The Wauconda Park District's plan to renovate Phil's Beach and turn it into a public park cleared a critical bureaucratic hurdle Tuesday night.
The village board unanimously approved a conditional use permit that will allow park district officials to move ahead with the $3 million project on the 300 block of North Main Street. The permit allows the district to open the once-popular beach, which is on the western shore of Bangs Lake, to the public for the first time since the 1980s.
Park district officials plan to seek construction bids this summer. Construction could begin this fall and be completed by spring 2019.
"I'm so glad this is moving forward," said Trustee Adam Schlick, who formerly served on the park district board. "I can't wait to see dirt moving over there."
A picnic pavilion, a wading area, a boardwalk and a bath house with changing rooms and showers are among the planned amenities.
Under the terms of the village's conditional permit, the park district must install fences along the southern and northern property lines, remove some poor-quality or dead plants along the southern property line and create a landscape buffer along the southern property line, among other requirements.
Dating back to the 1920s, Phil's Beach was founded by Phil Froehlke as a private business that eventually was handed down to his descendants -- including grandchildren Mary Reilly Bastien, Dick Reilly, Mike Reilly and Kathy Reilly. It drew people to Wauconda every summer for decades.
Both the beach and its giant, J-shaped slide were featured in the classic 1980 film "The Blues Brothers."
But the Reillys closed the beach in 1990 because of rising insurance costs.
After many private discussions with the Reillys, the district bought the property and about one acre on the west side of Main Street for $690,000 in 2016.
The land across the street will be used for public parking.
As part of the deal, Kathy Reilly will be allowed to continue living in a house on the property.
Mayor Lincoln Knight was among the village officials who spoke enthusiastically about the project Tuesday.
"This is obviously a big project for the village," Knight said. "I'd like to thank the park district and the Reilly family for bringing this back to Wauconda."