Bloomington’s City Council has approved the replacement of Hyland Lake Park Reserve’s ski chalet and an expansion in parking in and near the park.
It took that step last week only after the Three Rivers Park District agreed to measures intended to ensure that traffic and congestion don’t increase at the ski and snowboarding site as well as in the surrounding neighborhood.
Negotiations over that issue had bumped city approval of the Park District’s plans from November into this month.
In the end, the council unanimously approved the project and made it clear that it loves the park and its amenities.
But neighbors have been vocal in their worries about congestion, noise and night lighting that spill outside the park, and city officials said they heard those complaints.
“This is a gem of our community, and it has been used by me and my family over the decades,” Mayor Gene Winstead said after the council vote. “But it has impacts on the residential neighborhood.”
He said the agreements between the city and the Park District are “about as good as it’s going to get. Is it perfect? No.”
Three Rivers plans to replace the chalet with a building that is twice as big. But parking worries were what had area residents especially concerned. Extended-hour parking at the chalet will actually shrink because of creation of a ring road for buses and the addition of short-term parking spaces for people who are dropping off or picking up kids.
Parking will be expanded at a remote lot near Normandale Lake, where shuttle buses will pick up people and take them to the chalet. To add 157 parking spaces there, about an acre and a half of green space would be lost.
Last month, residents told the council that the small plot to be used for new parking is one of the few flat areas in that part of the city for informal play. Three Rivers agreed to designate a similarly sized area next to the chalet that is now used for disc golf for that purpose. The golf layout will be reconfigured to open up space.
A parking lot at Bush Lake will still be used as an overflow lot.
Three Rivers also agreed to add a secondary light system for night maintenance. The lights will point up the ski slope instead of down, and will be zoned so only the area being worked on is lit. That should reduce the lighting impact when the slope is not in use, city Planning Manager Glen Markegard said.
The Park District also agreed to shortened construction hours while the chalet is being built, limiting attendance at some special events and making sure that if new snow-making machines are needed, they will be quieter than the ones used now. Electronic signs at parking lots for traffic control or shuttle alerts will be used only for those purposes, with advertising barred.
The Hyland project will cost about $14 million. Construction on the chalet is expected to begin in March and last for 14 months, with the new building and expanded parking lots open for the winter of 2015-16.
The park will remain open for winter activities during construction.