owners how to do. There are specific tools and techniques used, and failure to follow their guidelines leads to damage and costly replacement.
Note that while Briton Engineering states it is possible to use a retention pond as a source of water, it has also never been done before. Extra time and cost are always associated with any project trying something for the first time. Since Dan Powell neglected to contact a representative of Snowflex with the details of his plan, it is unknown if the retention pond in his proposal is large enough.
Slippage in any construction project is a huge issue, and making sure there isn’t any slippage in the construction of a ski hill, especially one 200 ft tall, should be left to the professionals.
Dan Powell has already been cited for lack of compacted fill in Hawthorn Woods, along with a number of other violations still under litigation today. Ken Ashman, an attorney for the 9 families living along West Townline Road, made these comments to the Round Lake board on August 15 regarding the issues in Hawthorn Woods.
You can visit www.120mudhill.org to view all the violations currently stacked against CHDS. Dan Powell owns a landscaping waste recycling center. He is not a developer. He is not in construction. He is not an engineer.
Concerned residents have already voiced alarm regarding environmental contamination at the fill to be brought onto the site at Fairfield and Rt 120. They have every right to their concerns, considering the open violations currently on record against Mr. Powell and CHDS, and testing that fill for contaminants was already part of the deal.
However, soils need to be tested to determine whether they can be compacted to the degree necessary for a project such as this. Dan Powell likely is not even aware that such testing is needed. Due to the intricacies involved, different types of compaction equipment are used for different types of soils. Since Mr. Powell is not in the construction business, he likely does not possess the necessary equipment.
After the fill is compacted to specifications and the curves and features are created, the hill is covered in concrete. We have no market studies or research to believe that a ski hill of this nature will be successful in the Round Lake area. While expensive, a hill made of dirt and/or fill could be torn down. However, one covered in concrete will be ridiculously so. If a hair salon in a strip mall fails, another small business has the opportunity to move in. If this proposal fails, the Village of Round Lake will be left with a 200 ft tall concrete encrusted dome of vacant land.
ONE LAST NOTE
This is part of Dan Powell’s proposal, completed for him with the help of a professional design group. Already you can see the differences between his idea and what Briton Engineering does.
However, according to an actual engineer who looked at the angles, slope and other requirements set forth in the emails received by Janet, the Ski Hill as proposed by Dan Powell would see skiers, snowboarders, and tubers end their journey down 4 of the 5 runs by slamming into the split rail fence with protective netting, which runs in front of the retention pond.
Designing high tech ski hills should be left to professional engineers. Dan Powell of CHDS, LLC is not a professional engineer. If the village allows him to proceed with his plan, there are multiple scenarios, but none of them end with a functioning viable Ski Hill that looks like any of the fun, exciting pictures a salesman will attempt to pitch.
And even if it does--what is the ultimate price tag to build it, why is he choosing to take longer than mathematically necessary, and what happens to the property if the business fails are real questions for which Dan Powell has not provided answers.
For three years, the Village of Round Lake has been aware of the violations against Dan Powell and CHDS. Every time they send something to CHDS, they send a copy to Steve Shields, the village administrator. Legal action is being pursued. And still village officials put forth this proposal, with this individual, as a positive economic development land use plan.
Please join us at the next Village Board Meeting on Tuesday, Sept 6 at 7 pm. Right now, the meeting is still scheduled for the Village Hall, even though the last meeting had an overflow crowd, no microphones, and not enough seats or space. VILLAGE LEADERS AREN’T LISTENING. We need community members and all concerned citizens to show we will not be pushed aside and discounted. We need your voices to be part of the public record. We need to show village officials we are not going away. STOP THE ANNEXATION. STOP DOING BUSINESS WITH CHDS. STOP THE SKI DUMP.