Huntley downtown picnic tables enjoyed last summer could be here to stay
The Huntley Village Board may make the downtown picnic tables, added last summer to make more room for outdoor diners, a permanent fixture, but concerns were raised that this would reduce green space and interfere with events such as the Huntley Farmers Market.
During the summer, when outdoor dining was the only means of survival for Huntley restaurants, the Huntley Park District donated picnic tables to the downtown's Town Square to give diners more space to enjoy their meals. At Thursday's village board meeting, trustees discussed plans to bring the tables back this summer with a mixture of portable tables and permanent, concrete sites.
Trustee Tim Hoeft, who is also running to become the village's next mayor, advocated for the permanent sites, saying the tables brought more daily use to the historic downtown square than the village has ever seen.
At least one of the permanent sites would be built to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning residents of all abilities would be able to access and enjoy the picnic tables, which Hoeft said is crucial.
"It doesn't matter what age you are. If you're 32 and you shattered your knee or if you're 80 and you are in a wheelchair, until you're in that position, I don't think anybody realizes how important it is where you have those areas usable," he said.
Trustee Ronda Goldman, who is up for reelection this spring, said she will not support the project and cited concerns from residents who said the concrete foundation of the 12-by-15-foot permanent sites would reduce already scarce green space in the downtown area.
"That square is little. It's pretty. People love being there," Goldman said. "I don't see why we just can't pick up tables, sometimes they want to move the tables together for their groups."
Trustee J.R. Westberg, who is also up for reelection, said he observed residents moving picnic tables out of the mud and onto the sidewalk after rainy summer days, which was disruptive to foot traffic. Permanent sites would help, but the proposed concrete foundations seem too large and pricey, he said.
The village has already approved the allocation of $36,000 to the project in the 2021 budget, but is now considering three options with varying price tags, according to an outline of the project included in Thursday's meeting agenda.
The first and cheapest option proposes four permanent sites and eight portable picnic tables, and local landscaper William Ruth Landscape estimated the total cost at $38,000.
The second option would be five permanent sites and seven portable tables for a total of $44,500, and the third and most expensive option would be six permanent sites and six portable for $51,000, according to the project outline.
Each site would be built on a large concrete pad and with an "accessible path of travel around the perimeter," according to the project outline. A large, 8-foot-by-5-foot picnic table would be placed in the center and a "seat wall" surrounding the site would provided added seating for bigger groups.
Hoeft and Westberg expressed support for the cheapest option as it is closer to the budgeted amount and could be offset by money the village will save on senior transportation services this year.
Trustee Niko Kanakaris said the three sites outside of the ADA-compliant site should be built with the least amount of concrete possible and should not include seat walls to preserve green space. Others agreed.
Barb Read of the village's special events department raised concerns on how the permanent sites might interfere with events held in the square such as summer concerts and the Huntley Farmers Market. She suggested altering the site locations to be away from Coral Street, where farmers market vendors set up their booths in the grass lining the sidewalk.
Village staff will present the village board with a final plan based on Thursday's discussion at the next board meeting planned for Thursday, March 11.