Why the Glenview roundabouts plan proves the need for more transparency

  • Courtesy of the Village of Glenview

  • Courtesy of the Village of Glenview

 
 
Posted1/27/2022 9:00 AM

For there to be an effective check and balance on the authority of the Village President, Glenview's council-manager form of government requires an active board of trustees.

To do so, those Trustees must have all the information to understand what they are approving, particularly if it is presented to them with short time to review.

 

The Trustees are the public's voice. If they are not speaking up, this cuts the public out the equation too. There is no citizen questioning and review. Government by pronouncement is not good government.

On the prior board, Trustees who are now off the Board, John Hinkamp, Debby Karton, and Karim Khoja were all willing to push back, particularly if the information as presented to them was not clear. They were willing to be skeptical.

So far, the new Trustees (a total of 4 of 6 trustees: 3 elected to replace the above plus the one that Village President Mike Jenny appointed to fill his own vacancy) have been a willing to let the Village President assume more authority than his predecessor, Village President Jim Patterson.

This is most clearly shown on the issue of the "roundabouts." Only President Jenny was on the Board when this topic was discussed extensively in July 2018, yet there was no continuation of that public discussion, when a roundabout appeared on the agenda was approved without discussion in November 2021. He did not bring it up the prior discussion at all.

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Instead, on Nov. 16, 2021, as part of the "Consent agenda and approval of bills," the Trustees unanimously approved a Plat of Dedication of public right of way for Patriot Boulevard. What they really approved was a roundabout for Costco, 2850-2930 Patriot Boulevard.

At this meeting, innocuously labeled as "Consideration of a Resolution approving a Plat of Dedication of public right of way for Patriot Boulevard," is, in fact, a roundabout, discerned only if you read the plans.

The Village knew that calling it what it was would only bring attention to it. Now it has been approved, the name of the project has now been changed from "Patriot Boulevard Right-of-Way Dedication" to "Costco Roundabout."

Putting this on the Consent Agenda on November 16, 2021, meant no public discussion, and it ended up being unanimously approved along with a bunch of other agenda items.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With so many new Trustees, President Jenny was obligated to ensure that the Trustees understood what they are voting on. The Trustees are the public's voice. Because it was on the Consent Agenda, there was no Trustee questions at all.

For example, no trustee asked about the public cost, whether the applicant was paying anything, or the precedent of doing a roundabout. If President Jenny explained it in private, that does not help the public.

President Jenny was on the Board in July 2018. From that prior public discussion, he knew roundabouts were a controversial topic, yet he did not suggest it be pulled for additional public consideration and

discussion. Thus, it is unclear whether the Trustees in November 2021 understood the meaning of what they were even voting for. At least in public, President Jenny did not explain it.

Unlike 2018, the Village President did not seek Trustee input in a public way. Thus, it is unclear if any of the Trustees understood what they were approving.

When the "right of way dedication" was voted on November 16, 2021, that a roundabout was being proposed could only be discerned by reading the Village Staff report, which stated that the design and future construction of a traffic "roundabout" will "significantly improve traffic flow at the intersection of Patriot Boulevard and the north/south access roads into the Patriot at the Glen shopping center."

This statement was made with no traffic expert to back it up. No expert report at all.

What is now called the "Costco Roundabout," no one from Costco, or the property owner appeared at this meeting. The applicant seeking this project are Patriot Real Estate Partners, LLC, and Costco Wholesale Corporation. They wanted something from a public body yet did not appear at a public meeting to request it.

They were the parties requesting the approval of a plat of dedication of public right of way to accommodate the future construction of a traffic circle within public right of way adjacent to their properties.

On Dec. 7, 2021, the next shoe to drop was the public cost to fund this project. A resolution authorizing a bid award and approving a contract for the "Patriot Boulevard and Costco Intersection Improvement Project" in the amount of $872,177.10 plus an eight percent (8%) contingency, for an amount not to exceed $941,952.00.

Only Trustee DeBoni voted "No." Every other Trustee voted for it. Almost $1 million dollars was approved to be spent, and only 1 Trustee had questions. To Trustee DeBoni's questions, the Village Staff made evasive statements without anything to back it up.

Then there is the issue of how this got to this point. The Staff Report stated:

"The conceptual design was completed in Spring of 2021, and the final engineering plans along with the plat of dedication were completed in fall of 2021. The design process included outreach to Costco and adjacent properties to solicit their feedback, obtain comments on the design plans, review construction logistics and provide their concurrence on the proposed improvements."

Since President Patterson did not leave office until May 2021, it unclear who authorized doing the conceptual design in the first place. This is not transparent government.

This should be contrasted with what happened with "roundabouts" when they were discussed at the July 2, 2018 board of trustees Meeting. There was strong Trustee questioning.

In 2018, the Village President first sought board of trustees input as part of his "Report of the Village President." President Patterson did not seek a vote and backed off when it was clear that there was opposition.

At the July 2018 meeting, the prior Village President Jim Patterson presented "Discussion and Direction regarding preliminary Pre-Phase I Engineering and a Concept Study for Patriot Boulevard Roundabouts."

This was a proposal to change two, five-corner intersections in Glenview's Glen Town Center to roundabouts.

President Patterson said he has heard "a number of concerns from the community about two cumbersome intersections" and for these reasons he asked staff to present information about having Patriot Blvd roundabouts to consider it before The Glen TIF ended (which it did in 2021).

The two proposed roundabouts, also called traffic circles, would have been installed at the intersections of Chestnut Street, Patriot Boulevard and Tower Drive and at West Lake, Patriot, and Tower.

In 2018, the presentation was made by a Village project consultant and a Village traffic consultant from Benes & Associates. They provided a comprehensive review of preliminary pre-phase engineering and a concept study for roundabouts on Patriot Blvd.

The Trustees discussed it in public and rejected it, citing safety concerns (Trustee Karim Khoja) and the estimated $4 to $4.5 million cost of the project competing with other projects for which the Village is seeking federal dollars as well as educating drivers on how this would work, lack of crash data (Trustee Debby Karton).

At that meeting, Trustee Britton also asked about safety, and Trustee Hinkamp got President Patterson to admit that he was the person that brought this proposal forward. Trustee Hinkamp suggested an enhanced system of traffic lights instead. Trustee White opposed it. Both Hinkamp and Khoja wanted to look at existing roundabouts in Lake County themselves, looking out for residents and pedestrians.

The most receptive Trustee to the idea of roundabouts was Trustee Mike Jenny himself who wanted the crash data and why roundabouts are safer for pedestrians, he said he was "still listening to doing the study."

During this July 2018 discussion, those concerns included the need for a big educational process for the public to understand how to maneuver the roundabouts, the confusion they would cause drivers since roundabouts are complex, and the pedestrian safety issues as the roundabouts could potentially become a crossing hazard for pedestrians, most especially children coming and going from Gallery Park and The Glen. Also, the cost did not justify the potential benefits.

Due to lack of support from the Trustees, President Patterson stated that this project would not move forward. However, President Patterson would like to see the five-year crash data report on accidents and pedestrian safety. It is unknown whether that ever happened.

That was the end of the matter, per President Patterson. Nothing happened on this topic since. Somehow, in the case of Costco, it arose again, apparently at the end of President Patterson's tenure.

Flash forward to 2022, President Jenny skipping the step of seeking the input of the rest of the Board, with a plan and seeking a vote by consent.

As the representative of the public, the Board should have been fully clear that they understood what they were voting for.

• Bill Seitz is an attorney and Glenview resident.

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