The Upside of the Downside

A few years back some bad things started happening to us. It seemed as though we were under siege…. trapped in a surreal situation where nature all around us was under attack. It was a situation that seemed stunningly unlikely. The impossible had happened. The flood plain behind my home was about to be developed as a residential property, putting all the surrounding houses in jeopardy of being inundated. Two completely reliable expert sources had told me this was mathematically impossible. To build in the floodplain, you must have a 1:1.5 percent ratio of compensatory storage.  I had seen for myself the water rising and widening each year. What had started as a floodplain had grown into a complex wetland eco-structure. Diverse wildlife had adopted it as their home.  Aside from the mosquitoes and the smell of the receding water after a big rain, I had grown to love it.  If I kept the landscaping pristine and abated the mosquitoes, it was a manageable inconvenience.  I had accepted the responsibility as well as the bucolic peace and privacy.

Being someone who worked from home and being blessed with total seclusion had a down side.  I never really  met my neighbors.  I started to meet them when the BRB meetings began. Those who had found out stood up to speak.  After hearing the outcry, we felt an obligation to inform the others who might be impacted, as well.  As it turned out, quite a few people had not been notified.  It appeared the city was in no hurry to warn anybody.  Anyone who lives down stream on the Skokie River is at risk.  Development of this piece of land will need to miraculously over throw the laws of physics or put us in danger of being flooded out.  Any doubt about this can be dispelled by the city attorney demanding a letter from the owners absolving the City of Lake Forest of any responsibility. This seems to represent a lack of confidence in the probability of this magical feat.  I was surprised to hear how many of my neighbors lived near or next to flood basins that were full to capacity.  Many of us were already experiencing property damage…. some of it pretty extreme.

Consternation aside, I learned one unexpected thing.  I have terrific neighbors. I am honored to have been given the chance to get to know them. Not only are they smart and engaged with their community; they are fun and funny. We had people step up to the microphone who not only don’t live on the river, but some that didn’t even live in the neighborhood. Lake Forest is a great community with smart involved residents. I am proud to call these people my friends.  I learned an important lesson. It’s nice to have privacy … it’s much nicer to get involved with your community.


Kerry Friedman

About Onwentsia Memorandum

I am a long time LF homeowner who has been witnessing an expansion of standing water each year getting deeper and wider. Each Spring, the next generation of ducks appear to raise their ducklings. But this year is different. Their habitat has been altered.
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