A proposed baseball netting system at New Trier High School has been deemed too unsightly for Winnetka, for now anyway.
At a heated meeting Wednesday night, the Winnetka Plan Commission again tabled New Trier's application for a special use permit to allow a new 50-foot-tall black netting system at Duke Childs Field designed to prevent balls from flying onto Willow Road. Commissioners questioned the need for such a structure and decried the net's appearance as a potential blight on the "gateway to the village."
The Plan Commission asked New Trier to come back with a landscaping plan to "soften" the aesthetic. Other requests included more public input and a cost analysis of repositioning the fields instead of building the net structure.
"I'd like you to look at the cost of reorienting your darn fields, so foul balls don't go onto Willow Road," said John Thomas, Park District representative to the Plan Commission.
Jack Coladarci, a plan commissioner, agreed and said it could end up cheaper than long-term maintenance of the "ugly structure."
The netting plan is needed for safety reasons, New Trier officials say, adding that people often scurry onto Willow Road in pursuit of foul balls. There's also concern about balls striking passing motorists and causing accidents.
New Trier is working on a landscaping plan with Chicago-based Lakota Group, said Steve Linke, the high school's maintenance manager, and will return seeking Plan Commission and zoning board approval as soon as possible. After clearing those groups, the plan would go before the Village Council for approval.
New Trier's netting plan was first tabled by the Plan Commission last month. At Wednesday night's meeting, several commissioners said New Trier had not sufficiently answered their questions from the January meeting.
Coladarci floated the idea of planting a row of poplar trees as a more appealing alternative to the net.
"That would be a total crapshoot," Linke said, "whether the ball hits a tree or goes between two trees."