The bushes and fence at Community Park will stay up but a solution to citizens' complaints will be worked on by a committee in Palos Heights in the near future. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

The bushes and fence at Community Park will stay up but a solution to citizens' complaints will be worked on by a committee in Palos Heights in the near future. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Gaming issue dies, bush and fence issue will get fresh look in Palos Heights

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By Jeff Vorva

Video gaming is out.

The bushes and fence will stay up.

The Palos Heights City Council meeting on Tuesday clocked in at roughly 40 minutes but it was eventful as two hot issues were addressed.

Alderman Brent Lewandowski, the head of the License, Permits and Franchises Committee, said his committee is not moving forward with bringing video gaming to town.

The issue has been a hot topic since Alderman Jerry McGovern brought it back to light in December, 2020, when restaurant and bar owners were taking financial hits during shutdowns due to COVID-19.

The council voted 5-3 against it in 2013 and voters rejected it in a referendum 3,319-2,522 in 2018, but McGovern thought sentiment might have changed as so many surrounding communities voted to bring gaming to their towns.

Lewandowski’s committee hosted a special meeting at the Palos Heights Recreation Center to get reaction from the public and approximately 80 people showed up on March 7.

A majority of people who have reacted, either at that meeting or through emails or other communication, indicated that they don’t want the gaming in the city and the writing was on the wall that if it went to a council vote, it would not pass.

“The votes and the appetite are not here,” Lewandowski said after Tuesday’s meeting. “There is no point in going forward. We’re done. It’s over.”

McGovern spent a lot of time and effort researching the issue and reluctantly waved the white flag on it.

“It was going to lose,” he said. “It’s on hold…extended hold.”

The council voted 6-2 against removing the split-rail fence and 16 bushes on the east end of Community Park between 120th and 121st streets.

Lewandowski and Heather Begley voted for bringing them down while aldermen Jeffrey Key, Don Bylut, Jack Clifford, Robert Basso, Michael McGrogan and McGovern voted to keep them up.

Citizens who spoke at the meeting pleaded with the council to take them down for various reasons including the hassle of entering the park through just one entrance.

While the vote went against those citizens, Mayor Bob Straz said this wasn’t the end of the issue.

“By the next meeting, I will assign this to a committee and look for a new way we’re going to go with this,” he said.

Straz is hoping that a solution can be found that could please everyone and create more access into the park.

The fence and bushes were put up in 2015 after the council voted to erect them for safety reasons and to meet insurance requirements.

Begley said she hasn’t found insurance requirements to be the case. Begley and Lewandowski sought the opinion of Public Works Director Adam Jasinski, who told them the bushes and fence could come out. Lewandowski added that Police Chief Larry Yott did not offer an opinion but deferred to Jasinski.

Begley and those who want the bushes and fence to come down may have lost a battle, but she feels like they gained some ground by bringing this to light.

“In the past, this issue has fallen on deaf ears,” she said. “Now we’re going to take a fresh look at it. That will be good.”

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