Well, That Didn't Go As Planned
Don’t get me wrong. There was a plan. The crowd simply had one of their own. The Village had an agenda for the evening of Monday, August 15, 2022. In fact, they had three! Three agendas were published on the Village Website and paper copies were available at the door.
Not only was the room itself filled beyond capacity, but there were also 50 to 60 people outside the doors in the upper vestibule doing their best to hear what was happening. Too bad there were no microphones. Too bad the meeting wasn’t held at a different location, knowing a huge turnout was likely on its way.
Mayor Kraly noted Round Lake High School was unavailable as a meeting location (they started school that day), but I'm unsure why other nearby spots weren't investigated (Round Lake Beach Civic Center, Big Hollow Middle School Stage/Cafeteria, Grant High School Auditorium, Park School Stage, any local church). Maybe they were, but those locations were unavailable? Maybe there wasn’t time for proper notification of a location change? Regardless, the Village should now be aware that this issue will bring out the population in numbers they aren’t used to seeing at an average board meeting.
WHAT THEY WANTED
First they planned a public hearing related only to the annexation agreement. That’s the legal contract, which allows the Village to take control of the entire parcel of land and divide it into two lots. The Lights retain one for future commercial development, and CHDS makes the other into the Ski Hill.
This part of the evening actually started as planned. As Mayor Kraly called the meeting to order, the Village Attorney laid out the plan for the three separate meetings. Mr. Powell’s attorney, Mr. Shaw, again summarized the development agreement laid out in the annexation that centers on the Ski Hill and the two parts of the annexation: 12 acres for the Lights for future commercial use and 85 acres for CHDS for the Ski Hill.
There was time for the Trustees to make comments, and Mr. Duby took issue with two items in the annexation agreement, items J and F, which related to construction and testing of “clean” materials being brought onto the site. Mr. Patel also asked if any update had been made to the business plan, which was presented August 1, to which Katie Parkhurst, Director of Economic & Community Development for the Village of Round Lake, replied there was not.
But that’s where the plan stopped and the chaos ensued. The next item on the agenda was public comment regarding the annexation agreement--and, as the audience was reminded multiple times over the next hour and a twenty minutes, the annexation agreement only.
The Village had planned to have a Regular Board Meeting immediately following the public hearing. This is typically where the board approves minutes, accounts payable, and payroll, and also allows public comment. If your Eagle Scout is recognized for the bench he built and installed at the train station, he’d likely be commended and congratulated during this time.
And THEN the Village planned to hold a Committee of the Whole Meeting where public comment regarding the Ski Hill Proposal was to be heard, along with information about Round Lake High School’s Homecoming Parade, public works purchasing a truck, and a few other items. This was where people were supposed to get up and say their thing about the Ski Hill. This was their shining moment, limited to 3 minutes, unless you spoke last time because your comments were already part of the public record.
Sounds like a plan.
Here’s the problem with plans…sometimes they don’t work out the way you think they will.
WHAT THEY GOT
Instead, the Village got their ass handed to them by over 100 silently seething citizens who can’t wrap their heads around why this project is continuing to be entertained, let alone move forward with a possible approval process.
That’s right friends, this Ski Hill is like a cockroach after a nuclear explosion. It should be dead. It needs to be dead. Everything else is dead. Yet somehow, it keeps twitching and showing signs of life.
The audio is on the Village website for all three meetings, but I haven’t had time to listen to all of them (around 2 hours total). A few events stuck in my mind. Like a gaper’s delay on the Tri-State, you can’t look away.
There were multiple instances when people clapped for various speakers, even though they were instructed not to. Myself and the person seated next to me noted the Mayor actively scrolling through his phone, while Mr. Ashman, attorney for the families along Townline Rd, delivered most of his comments--that is, until something he said elicited a very audible “Ooooohhhh” from the crowd. That’s why I need to listen to the audio from the annexation portion of the meeting which you can listen to here. Mr. Ashman begins speaking at 42:30.
If you’ll recall, Mr. Shaw had plenty to say in defense of Mr. Powell and CHDS following the public comments made on August 1. You can listen to the audio and hear for yourself exactly what Mr. Ashman had to say at that time. He begins speaking at 40:25. Mr. Shaw’s response was published as part of a memo made available on the Village website, and you can view it here. His comments begin on page 7. Mr. Ashman also submitted his comments in writing to the board and wants them admitted to the public record. Hopefully, they will be available for your reading pleasure soon.
And that’s by no means the end of all that happened last night. There was a heated verbal exchange of a personal nature between one gentleman and Mr. Powell regarding Mr. Powell’s pink shirt, which had me feeling as if I were sitting ringside in Vegas. You can listen to his full comments in the audio here starting at around 25:00. Thankfully, no punches were thrown, no contracts were signed, but as stated before--this entire saga is far from over.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
After all these comments were made, most of the audience dissipated, and the remaining two meetings took place. First, there was the Regular Board Meeting, and you can hear the full audio here, as it lasted just under 5 minutes.
