Eagle Ridge residents feel voices not being heard by Orland Park officials over planned pond changes

By Jon DePaolis

ORLAND PARK, Ill. – The Village of Orland Park intends to plant native grass at a pond in the Eagle Ridge subdivision as part of a shoreline restoration project. But some of the subdivision’s residents are concerned that the project will diminish their quality of life.

Two residents spoke out against the Village’s plan to plant the native grass at Eagle Ridge Stormwater Basin Pond No. 4 during the Tuesday, Sept. 8 Village of Orland Park Board of Trustees’ Committee of the Whole meeting.

Angelo Lambros, who said he moved to Orland Park earlier this month and chose that home specifically because of the view of the pond, said he felt it was the wrong decision by the Village and one that was “really disturbing.”

“It’s a little alarming to think we spent all this money to open up our shades and look at weeds,” Lambros said. “I’ve seen these ponds in Homer and other places, and it is not pleasant. I don’t think it favors the people on the pond. I think it takes away the value of the property.”

Terry Shanklin, president of the Eagle Ridge 3 homeowners association, also addressed the Village Board.

“People that live in my development stated that when they purchased that home they paid for that view,” Shanklin said. “That grass really doesn’t solve any of the problems, and it’s going to choke that type of lifestyle right out of the community. You don’t have it in your front yard, [so] we shouldn’t have to have it in ours.”

Things became contentious after Shanklin’s three minutes of public comments – as allotted by the Village’s policy – came to a close. Mayor Keith Pekau informed him that his time was up.

“Really?” Shanklin said. “Thank you. I’m going to tell you what: You will see me and my constituents on Election Day.”

“That’s your right,” Pekau replied.

“You better believe it is,” Shanklin said.

Village contends ‘main reason’ for ponds is stormwater management, not view

Last week, Richard Free Press was sent a letter from a resident of the Eagle Ridge subdivision that listed the concerns some of the community members have regarding the Village’s plan to change the pond.

Richard Free Press reached out to Orland Park Village Manager George Koczwara about these concerns, and he responded by email on Friday, Sept. 4.

Koczwara said there are more than 550 stormwater basins, also referred to as detention ponds, in Orland Park that are connected to the overall stormwater management system.

“Designed and constructed with the subdivisions, the basins’ primary function is to serve as a critical component of Village’s stormwater management system because developments add more impervious runoff surfaces like parking lots, sidewalks and roofs,” Koczwara stated. “Because this extra water would be introduced to streams/creeks faster and increase flow, it would damage natural streams/creek drainage and increase impact of flooding on other properties downstream. The ponds serve as a way to collect the water and slowly release to the same streams/creeks. They also serve the vital role to protect homes around the pond from flooding issues.

“While there is a secondary benefit for residents to have a view at water, the main reason they are in place is for stormwater management.”

Koczwara said the Village began working on a strategy to review and improve the stormwater basins it maintains back in February 2011.

“The primarily approach that the Village utilizes for shoreline restoration projects involves the use of native vegetation versus ‘hard edge’ techniques, such as sheet piling or stone riprap, which can be costly to install and maintain,” he said. “Native grasses/forbs have been proven to provide excellent means of erosion control and have been shown to filter out nutrient and sediment runoff from adjacent land, which contributes to improved water quality.”

Koczwara listed the benefits of the shoreline restoration project as: protecting the shorelines from erosion; improving the habitat for fish and other wildlife; improving the water quality and filter nutrients/sediments; and attracting natural wildlife.

Regarding the Eagle Ridge Stormwater Basin Pond No. 4, Koczwara said the Village has been asked several times since 2017 to inspect the water quality of the pond.

“On-site inspections revealed that the pond had experienced a scour around the pond edge and substantial erosion was present,” he stated. “Resident complaints have continued since that time regarding the condition of the shoreline and the water quality of the pond. Resident concerns, staff observations and consultant inspections regarding the pond and its shoreline ultimately informed the decision to implement a shoreline restoration project at [the pond].”

Koczwara said that this past spring, the Village received four proposals to restore and maintain the pond’s shoreline. V3 Companies was selected.

Residents were notified about the project by letter on July 27.

“Since the letters were sent, several calls and emails from residents were received by the Village,” Koczwara said. “Some residents wanted to know more about the project and seemed content with the response Public Works staff were able to provide.”

In response to the residents who were concerned about the project, Koczwara said staff responded with the following: plantings were selected to remain as low as possible (2 to 3 feet tall); planting species were selected with aesthetics and functionality in mind; and that there is an 1,100-acre prairie (Orland Grasslands) approximately one-tenth of a mile from the pond that contains many of the same plant species as proposed for the project.

Residents feel Village officials are ignoring their concerns

After the Committee of the Whole meeting, several Eagle Ridge residents said they felt their concerns were not being heard by the Village Board.

“I haven’t been so disrespected in my life,” Shanklin said.

Kathy Cunningham, an Eagle Ridge resident who also lives by the pond, said that the residents who purchased homes in that section of the subdivision “paid extra money” for the view of the pond.

“We paid top dollar to live around that pond,” she said. “That [native grass] will definitely bring the house value down without a doubt.”

Karen Shanklin said she was willing to work with Village staff to find an alternative but was against the native grass planting.

“Don’t put this stuff [in],” she said. “It’s going to draw mice, snakes [and] coyotes.”

Wally Waysok, an Eagle Ridge resident, said those homes face the pond. So, if a resident is in his or her living room, they can see the pond.

“That’s why we all bought there,” Waysok said. “Because that is the way it started. And now, all of a sudden, they are going to come along [and plant the native grass].”

He said the homeowners have paid for the grass to be cut around the pond for 27 years.

Waysok added that residents have been told by the Village that the native grass will keep the runoff from going into the pond.

“That’s true, but there are five 4-foot diameter pipes for inlet for runoff from everywhere else around the development that comes in, and they don’t have a filter on them,” he said. “So, you’re bringing in 10 times the amount through those pipes than what is coming in down the side bank.”

Waysok said he has emailed every trustee on the Village Board about this issue but has been given the same response as the one he received at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

“They’ve been working on this since 2011, but they don’t bother telling any of the residents because they don’t want to involve any of the residents,” he said. “[Our voices] haven’t been heard. They never listen.”

Waysok said he would like to see Village do nothing to the pond area. But if something has to be done, he suggested using riprap rock.

“It’s cheap and it does the same thing, and we’ll still maintain it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Terry Shanklin said he has a petition signed by 179 homeowners of the total 181 units in the Eagle Ridge 3 neighborhood. The petition asks the Village to not plant the native grass.

“If you look at the residency, it’s probably twice that amount — so you’re probably looking at between Eagle Ridge 1, 2 and 3 about 900 voting citizens,” Shanklin said. “And most of them have children that vote, and some of them have grandchildren [who can] vote.”

And they are not going away.

Shanklin said he is going to organize and have Eagle Ridge homeowners contact the Village Board members about the issue.

“There’s going to be an opposition that doesn’t have to be,” he said.

But Shanklin said he felt the board members were more concerned about “getting out of there” during the meeting than listening to the residents’ comments.

“They’re not public servants,” Shanklin said. “They think they are rulers.”