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Article posted: 9/8/2013 9:00 AM

Public interests in Vernon Hills converge on Aspen Drive

By Mick Zawislak

What can or should happen with some small but strategically located properties along Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills will be the topic of discussion for local public bodies that each have a stake in the sites' futures.

Officials from the Cook Memorial Public Library District and Hawthorn Elementary District 73 have been invited to the village/Vernon Hills Park District liaison meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to get the process rolling.

"It's a bunch of moving parts," said Mike Allison, Vernon Hills village manager. "It's one of those issues that begs for everybody to get together and talk about."

Village and park district officials meet periodically to discuss various matters, but this session will focus on potential plans for land in what has become a corridor of public and residential uses.

Among the sites to be discussed is an acre and a half owned by the village that could provide the answer for what is being described as a "nice problem" for the Aspen Drive Library.

"We're looking at expanding parking because of the community response to the library," said Stephen Kershner, executive director of the library district, which three years ago opened the Aspen Drive branch.

Since then, the parking lot often is full and visitors sometimes have to circle the lot looking for a spot. The library has 69 parking spaces and is looking for at least 50 more.

"Our interest is expanded parking to alleviate the congestion and frustration for library patrons," Kershner said.

The site of the 20,000-square-foot library was purchased from the village, which also provided property nearby for the Victory Centre of Vernon Hills apartment and supportive living facilities. The village still owns a piece of land adjacent to the library on the south.

Next to that is 3 acres owned by the park district, which has a prominent presence in the area with its Sullivan Center facility and Family Aquatic Center. Plans before the library was built envisioned an expanded Sullivan Center.

"We could use another full-size gym. Where that would be is up for discussion," said park board President David Doerhoefer.

The gym originally was planned for the Aspen Drive property, but another possibility is the former YMCA building on Lakewood Drive, which became district property Jan. 1.

The park district also owns land to the south of the Sullivan Center that has been envisioned for sports fields in cooperation with District 73. The property sits across the street from Hawthorn Elementary South, which uses it for athletics.

But District 73 also has been considering a building addition or new school, and the park district land across from the Hawthorn campus would be a logical spot.

"All the government bodies ... have a vested interest in the area," Doerhoefer said.

The meeting at the Vernon Hills village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive, is considered a preliminary step at which the government bodies will share priorities.

"We're very much into collaboration -- all the parties," Kershner said.

Doerhoefer said that whatever happens should be determined with the "best interest of the community" in mind.

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