Frequenty Asked Questions and Resources

FAQ's

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Who is legally responsible for stormwater management in the city of Elmhurst?
 
The City of Elmhurst’s Public Works Department through the Utility System Maintenance Division is responsible for the operation and maintenance of water distribution, the metering system, and the sanitary and storm sewer collection system. It is not the legal responsibility of any other government agency including the library, schools, or parks.  The City of Elmhurst’s Utility System Maintenance Division’s phone number is (630) 530-3020.
 
When did stormwater become such a big issue in Elmhurst?
 
Following the widespread flooding that was experienced during the storm events of June and July 2010, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL) was hired by the City of Elmhurst to develop a comprehensive flood plan for the City which was initially completed in July of 2011 and included 10 flood prone areas of study and the recommended improvement projects.   Three additional study areas and improvement projects were added to the report after the 2013 storm event. 
 
Why did stormwater flooding become a problem in Elmhurst?
 
It is impossible to know exactly what caused the problem to escalate but the Park Board believes the following were all contributing factors:  major changes in rainfall events (particularly 100-year storm events) over the last 5-10 years, significant construction in the community greatly reducing pervious surfaces throughout the community, and new residential construction guidelines requiring runoff to be directed directly into storm sewers with no detention required on individual properties. These requirements have been changed by the City significantly in the last two years. 
 
Why is the Park District involved in stormwater detention?
 
The reason the Park Board has considered pumping water into parks is simple, because the City of Elmhurst came to the Park Board and asked us to help and be part of a solution and the Park Board agreed to help, if possible.
 
In May of 2013 the Park Board was initially provided some conceptual plans relating to the idea and possible potential use of park land for stormwater detention as part of the solution. The City of Elmhurst presented the comprehensive flood plan to the Park Board in August of 2013, formally asking for consideration of stormwater detention on park land.  While the Park Board’s mission of protecting and preserving green space and providing leisure and recreational amenities is not fundamental to stormwater control, we understand and empathize with the residents who suffer from flooding, and because of this have worked hard to allow detention in both York Commons and, foreseeably, Golden Meadows Park. 
 
Why has it taken so long for the stormwater projects and solutions to happen?
 
It is important to look at the entire timeline, from when the City of Elmhurst first commissioned a study from Burke Engineering, to when the Park Board was initially involved to today:  
 
July 2011    
Burke Engineering Report with 10 flood zones
City of Elmhurst Comprehensive Flood Plan was presented at Task Force Meeting
December 2011
Burke Engineering Report with 10 flood zones
City of Elmhurst Comprehensive Flood Plan was presented at City Council Meeting
April 2012
Burke Engineering Report with 10 flood zones
City of Elmhurst Comprehensive Flooding Plan Storm Sewer System Analysis presented to City of Elmhurst
December 2012  
Burke Engineering Maps of Park Projects Only
City of Elmhurst Staff and Burke met with Elmhurst Park District Staff (not Park Board) 
May 2013
Burke Engineering Maps of Park Projects Only
Park District Executive Director presented proposed maps to Park Board 
*August 2013
Burke Engineering Report with 10 flood zones
City of Elmhurst Comprehensive Flood Plan presented to Elmhurst Park Board
September 2013
Stormwater Sub Committee Formed
Includes representatives from Burke Engineering, City of Elmhurst, Elmhurst Park District, and Board of Education
September 2014
Burke Engineering Report Addendum - Adding three additional flood zones
City of Elmhurst Comprehensive Flooding Plan Storm Sewer System Analysis presented to City of Elmhurst
 
*The Park Board received a presentation about the use of stormwater detention basins in community parks in August of 2013, over two years after the initial report was created.  In October of 2014, the Park Board voted to assist City of Elmhurst with stormwater detention in York Commons and Golden Meadows Park and provided some details of what would be necessary for a proposed agreement.  At this point, the City asked for reconsideration of the details and further negotiations began between the City of Elmhurst and the Elmhurst Park District. 
 
As regards to progress on the many additional stormwater projects in the plan, you would need to refer to the City of Elmhurst’s website
 
Where does the Park District stand on the use of park land for stormwater detention?
 
