Wilmette, Northwestern officials respond to concern over Rocky Miller Park renovations


Daily file photo by Alex Putterman

Construction on the renovations to Rocky Miller Park began in 2014. Wilmette residents have expressed complaints about a proposed scoreboard addition and lack of communication from Northwestern and Evanston.

Marissa Page, City Editor

Some Wilmette residents have expressed frustration with a proposed scoreboard for Northwestern’s renovated Rocky Miller Park, which sits on the Wilmette-Evanston border.

The scoreboard is currently set to face the Wilmette side of Isabella Street, which marks the northern border of Evanston. Wilmette village manager Tim Frenzer said residents had voiced concern about the potential for a large sign to distract traffic on Isabella Street.

There was also concern about what Frenzer said was a lack of communication from Evanston and NU officials about the project, which stems back to 2014, when renovations to Rocky Miller Park officially began.

“Officially, the village doesn’t take a position on the case,” Frenzer said. “We respect the Evanston City Council’s needs to interpret and apply its own zoning ordinance. The problem from our end was that … when construction began, nobody who lived around it, at least on the Wilmette side, had any clue what was going on.”

Evanston’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted Dec. 15 to recommend provision of a special use permit for the 24 foot tall, 36 foot wide scoreboard at Rocky Miller. The deliberations then went to the Planning and Development Committee, who also approved the permit at its meeting Jan. 25, and will be discussed Monday at City Council.

Laurel Sheffer, a Wilmette resident who lives along Isabella Street, brought a letter to the Jan. 5 ZBA meeting containing renderings of how the proposed scoreboard might look from various vantage points on the street. Sheffer is one of several residents who have expressed concern that the sign might distract passing traffic.

Although Paul Kennedy, director of communications for NU Athletics, said he understood why residents might be concerned, he said other renovations to the park will obstruct the view of the scoreboard.

“Actually, ironically, I think (the new clubhouse) will obscure most of the scoreboard … and block its visibility from Isabella,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy added that he has heard that Wilmette residents had expressed concern about the renovations, and community concern is a frequent component when considering University developments.

“We’re obviously in a unique spot in that so many college campuses are surrounded by nothing but space, and we’re smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” Kennedy said.

Although Rocky Miller Park faces Wilmette, the area is within Evanston’s city limits, making deliberations on the property the responsibility of Evanston’s city government. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz sent an open letter to Wilmette residents Jan. 15 informing them of meetings regarding the park and inviting them to attend.

Frenzer emphasized that open communication between NU, Evanston and Wilmette is critical to a smooth renovation process.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure everyone has due process, or at least get a notice and an opportunity to be heard, and let the city of Evanston decide what is best,” Frenzer said.

Echoing Frenzer’s concern for dialogue, Kennedy said NU was working hard to provide information to Wilmette residents.

“What’s going on at (Rocky Miller Park) is certainly a big change, there’s certainly going to be some consternation,” Kennedy said. “We’re doing our best and I know our facilities team is doing their best to deal with those concerns on a one-by-one basis.”

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