Tag Archives: Jerry Schmidt

Board allows video gaming in Elburn

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn village trustee Ken Anderson’s question to his fellow board members, “How does this (video gambling) improve the quality of life in Elburn?” went unanswered on Monday evening.

Instead, the board voted 5-1 to approve an ordinance allowing video gaming machines in Elburn establishments that serve liquor.

Village Board members Bill Grabarek and Jeff Walter had joined Anderson in 2009 in voting for a ban on video gaming. However, Walter, who said two business owners in town had recently approached him about revisiting the ban, brought video gaming before the board again last month.

“What concerns me is Blackberry Inn has allowed it,” Walter said at the time. “Are we going to lose customers? Are we going to lose tax dollars?”

Blackberry Bar & Grill, south of town in unincorporated Kane County, installed three video gaming machines last fall after Kane County reversed its ban on video gaming. Two more machines were delivered on Feb. 20 for a total of five altogether, the maximum allowed.
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The revenue gained from video gaming is split between the bar owner, the gaming terminal provider and the state, with the bar owner and the terminal provider each receiving 35 percent, and the state receiving 30 percent. The municipality (or in the case of an unincorporated area, the county) receives one-sixth of the state’s take, or 5 percent of the total revenues.

Anderson had said he was concerned about the message that allowing the machines in town would send, as well as enabling people to gamble away money they could not afford to lose.

However, trustee Dave Gualdoni and Village President Dave Anderson said they didn’t feel they should dictate to others how to live their lives. In addition, Dave Anderson said that if people didn’t gamble in Elburn, the opportunity exists four miles down the road.

Grabarek said he had received phone calls and emails from residents asking him why he had decided to reverse his earlier stance on the machines, and stated that he didn’t want to hurt the businesses in town. He said he would like to see how it goes, and that the village could hold a referendum in a couple of years if the board members thought the issue needed to be looked at again.

Trustees Jerry Schmidt, Ethan Hastert, Walter, Grabarek and Gualdoni voted in favor of the video gaming ordinance.

Tavern owners who have a liquor license may apply for a video gaming license through the Illinois Gaming Board. Schmidt’s Towne Tap owner Kevin Schmidt—trustee Schmidt’s son—and Knucklehead’s owner Betsy Brizek have both said they would apply for the license.

The Elburn Lions Club initially considered applying for a license, but ultimately decided not to pursue it.

Video gaming vote postponed

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Village President Dave Anderson on Monday put off voting on the video gaming issue, due to the absence of two trustees. Jerry Schmidt was on vacation, and Ethan Hastert was called out of town for work.

Elburn resident Al Herra still had some feedback for the board on the issue.

“Before you vote on this, you should think about who wins,” Herra said. “It’s not the community that wins.”

Herra said that the people who lose their money at video gaming end up not having it to spend at other businesses. Calling it a redistribution of the money in town, he said that the only winners are the state of Illinois and the bar with the machines.

The Village Board first considered video gaming in 2009, when trustees implemented a ban on it in the village of Elburn. Although Walter was in favor of the ban at that time, he said that since then, the state has clarified the rules for how it would work.

In addition, Kane County has since reversed its ban, allowing the Blackberry Bar & Grill south of town to install machines last fall. Some of the trustees said they were concerned that Elburn’s dollars would be spent outside of town, including places such as the bar and grill.

Blackberry Bar & Grill owner Pam Moutray said she has been pleased with the results since they installed the machines. They had three put in last fall, and recently added two more, for the five machine maximum.

Moutray stated that she knows some people have concerns that the machines will attract “seedy” people, but said that has “absolutely not been the case.”

“We have husbands and wives who come in together, and they are happy to have some place to go,” she said. “They’re happy to have a neighborhood place to spend their money.”

Moutray said she is also pleased with the revenues the machines are bringing in.

“Our cut has met our expectations and then some,” she said.

The revenue gained from video gaming is split between the bar owner, the gaming terminal provider and the state, with the bar owner and the terminal provider each receiving 35 percent of the revenues, and the state receiving 30 percent. The municipality receives one-sixth of the state’s take, or 5 percent of the total revenue.

