Task force recommends fence removal at South Avenue
"My wife Amy wants (Dell Place beach) closed," Lakeside Terrace resident Ken Wexler told the Street Ends Task Force Monday night, adding that proposed beach access improvements would attract "people to the neighborhood who don't belong." He, or at least his wife, didn't carry the day. |Irv Leavitt~Sun-Times Media
The Village’s Street Ends Task Force, as it made recommendations Monday concerning Dell Place beach, dealt with another street-end issue that may have overtaken Dell in the minds of the public beyond Sheridan Road.
The task force voted 7-2 to recommend to the Village Board that the fence that cuts off about half the table-land on the South Avenue street end be removed, and the view of Lake Michigan there be restored.
Glencoe Village Manager Paul Harlow, who was said to have ordered the installation for safety purposes in the fall of 2010, had been called to the meeting by members to explain the safety concerns, and why it was installed so far from the slope.
He said that South had the steepest of all street-end slopes, and the most dangerous, dropping a foot for every 1.8 feet of horizontal distance.
He denied inferences that he had “ceded” the back half of the land to neighbors, but admitted that he may have failed when balancing “process and public perception” in not bringing the issue to the public before acting.
He said that the placement of the fence was “based on what our perception was on the visibility at the time … and could be changed.”
Task Force member Michael Glass criticized him for failure “to include us in their decision making,” and noted that along Lake Michigan’s shore, very little is public. Therefore, he said, South Avenue’s view of the lake should be preserved for the public.
He added that in his lifetime and long before, South Avenue’s bluff had been “a beautiful spot where you could go look at the lake.
“Lake Michigan is our Grand Canyon, our redwood forest. Every inch of it is precious … to every one of us … especially our children, and grandchildren.”
Challenged by members, Harlow couldn’t relate any instances of injury on South Avenue’s slope.
Member Max Retsky said, “I don’t think you have to fence everything just to tell people not to go there.
“It seems like the lake is in jail — I really hope we set it free.”
Member John Tuohy, however, said the task force had “done a very thorough job on Dell Place,” but hadn’t thoroughly vetted the South Avenue issue.
“I am loathe to undo something the staff has chosen to do in its best judgment,” he said.
Member Trent Cornell, Retsky’s fellow parks commissioner, differed: “There is unanimity throughout the village on this.
“Nobody wants that fence where it is.”
Member Laurie Morse agreed, saying of the people she has spoken with, “the South Avenue fence is what they’re very angry about.”
The group could have voted to recommend moving the fence toward the bluff, but on Glass’ motion, opted to remove the fence entirely. Tuohy and Jonathan Lippitz, a lakefront resident, voted No.
During the discussion, task force chairman Joel Solomon had said that “the village” had been discussing, behind the scenes, the possibility of erecting a structure such as a stone fence with an overlook at South Avenue, if private funds could be found to pay for it.
Cornell, enamored of the concept, moved to recommend encouraging the Village Board or Harlow — after a removal of the current fence — to erect such a structure, but only if it were close to the slope.
Several members worried that such a recommendation might be misunderstood, and bring back a barrier to viewing the lake.
But only Glass voted against it, saying he couldn’t be sure what kind of structure it might be.
“If it could be an 8- or 9-foot fence, and we’d be looking at the lake as if we were in a jail cell, I cannot support it,” he said.