The Elmhurst Park District, as a government agency, has no responsibility or authority for the management of stormwater in the Elmhurst community.  However, we understand and empathize with the residents who suffer from flooding, and because of this have worked hard to arrive at solutions with the City of Elmhurst.  An intergovernmental agreement has been reached to allow for 10 acre feet of stormwater detention in York Commons, effectively removing 38 homes from potential flooding in a 100-year storm event.   In March of 2016, an intergovernmental agreement was proposed to the Park Board by the City which includes the purchase of part of Golden Meadows Park as part of a second solution.  The details of this agreement are being developed.
 
Why has it taken so long to reach an agreement with the City of Elmhurst?
 
The simple answer is that the City of Elmhurst and the Elmhurst Park District have very different missions, objectives, and legal responsibilities.  It is the City’s governmental responsibility to assure a stormwater infrastructure that prevents resident homes from flooding while the Park Board’s mission is to protect and preserve green space and provide recreational and leisure activities and amenities.  It is not difficult to understand why there may be potential for conflict.  
 
The Park Board received a presentation about the use of stormwater detention basins in community parks in August of 2013, over two years after the initial report was created.  
 
Beginning in August of 2013, the Park Board began reviewing and discussing the details of each project.  In July of 2014 the City of Elmhurst prioritized the projects and determined that York Commons and Golden Meadows Park should be the first projects.  
 
Like any landowner, the District strives to manage the water that falls on park land, trying to minimize the impact on the community’s recreational amenities, much like any individual homeowner manages the water on their property with proper drainage, grading, groundcover, rain barrels for collection, etc. If your neighbor came to you asking if he could dig a hole in your backyard so he could have his stormwater pumped into it, what would you say?  Would you want to know the details?  How deep, how much will it help, how long will it sit there, are you going to reimburse me, what if it overflows into my house or the neighbor next door to me, what if I want to put an addition on my house?  It took a good deal of time to work through these questions, verify facts, and find solutions that worked for both parties. 
 
The Park Board maintains that every inch of open and recreational space is precious to the community.  It is the Park Board’s duty to protect it. To be sure the District lives up to its mission while still trying to help the community with flooding problems, the Park Board identified the following three decision criteria which would be used when reviewing the project proposals.
1. To help the City meet stormwater needs, if possible
2. To ensure that the park sites, if used for detention, retain their recreational function
3. To ensure that any decision would not adversely impact park neighbors 
 
In October of 2014, the Park Board voted to assist the City of Elmhurst with stormwater detention in York Commons and Golden Meadows Park and provided some details of a proposed agreement.  
Upon receipt of this, the City asked for reconsideration of the details and further negotiations began between the City and the Park District. 
 
Why can’t the City just use the Elmhurst Park District land? It belongs to the taxpayer, right?
 
The taxpayer owns land through various government entities including the State of Illinois, DuPage County Forest Preserve, the City of Elmhurst, the Elmhurst School District and the Elmhurst Park District.  This does not mean that the land is jointly owned. The Park District cannot just build a playground in front of the police station any more than the School District can build a school on a parking lot owned by the City. Much of the land acquired by these entities on behalf of the tax payer is for specific use and is often protected from other uses to ensure use as it was originally intended.  In the case of the Park District, much of the open park land was historically purchased with the help of grant money from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, (IDNR).  When IDNR funds are used it is legally specified that the land cannot be used for stormwater detention, but must be preserved as recreational or open space.  This is one reason that the agreement for Golden Meadows Park is difficult, as IDNR funds were used to purchase the land.  Although IDNR is open to some discussion, their requirement is that if the land is sold, it must be replaced with land of equal size and value that is preserved as recreational or open space.  This potential acquisition of land becomes even more difficult in a built-out community with limited open space. 
 
If the Park District would just say yes to stormwater detention the problem would be solved, right?
 
The simple answer is no that is far from true.  The goal of the City’s stormwater management plan at the time of the presentation to the Park Board in August of 2013 was to provide all ten flood prone areas of Elmhurst with 100-year overland flood protection.  According to the City – “While this goal is technically feasible, the economics and solutions employed will be very different.  In short, the goal is to provide the maximum flood protection to the most people in the most cost effective manner.”  In the 2012 report based on 2010 flooding, 580 homes were identified that could be protected from a 100-year storm event if all the suggested improvements and projects were implemented exactly as proposed.  In September of 2014 three more flood prone areas were studied adding 84 homes, making a total of 664 homes that were identified that would potentially be protected from a 100-year storm event if all projects ( city, school, parks, other) took place exactly as envisioned in the engineering report. 
 