Sugar Grove has also lifted its ban, but will hold a citizen referendum on the issue in the spring. The referendum is non-binding and advisory, which means the board is not required to change anything, based on the results of the vote.

Elburn resident Fred Houdek also had some feedback for the board on video gaming, and said he feels that bringing video gaming to Elburn doesn’t really fit with the values of the Elburn residents, and that it “sends the wrong message.”

“I don’t think we’re the ones that are going to profit,” he said.

Schmidt’s Towne Tap owner Kevin Schmidt and Knuckleheads Tavern owner Betsy Brizek have both said they would install the machines in their bars. Although the Elburn Lions Club initially considered video gaming at its facility, Park Board Treasurer Tim Klomhaus said that they had ultimately decided against it.

Anderson did not say when the video gaming issue would be brought before the board.

Village Board to vote on video gaming March 4

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board is working out the details of the video gaming ordinance that would allow video gambling machines in places that serve liquor within the village of Elburn. Trustee Ken Anderson said he is still opposed to it.

“I’ve been pretty clear about my opinion about this ordinance,” Anderson said. “I’m not in agreement with bringing these machines into our town.”

Anderson said he does not believe that allowing this type of activity in town is conducive to the kind of community he wants Elburn to continue to be—family
oriented and community-minded.

Anderson said he understands there is a bill being considered in Springfield, House Bill HB 1306, that would keep the public from knowing the amount of money local residents lose in each establishment providing gambling in their community. Currently, video gambling reports are published each month and posted on the Illinois Gaming Board’s website.

“What they’re proposing is that you would know the county total, and not each establishment,” he said. “Somebody wants to make it so you can’t see what’s going on.”

According to the General Assembly website, HF 1306 “amends the Freedom of Information Act and the Video Gaming Act. (It) prohibits the Illinois Gaming Board from disseminating information relating to video gaming that is specific to individual licensed locations, but allows the dissemination of information that is aggregated based on municipality or county.”

The bill was scheduled for a State Government Administration Committee Hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

When the Village Board considered video gambling in 2009, trustees implemented a ban on it in the village of Elburn, with a 4-2 vote. Trustees Anderson, Jeff Walter, Bill Grabarek and former trustee Patricia Romke voted for the ban. Trustee Jerry Schmidt and former trustee Gordon Dierschow voted against it.

Although Grabarek said he does not like the act of gambling itself, he does not want to “injure the businesses in town.” He said the amount of money there is to be made is greater than he had anticipated. Because Kane County allows the machines, the Blackberry Bar & Grill, located on Main Street Road and Route 47 in unincorporated Kane County south of Elburn, was able to install three machines last fall, and put another two in last week.

“Last night (Friday) was a big night for us,” Blackberry Bar & Grill bartender Bob Regan said at lunchtime on Saturday.

According to Regan, people begin coming in to play around 2 p.m. He said he wasn’t surprised that Elburn and other communities were currently considering allowing the machines in their establishments.

“Gotta keep a level playing field,” he said.

The bartender said some people from the Sugar Grove Legion had come in recently to check out the machines. When Regan found out that Sugar Grove was holding a referendum to ask the residents whether or not they wanted video gambling in town, he said he didn’t think it would pass.

“A lot of people don’t want their husbands or wives down here playing,” Regan said. “I know I wouldn’t.”

Schmidt’s Towne Tap owner Kevin Schmidt and Knucklehead’s Tavern owner Betsy Brizek have both said they would put the machines in their bars.

Walter said that when he first voted for the ban, the state didn’t have its act together, the rules weren’t published, and there was too much of a gray area.

“It seems like it’s the right time,” Walter said. “I don’t want to penalize our businesses.”

The revenue gained from video gaming is split between the bar owner, the gaming terminal provider and the state, with the bar owner and the terminal provider each receiving 35 percent of the revenues. The state of Illinois receives 30 percent, and the municipality receives one-sixth of the state’s share, or 5 percent of the total revenues, from the state.

The board will vote on the video gaming ordinance on Monday, March 4. Trustee Jerry Schmidt will not be present.

