To vacate or not vacate the right-of-way commonly referred to as Elmwood Avenue Beach—that's been a top question for for months now. And after a handful of residents offered concerns, anecdotes and even a design plan Tuesday night for the roughly half-acre parcel, the village gave an answer.
“I can report to the community tonight that the village does not expect to be pursuing the possibility of vacating the Elmwood Avenue right-of-way,” said Village President Christopher S. Canning. “That being said the next matter becomes what to do about this unopen and unimproved right-of-way. The answers to that are not necessarily easy or straightforward.”
The board has considered an assortment of options, selling the land to a nearby property owner, updating the sandy parcel, or creating a public beach. Whether the property will remain public is still to be determined. However, dozens of residents have showed strong support to ensure the parcel isn't left in the tides.
One vocal resident, who's lived on Elmwood Avenue for more than 20 years, suggested forming a subcommittee for “true discussion and a true debate," that he said has been lacking between the board and community.
Although the property fell under the jurisdiction of Wilmette at the turn of 19th century, the Village doesn't own the land. The parcel, which has a 45 degree entry slope, is currently a host to overgrown grape vines and fallen trees, .
Canning said he'll soon be speaking with the Wilmette Park District for guidance on the property. Because of the economy, he said, “there are very limited public funds that can be used to improve this unimproved right-of-way.”
James O'Brien, who owns a landscaping company in Wilmette, speculated that improving the right-of-way for public use would cost “anywhere from $0 to $25,000” but that he'd be willing to invest a lot of his company's time in creating a public beach.
“Our lakefront is our crowned jewel,” O'Brien continued. "If we can preserve 10 feet of it, it's worth doing.”