The Park District stormwater detention projects (five in total) identified in the Burke engineering report had the potential to help 115 of these homes if all projects were completed exactly as indicated, regardless of cost, impact to green space, IDNR restrictions, or any other considerations.  Potentially, if the Park District had agreed to everything as asked, 549 homes would experience no relief, or 82.6% of the homes identified would still be unprotected from the 100-year storm event.  The good news is that by committing to stormwater detention in York Commons and potentially Golden Meadows Park, 58 of the original 664 homes would be protected from such an event. 
 
Why does the City of Elmhurst have to buy the land at Golden Meadows Park?
 
Much of the Elmhurst Park District park land, and specifically Golden Meadows Park, was purchased with the help of Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) funds, and therefore may not legally be used for stormwater detention.  The IDNR lays out specifics regarding the use of land and the sale of such land.  If the land is ever sold, it must be replaced with land of equal size and value so future generations enjoy the same green and recreational space that is available today.   One of the many reasons such funding opportunities exist is to assure green space and park land is not gobbled up for commercial development or other needs but remains an asset to the community as recreational space. 
 
What is the deal with the shut-off valve at York Commons?  It is costing the City money, right?
 
Firstly, any stormwater detention solution or infrastructure improvement will cost the City of Elmhurst money, it is part of why they collect taxes, to maintain and improve infrastructure.  The short answer is that the shut-off valve in York Commons protects surrounding areas including Cayuga Avenue and York Road from flooding and causing even more problems downstream if the detention basin were to overflow.  The Park Board identified the following three decision criteria which would be used when reviewing the project proposals.
1. To help the City meet stormwater needs, if possible
2. To ensure that the park sites, if used for detention, retain their recreational function
3. To ensure that any decision would not adversely impact park neighbors 
 
The shut-off valve was required so as not to adversely impact park neighbors and others in the community.  The valve will only operate if the stormwater detention basin is at capacity.  At that point, no additional water can be intentionally piped into the basin.  The engineers for both the City and the Park District felt it was not essential and the likelihood of an overflow was very slight.  The Park Board felt that this precaution was necessary given the unpredictable nature of storm events.  No engineer would have predicted three 100-year storm events in three years in Elmhurst, but it happened, and the Park Board believes it can happen again and wanted to ensure no negative impact to other homes if the basin were to overflow.
 
In addition, the initial proposal from the City of Elmhurst provided for $200,000 in recreational amenities to the park, believing the basin would perform well as a sports field even if it flooded occasionally.  The Park Board disagrees with this opinion.  A large hole in the ground created to hold pumped-in stormwater is not and will never be an improvement to a park. The Park Board chose to forego this $200,000 expense, a portion of which could instead be used to fund protecting our residents, and saving the City over $100,000 versus their original proposal.
 
The Park District is being portrayed by the City as the demanding party in the ongoing negotiations regarding stormwater detention in the Parks.  Why is the Park District being so difficult?
 
The Park Board would define our position as consistent and well outlined.  The Park Board identified the following three decision criteria which would be used when reviewing the project proposals.
1. To help the City meet stormwater needs, if possible
2. To ensure that the park sites, if used for detention, retain their recreational function
3. To ensure that any decision would not adversely impact park neighbors
 
It is important to remember what the goal is in all these negotiations.  The City of Elmhurst came to the Park Board with a big ask, to use the community’s park land resources to help with the flooding problem in the community.  And the biggest reason for “the ask” is that pumping water into a park is a cheaper solution in the short-term than acquiring new land or improving the dated and aging infrastructure.  If the Park District would have said no to this request, the City would have been required to go to the next, more expensive, project as a solution.  There is an old adage that “cheaper is not always the way to go” and the Park Board believes they have a responsibility to do what is right for the community, not for the next year, but forever! Is pumping water in our parks the best solution to solve the problem, forever encumbering the open space in the community?  With that in mind, every single detail of the proposal from the City and Burke Engineering was reviewed to ensure it was truly the best all-around solution, with cost being one, but not the only, criteria.  
 

Links to Additional Stormwater Resources