Village Board revisits video gaming ban

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Village Board members have decided to revisit the village’s ban on video gaming, which has been in place since September 2009. At that time, village trustee Jerry Schmidt was the only board member in favor of video gaming. Current trustees Bill Grabarek, Ken Anderson and Jeff Walter were against the measure.

Schmidt at the time said that video gambling would be a pro-growth measure, and that it would boost the village budget through the tax revenue it produced.

“If we ban it in Elburn, and they have it in other towns, people are going to go there instead,” he said at the time.

In the three-and-a-half years since the Village Board reached a decision its decision on video gaming, Kane County reversed a ban it had imposed on video gambling, and Blackberry Grill, south of town in unincorporated Kane County, installed three machines last fall. Two more machines were to be delivered to the location as of Wednesday, for a total of five altogether—the maximum number allowed.

Trustee Jeff Walter brought the issue back to the board at a recent meeting, saying that two business owners had approached him about revisiting the ban.

“What concerns me is Blackberry Inn has allowed it,” Walter said. “Are we going to lose customers? Are we going to lose tax dollars?”

Knuckleheads owner Betsy Brizek and Schmidt’s Towne Tap owner Kevin Schmidt both have said they are interested in obtaining the licenses to bring machines into their taverns. Although the Elburn Lions Club had considered it awhile ago, Park Board Treasurer Tim Klomhaus said that they had decided against it.

The Lions Club is more about family and young kids, Klomhaus said. Also, the facility is not open on a daily basis, which would make it less of an option.

Trustee Schmidt is still in favor of allowing video gaming, saying that he wants to do what is best for the village.

The revenue gained from video gaming is split between the bar owner, the gaming terminal provider and the state, with the bar owner and the terminal provider each receiving 35 percent of the revenues, and the state receiving 30 percent. The municipality receives one-sixth of the state’s take, or 5 percent of the total revenues.

Grabarek said he still has a problem with video gaming in the village, but noted that the village could really use the potential revenues. He said that Blackberry Grill is making $800 a month after three months, and that’s with three machines.

“The revenue (for Elburn) could be substantial,” Grabarek said. “It could be $1,000, $1,500 a month.”

Grabarek on Wednesday said he almost has to bite the bullet and support the measure.

Kane County Board member Drew Frasz said that he doesn’t see it as a revenue producer.

“A dollar spent on video machines is a dollar not spent down the street at the grocery store or other establishments,” he said. “It doesn’t make money; it redistributes it.”

The board will vote on the issue at its meeting on Monday, March 4.

Village trustees renew Elburn Station development discussion

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Village Board members on Monday renewed discussions regarding the Elburn Station development.

Village trustees identified their main sticking points with ShoDeen and the development plan. They discussed ways to address concerns that include the density of the development, the ratio of rental units to overall housing, inadequate developer funding toward construction of a footbridge and concerns about the financial viability of the developer.

Although the village still has additional information to gather, its goal is to go back to ShoDeen principal Dave Patzelt with recommendations.

Trustee Ethan Hastert started out the conversation, as he had been the one to suggest they come back to discuss their concerns and how best to deal with them.

“ShoDeen owns that property,” Hastert said. “It makes sense for the village to get the best possible development out of the developer.”

Hastert said he thought there should be a published number of average rental units for a town the size of Elburn, and asked village staff to do the research on the topic.

The current plan for the Elburn Station calls for 800 rental units, many of which had been initially designated as condominiums. This number would create a ratio of 36 percent rental units within the development. The village is currently 84.5 percent owner-occupied and 15.4 percent rental units.

Trustee Bill Grabarek said that he still had concerns about ShoDeen’s financial health, referring back to the company’s loan default on the Tanna Farms Golf Course.

Although Village President Dave Anderson said that the bankers would make that call by deciding whether or not to bond the developer, other trustees were not satisfied with that solution.

Trustee Jeff Walter said he did not want to go through another four-year process to get the promised improvements completed. Four years is how long it took to obtain a response from the bankers holding the bonds on the Blackberry Creek Subdivision regarding improvements left undone by B&B. Elburn has yet to receive that money.

