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Perspectives on growth

by Lynn Meredith
One thing people can agree on is that growth, for the time being, has slowed significantly. The economy, housing market and credit crunch have all contributed to reducing the number of homes and businesses that are coming into the Kaneland area. However, each of the four Kaneland towns has a different perspective on growth for their village.

Sugar Grove
There was a time when the village of Sugar Grove issued 200 building permits in one year. In 2008, it issued 24 permits. In the past, the village saw a rise in single-family homes, with several subdivisions being developed.

“Growth wasn’t as hot and heavy as in other suburbs,” Community Development Director Rich Young said. “ But for our relative size, we saw a lot of growth.”

One large subdivision, Settler’s Ridge, finished 117 homes with 100 lots ready to be built on and land ready to be developed. With the reversal in the economy and housing market, houses are not being built at nearly the same rate.

“Growth has fallen off significantly,” Young said. “They predict that 2009 will not be much better than 2008.”

Although three developments are still active, two that were approved but never annexed have either decided not to go forward or declared bankruptcy.

Young said that Sugar Grove has seen some activity in commercial building, with builders showing interest in future development. Still, office and commercial buildings sit empty.
The village is working with local commercial brokers to promote the village both regionally and nationally.

“We’re trying to be proactive on a limited budget,” Young said. “We should see growth ramp back up slowly and hope by the end of the calendar year of 2010 to see it start to return.”

Maple Park
For a village of 750 people, the influx of a possible 3,000 homes in two major subdivisions would change the small town of Maple Park. The village set in motion plans to improve the town well, and build a new water tower and wastewater treatment plant with the money it would receive from the developers.

In addition, the village approved two strip malls on the southwestern and northeastern corners of the intersection of Route 38 and County Line Road.

All that has come to a halt.

“With no impact fees, we’re left hanging,” said village Financial Committee Chairman Kathy Curtis. “We’re running the town on taxpayers’ money.”
For now, the village plans to paint the old water tower and apply for grants to help the aging infrastructure.

As the economy improves, so will bond prices. When that happens, Curtis said, it will be one year for developers to be able to make the improvements the town has counted on.
“It will take 10 years for us to build out,” Curtis said. “We’ll still be a small town for the next 20 years.”

Elburn
In the last five years, Elburn has seen several new commercial-manufacturing buildings and new commercial and industrial businesses. The surprising twist is that most of the new businesses came to town in 2008.

Community Development Director Erin Willrett lists 14 new businesses in 2008, including Walgreen’s, Fox Valley Driving School, Green Light Driving School, Boyce Body Werks, Munchie P’s and Good Call Plumbing Services.

In past years, there were not nearly as many new businesses. In 2003, two new businesses started in Elburn. In 2004, three businesses, Curves, Genoa Pizza and American Bank and Trust opened.

In 2005, five new businesses started, and in 2006, two, Elburn Auto Repair and Jewel, came to town. Five businesses opened in 2007, and by 2008, there were a total of 28 commercial and industrial businesses that had started in the previous five years.

Currently within the village, there are five industrial parks and one potential park for the future. In Keystone Industrial Park, 48 lots exist, and nine are vacant. In Welch Creek Business Park, 10 buildable lots exist with three vacancies.

Kaneville
Kaneville has a plan in place for growth in the village. It’s called the 2030 plan, and calls for not just growth for growth’s sake, but for smart growth. Its Planning Commission is working with Kane County to see what that means.

“We want smart growth,” village trustee and owner of Hill’s Country Store Pat Hill said. “We want a few businesses and a few houses.”

Hill said that a subdivision on Dauberman Road had been dug in, ready for roads to be put in, but now nothing is going on. Ten lots had been sold out of a possible 40, but now only two have been sold. The other buyers either got their money back or lost it.

With acres and acres of prime black-dirt farmland around, Hill said she finds it a shame to build on the best farm land or on wetlands. She enjoys the thrill of farmers bringing in the Indian arrowheads they have found while working up the land.

Photo: Kevin Cook’s Elburn Pack and Ship was just one of the new businesses to come to Elburn in the last year. Photo by Sarah Rivers