Parking lot or parking not?

Parking issues still a concern between Brookfield and RBHS

Morgan DiVittorio and Nick Rogoz

As negotiations continue between the school district and the Village, some agreements have been made, but tensions are still running high. In mid-April, the Village and district will be heading to court over issues concerning the parking lot on Rockefeller.

The district plans to construct a new parking lot for RB students and visitors that would add an additional 90 spaces. Parking has been an issue at RB for a long period of time. Between visitors having to park on streets for sporting events or plays, and administration having to pick 100 lucky students to get parking passes, one thing is clear: RB needs more parking.

Fully aware of these problems, the district has made it clear to the Village that parking is needed. Compromises had been worked out between the two parties for months now, yet the Village is playing hard ball.

The district planned on building an additional parking lot where the tennis courts used to be, just north of the football field. The Village argues it will add more traffic and be unsafe. Dr. Kevin Skinkis, superintendent of District 208, has been a key player in the ongoing settlement.

“Our plan has been significantly modified since it first came out. We have no exits onto Hollywood Avenue. We moved the track events and tennis courts to create a large buffer of space between the parking lot and the actual school building,” Skinkis said.

Additional cars were a concern for the Village. With more teen drivers on the streets immediately before and after school, chances of accidents increase. The district understood this issue and addressed it, to no avail.

“The school district, in a written communication to the Village, offered to pay for a police officer or crossing guard at drop off and pick up times of the school days to help the flow of traffic and to address safety concerns, and that was denied by the Village,” Skinkis said. “The Village zoning commission had us do two traffic studies, which clearly show that the increase of the parking lot would reduce some of the safety concerns. You have less people pulling in, dropping off, and pulling out. It also showed the increase of 90 cars during school days and hours would not have a negative impact, and it would help traffic.”

The district has been jumping through hoops to listen to the suggestions the Village makes. With every change the district makes, the Village won’t budge. Most recently, the Village has made it clear if the district moves forward with construction of the new parking lot, they will suspend RB’s ability to use it, since Rockefeller is the Village of Brookfield’s property and RB is just under contract for it’s use.

On February 19, 2016, the Village released details of the ongoing settlement case, which are typically kept confidential until an agreement has been reached.

“It appears they are are not interested in trying to work out an agreement that doesn’t waver from what they feel their viewpoint is, which is why they released their first press release,” Skinkis said.

The information being released to the public is just another symptom of the rocky relationship between the two parties.

“If you’re truly trying to work out a settlement, you don’t negotiate it in the newspaper,” Skinkis said. “It’s our property, and we need to own some parking. We do feel like they are trying to threaten us.”

The Village is trying to support and represent their residents, because many residents do not like the idea of more drivers in their streets.

“There are thirty to forty residents who live near the school that have concerns about the increased number of student drivers and the high safety impact that that could have. The Village feels it’s their job to support their residents,” Skinkis said.

A few residents have been outspoken against the new parking lot at settlement conferences and no residents in favor of the parking lot have spoken up. Since these residents against the idea are so prevalent, compromising for more spaces has become increasingly difficult.

The district has become frustrated; it seems they are working hard to make an agreement but the Village is not budging.

“It was told to us at the settlement conference that the Village does not disagree that the school district has tried to put their best foot forward and work with the zoning commission and with the Village board,” Skinkis said.

This is not the first time the district and Village have had conflicting views over new construction at RB.

Earlier this year, the Village placed a stop work notice for the track and field equipment the district had started construction on. Recently, the district and the Village came to a compromise, and the stop work notice has been lifted. However, the Village has not yet given formal written consent to start construction.

“I believe there were some tentative agreements put in place between the Village’s attorney and the school district’s attorney. We still have not received formal written communication from the Village that we can start. They needed some time to work through that process,” Skinkis said.

The court date for the case of the new parking lot issue will be held on April 9.