This was followed by the Committee of the Whole Meeting which had more lively interaction between the board and public. With a straight face, Katie Parkhurst presented the Ski Hill Development Proposal and made all the same claims and assertions regarding this recreational nightmare that she’s continued to spout at every meeting since June 28, including all the benefits to the Village. You can hear the audio here, as Ms. Parkhurst is the first to speak.
Excuse me…I’ll have what she’s smoking…
And at the end of the entire thing (audio 46:00), Trustee Carolina Schottland seemed to think that residents are much more concerned with the Wilson Rd lease and the bitterness it has created than the Ski Hill proposal itself (46:50). “..Quite frankly, if this had come to us independent of that I think our feelings might have been initially a little bit different, we might have been a little bit more interested in the process.” She goes on to claim that if Mr. Powell could go back in time he likely would have created a beautifully landscaped corner because that has obviously caused no end of negative commentary and hard feelings within the community.
I think I hear the vodka calling. Remember, there’s no shame in day drinking, as long as you aren’t driving anywhere. Also, I'm sure a beautifully landscaped corner would help deter from, I don’t know, about as high up as the writing on the Sheriff’s vehicle?
So because residents complain about a “Welcome to Round Lake” dirt pile at 120 and Wilson leased and operated by the same guy who’s asking to own and operate a Ski Hill on the next block over, we are somehow biased toward that owner and no longer want to do business with him? Ummmm….ABSOLUTELY! It’s called experience. It’s a wonderful teacher, and you learn from it.
In fact, the lease agreement between the Village and CHDS at Wilson and 120 is up soon--very soon. And if it isn’t canceled, it automatically renews. I don’t know how soon, someone who was on the Planning and Zoning Commission asked to see it and had to do a FOIA request to get a copy and then he got removed from the committee and replaced. By the way, here’s the link to the Village FOIA Request Form.
I understand trying new things, taking risks, experimenting. If it weren’t for the guy who accidentally discovered Velcro, parents would probably dispose of their children between the ages of 3 and 8. But there’s a limit that comes with risk. It doesn’t matter who builds this project--God himself could come down from Heaven and create the recreational Snowflex destination of our dreams and leave it in that field, and we still would say NO!
That’s the point the Village Trustees, the Mayor, and Katie Parkhurst are missing right now. We want economic development. We’re fine with extending the water and sewer lines to entice commercial businesses to build there--that’s what Volo did to lure Woodman’s to the corner of 120 and 12.
But one day, when the Ski Hill goes under and fails, we are left with NOTHING but an eyesore. When Dominick’s failed, a self-storage moved in and took over the space. When a Ski Hill fails, what do you do with that? Katie Parkhurst made sure to explicitly say this property would be in the hands of a private owner and not the Village. But when the private owner goes bankrupt and skips town and stops paying their property taxes, then it does become the Village’s problem.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW
All of this, the public comment--20 people or more saying what they came to say--took place during the public hearing regarding the annexation agreement, not during the Committee of the Whole Meeting as the Village had planned. Mayor Kraly and the Village Attorney seated next to him were visibly annoyed that this train was off the rails.
And in all that comment, person after person, not one was in favor of building this hill. The residents of Round Lake are not against bringing business into the Village and creating more revenue to help the tax base. They just want a better idea than this one.
Mayor Kraly, following the Regular Board Meeting and Committee of the Whole Meeting, stated that the past two years have been difficult on the Village budget--and I know he’s right. It doesn’t take a genius to know that times are tough and the Village is scraping by when it comes to paying for all its services, needed repairs, and things it is required to do by law--with or without state and county financial assistance.
So what happens now? Well, the next Village Board meeting is September 6 at 7:00 pm, followed by another on September 19. At that time, there may be a preliminary vote on the annexation agreement--which is the first step needed to divide the property into two lots, zone one for future commercial development and zone the other for the Ski Hill. So we need to keep watching the agendas and attending the meetings.
Note that the families along Townline Rd will sue the Village if they approve and proceed with this plan (Committee of the Whole audio 24:00). These families are in unincorporated Grayslake, so technically they do not vote in Round Lake elections or pay Round Lake taxes. But those who live within Round Lake borders do--and our tax money will pay for the Village Attorney to go up against Mr. Ashman, whether we agree or not.
The people of this community are putting Village officials on notice. For many years, mayoral and trustee races have been run unopposed. While it only took 401 votes to elect the mayor in April 2021, the number of voters for trustee was in the mid 200 to high 300 range in a town of over 18,000.
It’s clear that the residents of Round Lake have trust issues with Dan Powell of CHDS. And to ensure residents retain trust in their elected (or appointed) officials, it may be wise to listen to what they have to say. When somewhere between one half to one quarter of your voters speak out against your pet project, you may want to consider listening to them.
In one way or another, Village officials will see more of their residents at future meetings. And you’ll definitely see them on election day.