After months of discussion, Park Ridge aldermen took a step Monday toward designing a parking lot that supporters say will have environmental benefits for the city, though it does come with as-yet unknown costs for upkeep.
The City Council voted 4-2 in favor an agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for the design, construction and maintenance of a “green” parking lot adjacent to the Park Ridge Public Library.
According to the agreement, the project will consist of replacing the existing asphalt parking lot with permeable brick pavers and other storm-water management components that include a rain garden.
In the agreement, the MWRD noted that the project will “serve to further [the MWRD’s] goal of informing the public of the value of green infrastructure.”
The next step will be seek out cost proposals for the design of the lot and bring the recommended company and cost to the City Council for a vote, said Park Ridge Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim.
The agreement calls for the city to pay all of the design and construction engineering costs, and 50% of the actual construction, with MWRD contributing a grant up to $650,000, according to Zingsheim.
The total project cost, including design and engineering, is estimated at $1.3 million “or less,” Zingsheim said.
Zingsheim acknowledged that he has not calculated the cost of regular maintenance for the parking lot, which will include removing a sandy layer under the pavers and replacing the material “every couple of years.”
“I have not really looked at it,” he said of the maintenance cost. “We have people on staff; I don’t think it’s going to be all that big of a deal.”
Earlier this year, however, Zingsheim told the council that regular maintenance would cost more than maintaining the current parking lot, and a company with special equipment would be needed to clean and maintain the pavers. During Monday’s meeting, he called the permeable pavers “a pain, maintenance-wise.”
When interviewed this week, Zingsheim said there may be equipment the city can purchase for about $2,500, which “wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.”
Some of the regular maintenance required of the lot includes keeping the spaces between the pavers clean so water can seep through, Zingsheim said. Pavers may also shift and move, he added, requiring them to be put back in place. During winter months, a different type of snowplow blade will be needed to plow the lot, he said.
Aldermen initially received a draft agreement with MWRD last spring. One change in the agreement that was approved by the council Monday lessens the number of years the city will be responsible for maintaining the lot, said City Attorney Adam Simon.
“The original agreement required the city to maintain the lot in perpetuity,” Simon said. “[MWRD] agreed to shorten the term of that obligation to 25 years. Further, if the city 25 years from now wanted to redevelop that lot for economic development, we would no longer have an obligation to leave it as a green parking lot.”
The city cannot substitute the grant for a different project, Simon told the council.
Alds. Gail Wilkening and Roger Shubert voted against the agreement Monday. Ald. Marty Joyce, 7th Ward, was absent.
“Overall, I like the concept and what we’re trying to do here, but I think this is a solution that is looking for a problem,” Shubert said, adding that he would rather the city pursue funding for “green” alleys.
Both Shubert and Wilkening expressed concerns about the loss of parking spaces that will result and the amount of time the parking lot will be off-limits to library users and Uptown customers while construction is taking place.
Zingsheim said construction of the lot is expected to take four months. While two additional disabled parking spaces will be added, the lot will lose 13 spaces as it gains landscaped areas, the City Council was told.
Ald. Charlie Melidosian, 5th Ward, said he believed a “shift” in parking will be “manageable” and that the project has benefits.
“Every bit of storm-water detention helps with flooding,” he said.
City Engineer Sarah Mitchell said storm water is to be detained in a gravel layer under the permeable pavers, and, within the gravel, a perforated drain pipe will send water slowly into the city’s sewer system.
Residents Andrea Cline and Melissa Hulting, both members of the Park Ridge Sustainability Task Force, expressed their support for the green parking lot project Monday.
Cline acknowledged that maintenance can be an issue and she has seen permeable paver lots that failed or were not installed properly. But, she added, there are “many positives” that can come from the project.
“It’s good for our city, it sets an example, it shows the residents that we care about flooding,” she said.
Mayor Marty Maloney pointed out that a recently installed, privately owned parking lot with pavers outside a new business in Uptown was already showing signs of chipping in the bricks.
“If it was our library lot, I would have some concerns about that,” Maloney said. “That might be something we want to learn from.”