Much like during the , little common ground was found between village officials and residents concerning what to do with Valley View pond during Tuesday night's council meeting.
The pond, located in the Valley View Estates subdivision west of Main and north of 75th, suffers from poor water conditions, odors, algae blooms and more as a result from sediment buildup, waterfowl presence and a lack of substantial vegetation.
During the June 19 council meeting during a “workshop” session on the subject, the two primary options presented were to either dredge the pond at a village-estimated cost of nearly $1 million or “naturalize” the pond, converting it to a sustainable marshland for nearly half the estimated price of the dredging. Naturalizing the pond would stabilize the sediment, adding additional fill and native vegetation in order to make the pond aesthetically pleasing and ecologically sustainable. Village staff were in favor of naturalization and saving money while the subdivision's residents—many with property that backs up to the pond—wanted to dredge the pond, leaving its aesthetic makeup unchanged. The price difference between dredging and naturalization didn't phase the residents, who felt a dredging was long overdue anyway and the overall price was a relatively small price to pay to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood's centerpiece.
On Tuesday, the item shifted from being workshopped to being on the meeting agenda's “first read” portion, and village staff returned to the table again pushing for the naturalization, this time with a motion to award a design-build contract to ENCAP, Inc. in the amount of $538,740.50 for the naturalization of the pond. Village staff maintained dredging of the pond would need to be repeated on a 20-30 year cycle in order to maintain the open water pond the residents want, which they felt limited the dredging option's long-term sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
However, even though naturalization was still the primary recommendation, village staff also presented other options for what to do with the pond. “Option 2”, as it was referred, consisted of dredging the pond and implementing a Special Service Area to pay for the incremental cost of dredging. The SSA would create an additional amount that would be levied on the property tax bills for all of the properties within the SSA boundaries. The third option presented would consist of conveying the pond property—which the village ended up in control of as a result of litigation in 1988—to the residents of the subdivision, leaving them to pick up the tab in full for all pond-related maintenance. In that scenario, the village would convey the property and give a one-time financial contribution to the homeowners association created to take ownership of the pond.
Most council members stressed their preference for naturalization but maintained they were keeping an open mind about other options, particularly options involving an SSA.
“I do believe that naturalizing the pond is the most sustainable option,” said commissioner Becky Rheintgen. “I just don't feel comfortable using public tax dollars to maintain a private pond. If the residents truly want it, I think they should pay to maintain it.”
While a couple of residents were curious about the SSA option and wanted more information, others were still set on dredging, going so far as to solicit their own quotes from independent contractors on how much the dredging would cost. One resident told council members an independent contractor he had come out and give a quote for the dredging said the dredging could be done “well within” the $500,000 parameter set by the naturalization cost. When residents heard that, a lot of subsequent comments throughout the evening conveyed a distrust of the village's dredging estimate of just under $1 million.
Much of the discussion throughout the night highlighted philosophical differences of opinion between the residents and the village. The residents view it as a pond (and occasionally a lake), a selling point of their home, and a community gathering space where they can fish and ice skate. The village sees the pond as a stormwater detention pond and little more. The residents view it as a public pond that everyone in Downers Grove is welcomed to enjoy. The village sees it as a private feature of the subdivision that most residents of Downers Grove doesn't know exists and will probably never see.
The pond itself was man-made by the developer of the subdivision in the 1970s as a way to meet detention requirements and as a feature that could be marketed to potential homeowners. It was agreed upon during construction that if the developer installed the pond to the standards the demanded the park district would take ownership of the pond. When it was installed, there was a dispute between the park district, village and developer on whether or not those standards were met, and the park district never took ownership.
After nearly two hours of discussion, village staff were instructed to flesh out the SSA options for the residents and answer any lingering questions before the next council meeting in August.