October 8th, 2019 12:56 PM
The Hollywood Citizens Association has offered District 96 the right to lease land north and west of the Hollywood House for outdoor use for students. (File 2019)
By Bob Skolnik
After rejecting an offer by Riverside Elementary School District 96 to buy property owned by the Hollywood Citizens Association immediately south of Hollywood School in Brookfield, the association has made a counter proposal, offering to lease the school district a little more than 10,000 square feet of land west and north of Hollywood House for the token payment of $1 a year.
The written offer was presented to the school district on Oct. 4 during a roughly hour-long meeting between Gonzo Schexnayder, the president of the HCA, and District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan Toye.
Ryan-Toye said that offer was not exactly what the school district was looking for, but said that the school board will discuss it at their Oct. 16 meeting. In a telephone interview with the Landmark, Ryan-Toye noted that previously the HCA had raised the possibility of leasing land east of Hollywood House.
"My initial thoughts are we appreciate the HCA board giving this a lot of thought," Ryan-Toye said. "Initially it is perhaps not the idea that we were planning on nor the idea that we were really hoping for, but now we will take this back to our Board of Education for additional consideration."
The HCA is offering to lease the nearly 3,000 square feet of land it owns just north of the Hollywood House where the existing playground is in addition to about 7,700 square feet of lawn area just west of the house to Hollywood Avenue.
Schexnayder said that this would give District 96 more than enough land to build a large playground with excellent sight lines from the school and would allow the district to meet its goal of separating play space from parking.
He called the proposed lease "a win-win" for both the school district and the HCA, which would accommodate the needs of Hollywood School while maintaining Hollywood House for community use and preserving green space.
Ryan-Toye said that because of previous discussions about leasing land east of the Hollywood House, the school district has already developed some tentative plans for that area. However, that land is not part of the HCA's new offer.
"The possible use of the east side is better for the district, and we felt it could be good for both parties," Ryan-Toye said.
If a playground is built on the land west of Hollywood House, Ryan-Toye said that the district would have to work with the village of Brookfield to keep children away from the street and would have to modify the design of a proposed multipurpose room addition so that children could safely and easily go over to the playground.
Under the terms of the offer, the land leased to District 96 could only be used for a playground and other related purposes. The offer states that the entire leased area could be enclosed by a fence. In a telephone interview, Schexnayder suggested that a wrought iron fence, such as the one at Harrison Park in Brookfield, would be nice.
The proposal gives the HCA to right to approve any fencing. District 96 would be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the land it leases.
The HCA is offering a 30-year ground lease for the land with two 10-year options to renew.
"It effectively gives the school district control of the land for 50 years," Schexnayder said.
District 96 wanted to buy the entire property and tear down the nearly 100-year-old Hollywood House to accommodate the planned addition, an expanded playground and increased parking.
Ryan-Toye has also had discussions with Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg about using some village-owned land to provide more parking for Hollywood School teachers. The idea of allowing a few teachers to park all day on Hollywood Avenue also has been discussed.
The school district will host a public forum at Hollywood School on Oct. 30 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. to show off its ideas for expanding the Hollywood School campus. Now the HCA offer to lease land to District 96 will also be part of the discussion.
"I think it provides an opportunity for the community to come out and see what we have," said District 96 school board member Joel Marhoul.
According to the written offer, the HCA proposal is valid until the end of this year. The $1-per-year lease offer is good for only the initial 30-year term of the lease. Renewal rates are to be at the market rate, the offer states.
The offer states that the current playground area may be used as hard surface play area, which would make it suitable for games like basketball or four square.