A group of Arlington Heights residents said this week they are frustrated by what they view as a last-minute decision by the Arlington Heights Park District to install a 20-foot-high safety netting fence at the new synthetic turf play fields at Sunset Meadows Park.
The village’s board of trustees voted July 5 to approve a variance to allow the park district’s request to construct a 20-foot-tall safety netting-style fence along Kirchoff Road in an area where village code limits the maximum height of a fence to three feet.
Alann Petersen, the park district’s director of parks and planning, said the safety netting is needed to protect visitors to the park and drivers along Kirchoff from errant balls that might be projected out of the new synthetic turf play fields, which are expected to be completed in August.
Similar safety netting-style fences are already in place in the village at the park district’s two golf clubs, Nickol Knoll and Arlington Lakes, as well as near a ball field at St. Viator High School, Petersen said.
But resident Paul Anderson questioned why the park district was seeking approval for its plan to install the safety netting at the play fields just weeks before the synthetic turf project’s completion.
“I’m not sure why this wasn’t all done earlier in the project,” said Anderson, who shared photographs with village trustees of what he views as unattractive safety netting at a ball field in Colorado, asking officials to avoid approving a structure that he described as “intrusive.”
“Safety is also a concern of mine, but aesthetics are important, too,” Anderson said
Resident Lara Rebsamen said she also was frustrated by what she described as officials’ failure to include neighbors living near Sunset Meadows as part of the project’s planning process.
“In the future, a public entity should not be given different, preferential treatment than a private resident,” Rebsamen said.
Trustee Bert Rosenberg, the only village trustee to vote “no” to the park district’s request for a variance to install the safety netting, said he was not willing to support the proposal.
“I can’t go forward on this until we know that IDOT will approve the landscaping plan,” said Rosenberg, who also suggested the park district increase the number of trees planted alongside and across the street from the safety netting.
“I agree that this 11th-hour decision we’re faced with is unfortunate, but in the end, we want this done properly,” added Trustee Michael Sidor, who voted in favor of the plan. “Looking on the bright side, if the park district does it the right way, it might look better.”
The $2.1 million Sunset Meadows project includes the cost of the synthetic turf as well as its installation, which officials said will provide greater access for football, soccer and lacrosse teams at both the east and west play fields in the park at New Wilke and Kirchoff roads.
The creation of the two synthetic turf play fields, which can also be used for baseball and softball games, will have the domino effect of reducing the wear and tear at the park district’s traditional grass play fields across the village, officials said.
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