Residents of the Village of North Hills continued to oppose an application for expansions and fences from Buckley Country Day School before the village Board of Trustees at a public meeting livestreamed to YouTube on June 16.
Initially proposed in 2019, the school’s $5 million expansion plans drew ire at its first public hearing in January 2020, with residents from the neighboring Acorn Ponds condominiums complex and nearby streets Bonny Lynn Court and Fox Ridge voicing criticism of the project and calling Buckley “a bad neighbor” for its behavior and treatment of the neighborhood in the past.
The project includes a perimeter fence, parking lot renovation, dining hall expansion, addition to the headmaster’s house, six new classrooms for the performing arts and language departments, a garage and equipment storage building.
Last week’s meeting focused specifically on the perimeter fence, which Buckley’s headmaster, Jean-Marc Juhel, discussed.
“What Buckley is proposing is that we keep the existing fence that is already built on a significant portion of the property line with Acorn Ponds, and that we build the remainder of the fence as close to the property line as possible without disturbing the vegetation and trees that are currently there,“ Juhel said. “We would also like to add gates to the fence.”
The headmaster added that he and several other school officials had met with representatives of the Acorn Ponds condominium and said that he hoped both groups would develop a “mutual understanding.”
The school’s attorney, Bruce Migatz, emphasized that the school was seeking a 54-inch-tall black aluminum fence, rather than chain-link, with wrought iron gates. The school’s representatives did not say exactly how long the new fencing would be.
In spite of the meeting between the two factions, nearby residents still demurred on the idea of the fence at the public comment period, saying it would interfere with the area’s natural foliage and would result in negative effects for the Acorn Ponds area.
Resident Steve Duch, a member of the Acorn Ponds Homeowners Association who toured the property with Juhel, asked the village to direct the school to provide a map of the latest survey of the Buckley land and claimed that the school did not exchange much information during the meeting.
“While Dr. Juhel was cordial, he did not have a significant working knowledge of the property boundaries or a clear vision of where the proposed fence would be located, and if it would be a total or partial replacement,” Such said. “Once we can review this survey, specifically the boundaries between Acorn Ponds, Buckley and the Northern State Parkway, we as a community will be willing to work collaboratively with Buckley on an agreement regarding the type of fence that would be constructed, as well as any other land use agreements.”
A.J. Jein, a resident of the nearby area, asked why the school needed fencing, and said it should be more concerned with litter and speeding that occurs on or near its grounds and affects residents.
“You’ve been here for 31 years and nothing has happened,” Jein said. “They’re destroying the neighborhood and this is the nail in the coffin. How is this making North Hills a better place to live? All these [expansions] should not be allowed at all, this school is like a parasite to us.”
The North Hills Board of Trustees will next discuss the matter at its July 16 meeting.