Other trustees suggested that they might place some restrictions on the developers to keep them from starting another phase of the development until the current phase requirements are completed.

“Maybe we can require that the improvements are done, such as roads finished, infrastructure completed, before more units are built,” trustee Ken Anderson said.

Grabarek said he would be happier if some of the rental units were designated as senior housing. He said he would like to see a variety of housing options that would be appropriate for the entire lifetime of a resident “from cradle to grave.”

Although most of the discussion centered around board members’ concerns about the plan, trustee Jerry Schmidt had a different perspective on the matter.

“I have a different mindset than you,” he said. “We need that bridge. The hours that are wasted out here on Route 47 (waiting for a train); we’ve got to get Elburn jump-started.”

The Anderson Road extension and bridge has been tied to the Elburn Station development, with ShoDeen the owner of the property needed for the right-of-way. The extension would be a 2-mile bypass road, around Route 47 through Elburn, that would extend Anderson Road from Keslinger Road to Route 38 and provide a bridge over the railroad tracks.

Approximately $18 million in federal funding was set aside in a 2005 transportation bill to build the bridge, and Kane County officials made building the bridge a priority for the region, providing $3 million of the funding, as well. The Elburn Village Board in October decided to table the vote on Shodeen’s development until the bridge is built.

Schmidt said he wondered how long the federal dollars set aside for the Anderson Road and bridge construction would still be there. Village president Dave Anderson said he would ask someone from the Kane County Transportation Department to come out and give them some input.

The discussion will continue at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Jan. 14. Anderson said the earliest the board could vote on its recommendations would be at the board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Elburn tables ShoDeen development

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Village President Dave Anderson on Monday broke a 3-3 tie, tabling the Elburn Station development.

Trustee Bill Grabarek reiterated his concerns about the development, including financial issues raised by the foreclosure of developer ShoDeen’s Tanna Farms Golf Course in Geneva, and the increased number of rental units in the plan.

The current plan calls for 800 rental units, many of which had been designated as condominiums in the initial plan.

Grabarek said that approving the Elburn Station development in light of the golf course issue would be a “moral hazard” for Elburn, and the village could possibly end up in a situation similar to the one in which it currently finds itself with Blackberry Creek. The village is currently in discussions with Blackberry Creek developer B&B Enterprise’s bond company in an attempt to complete infrastructure improvements left undone by B&B.

Grabarek said he thought the rental unit to owner-occupied homes ratio was “out of place” in Elburn. The village is currently 84.5 percent owner-occupied and 15.4 percent rental units. The development would have a ratio of 36 percent rental units.

Grabarek made a motion to table the vote on the Elburn Station development until the Anderson Road Bridge was built. Trustees Jeff Walter and Dave Gualdoni voted with Grabarek; trustees Ken Anderson, Ethan Hastert and Jerry Schmidt voted against tabling it. Village President Dave Anderson added his vote to break the tie, tabling the vote.

“We were hoping to be moving dirt by now (on the Anderson Road bridge),” Kane County Board member Drew Frasz said. “They’re shovel ready.”

The fate of the project to extend Anderson Road from Route 38 to Keslinger Road and build a bridge over the railroad tracks has been connected to the approval of the Elburn Station development.

Grabarek stated that he was not happy about the Anderson Road project being held “hostage” by the development. Anderson Road was to be used as a bypass for Route 47, diverting truck traffic around Main Street in Elburn.

The right-of-way property to the bridge is owned by ShoDeen. Kane County has agreed to pay $3 million of the $22 million project, with the majority of the remaining amount coming from federal and state funding.

Frasz said that the county would have to “pick up the pieces” and “go back to square one” on the plan for the Anderson Road bridge. He added that, should the project go dormant, the federal money might get channeled somewhere else.

“There’s always 10 people waiting for every $1,” Frasz said. “The county will have to look at whether we want to go it alone.”

After the vote, trustee Jeff Walter and some of the other trustees said that they were still interested in considering the development; they just did not want to consider it now or in its current configuration.

After the meeting, Walter said he made the motion to table the vote because there were too many issues he thought should still be negotiated differently with the developer.

