Park Ridge and some Niles voters will face a choice on the April 9 ballot: spend $13.2 million in a one-time-only chance to acquire valuable historical open space and turn it into a park, or heed the advice of those who feel the spend is too great and turn it down to avoid a tax increase.
The Park Ridge Park District board voted 5-1, with one absence, at its regular monthly meeting Thursday to place a referendum question on the ballot.
Both supporters and critics of the measure have emerged.
Supporters say district needs more open space to meet standards
A group which favors a "yes" vote for the referendum has assembled a website, OurParksLegacy.com, to advocate for the idea.
They suggest it would enable the park district to have more room for programming, conserve community history and provide more open land per capita. With the Park Ridge population at 37,480 residents, National Recreation and Parks Association guidelines recommend 234.25 acres to 393.94 acres of open space. However, the park district has 126.6 acres, meaning it is low on open space according to NRPA guidelines, referendum supporters suggest.
For the average household in the district, which has a market value of $458,000, according to the 2010 census, taxes would go up $72.19 annually if the park district purchases and develops the land, according to Gayle Mountcastle, executive director of the park district.
Critics fear taxes may spiral
However, one park board member acknowledged the referendum has some critics. Stephen Vile voted no to placing it on the ballot.
Vile said he personally favors the idea and will work to pass the referendum, but that seniors at the Park Ridge Senior Center, many of whom voted for him, are frightened of the idea it would raise taxes. Part of their concern, he said, stems from uncertainty about whether federal taxes might go up if the debt ceiling is raised.
"So I was trying to give them a voice," he said. "I'll be happy to work for it. But to not recognize that voice and show that there are two sides on this issue is not right."
Patch will continue to cover this issue as it develops.