Lake Zurich village board members have agreed to postpone voting whether to authorize selling a downtown park for home development after hearing from several concerned residents.
Kuechmann Park's lack of use, deteriorating playground equipment and other problems were cited in a park and recreation advisory board's recommendation to sell the roughly 8 acres. Kuechmann is off Old Rand Road near the village's namesake lake.
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But several residents opposed the idea of selling Kuechmann Park during a village board meeting this week. The residents' passion for the slice of lakefront open space was mentioned when village board trustees voted 4-0 to return the issue to the advisory board for further study.
"I raised five kids in this community," Trustee Steve O'Connor said, "and if somebody took the park that was down the street from me, I would come loaded for bear, too."
Advisory board members in February voted 6-1 in favor of wanting Kuechmann sold as a site for single-family home construction. The recommendation to the village board also called for 50 percent of the land sale proceeds to go into Lake Zurich's park improvement fund.
Lake Zurich management analyst Kyle Kordell wrote in a memo that a second, updated appraisal is expected to place Kuechmann's value at $600,000 to $800,000. Village research shows the downtown property was purchased for $572,500 from John and Martha Metropulos in December 1989.
Village Manager Jason Slowinski said developers showed interest in the land after reading recent news stories about it possibly going on the market.
"So, I do believe that property would attract a very competitive sale price and would sell fairly quickly," Slowinski told the village board.
Kuechmann has 74 trees, with all but six deemed to be in good condition, according to a village inventory completed this month. Most trees at the park are more than 100 years old, with some topping 200.
In pressing their case against selling Kuechmann, the residents expressed concern about the loss of the trees, open space and wildlife.
Village tree commission member Mary Kozub, a longtime environmental and conservation educator, said some residents are willing to volunteer their time to care for a park she described as neglected by the village for the past 10 years.
"Developers will always circle," Kozub said, "and they disappear real fast, too."
Barry Luneburg, who lives on Lorraine Drive near the park, said the property is of significant value to residents in the area.
"Don't take our parks, please," Luneburg said. "That's a golden asset we have."
The park is named for Alton M. Kuechmann, who was Lake Zurich's mayor from 1953 to 1957 and founder of the plan commission. It was estimated 3 percent of Lake Zurich households visit the park in a typical year, according to a 2011 village report.