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Development of Countryside swimming school stopped by city council

Published: Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 11:07 a.m. CDT

COUNTRYSIDE – The city council went against the Plan Commission's recommendation and denied a special use ordinance for a new swimming school at 55th Street and La Grange Road at its meeting Aug. 14.

School of Fish Swim School hoped to fill a void left by the 2008 closing of the Rich Port YMCA in La Grange, but a shortage of parking spaces at its proposed location, 9930 55th St., led the council to unanimously deny its request to use the property.

"It just doesn't fit in that neighborhood unfortunately," Alderman Sean McDermott said.

The school hoped to offer children's swimming lessons and open swim time in a four to five-lane pool inside an existing 14,000-square-foot-building. The city requires that businesses offer five parking spaces for each 1,000 square feet of property, or 72 for the school's intended site. But McDermott said there are only about 20 spaces in front of the building and a dozen or so more behind it that belong to another business.

"We're kind of a victim of our own success, because we're bringing businesses into town, but we're just having a hard time finding parking [for them]," said McDermott, who thinks the school will have to look for a new site.

Western Springs resident Marty Brown plans to head the business side of the school, which would primarily offer lessons to children, but would also provide time for lap swimmers and be available for events like birthday parties. 

"It's a great swimming community, [but] there is a little bit of a shortage on the pool side with the YMCA being torn several years ago," Brown said. 

Two of Brown's sons swam and played water polo at Lyons Township High School, and his 11-year-old son is currently involved in both sports. As a parent of several swimmers, Brown said he realized there was a shortage of swimming space in the surrounding communities.

"There's not as much of an issue in the summer time, but the rest of the year, it's pretty tight," Brown said.

After the YMCA closed five years ago, residents had even fewer options, eventually directing Brown to his current project. 

"It's harder to find space," he said. "One of the things that happens, too, is competitive swimmers like the water to be really cool. And for younger kids and even instructors, they like the water to be a little bit warmer."

Brown plans to team with a board of advisers that will include Bill Ellsworth, a Western Springs resident and former All-American swimmer at Fenwick High School; and Dough Eichstaedt, the head men's water polo coach at LT.

If the school finds a location, the lead instructor will be Christy Vitek, the head swim coach at La Grange Country Club and a former LT All-American swimmer. Vitek also played water polo at the University of Illinois. 

Use of the pool will be membership-based, but Brown said the school hopes to partner with other fitness facilities for joint memberships. Lessons will likely be offered during the day, with open swim periods in the early morning and evening. 

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