In addition to the density of the development and the large number of rental units, Walter said he also would like to see some of the impact fees changed, and to set aside some of the 800 rental units for senior housing.

Trustee Ethan Hastert had some of the same issues with the development, although his vote was not to table it.

“I would rather address the issues than table the vote,” he said.

Hastert said that, although he shared Walter’s opinion about the density of the development, he would rather bring it up now rather than “kick it down the road.”

“Voting it down would’ve been a good thing,” Hastert said. “We would have gone back to the negotiating table. Now, a critical piece of infrastructure (the bridge) is in jeopardy.”

Dave Anderson said that he broke the tie because he wanted to keep the door open for the development to obtain approval.

“I didn’t want to say no, and I didn’t think the annexation agreement would pass. (an annexation agreement needs a super-majority—two-thirds—vote).They still own the land, and we still want to work with them.”

Dave Patzelt, president of ShoDeen, left the meeting without comment.

Annexation hearing closed

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—After hearing a final comment and letter from supporters of the Elburn Station plan, the Elburn Village Board on Tuesday voted to close the public hearing that has been open since May.

Bill Grabarek was the sole trustee to vote against closing it.

Grabarek raised several issues with the development, the first in light of recent news that the Prairie Parkway project is on hold indefinitely and that a full interchange is in the works at Route 47 and I-88.

“Route 47 in the coming years will become a substantial truck route with a substantial amount of traffic over Anderson Road Bridge. We (the village) take over care of the bridge after one year. We haven’t looked at the costs of the care and maintanence,” Grabarek said. “It’s going to be a semi route, with trucks coming off I-88 to get up to I-90. They are going to be coming through town. We’re taking the (financial) load of all the truck traffic.”

Grabarek also pointed out a concern for the number of rental units proposed by Sho-Deen. He referenced the 2010 Census that showed a ratio of owner-occupied properties to renter-occupied properties as 10:1. He said the Sho-Deen ratio of owner to renter properties was closer to 1:1.

“As a matter of policy, as a matter of planning, we should consider more carefully the ratio of owner-occupied to renter-occupied units. We haven’t really talked about this, about what is our vision for Elburn and its growth. We need to look at development not just as rooftops, but as what we want to become in the future. Sho-Deen originally came in with mainly condos. Now that’s shifted to approximately half rental units. Our job here as elected officials is to look at what the village will be down the road,” Grabarek said.

He emphasized that the board should think about whether Elburn can absorb over 1,000 rental units. He asked the board not to approve any development until after the Anderson Bridge is built.

“Let’s slow down, let’s table it, let’s have the bridge built and then talk development. It’s our town, and we can’t just grab development in a precipitous way. (Elburn Station talks) have been percolating for years, and every year it’s changed. Now it’s to apartments and something lesser (than originally proposed). And we’re accepting something lesser. I can’t in good conscious do that,” Grabarek said. “Are we really producing something better, or just bigger?”

Trustee Jerry Schmidt expressed support of the annexation, saying that truck traffic can be controlled and that renters are not necessarily a problem.

“Things are changing. We need to figure out how can we attract young people to the village. I’ve been pro-growth since I moved out here,” Schmidt said.

Trustee Jeff Walter said that his opinion and understanding of the numbers has not changed since he voted against the project in a preliminary vote. He is concerned with the density of the housing and with the number of rental units.

Walter, however, disagreed with Grabarek and Village President Dave Anderson on whether the impact fees are adequate to provide the village with income to off-set development.

“Department heads (at Kaneland School District) put pencil to paper and came up with a number,” Walter said.

Grabarek calls the fee of $25 per unit ear-marked for the pedestrian and bike path “insignificant,” and that the village will end up coming up with the money to build the path or risk splitting the newer and older parts of town.

“How much are we biting off to get rooftops? How meaningful is the money we get from Sho-Deen? The question is, what’s in it for us?” Grabarek said.

“This board downgraded the (original impact fees), and that’s okay, but I think we’re cutting off our noses to spite our face,” Dave Anderson said.

Trustee Ken Anderson cited his work with Kane County as proving that the economy and the markets can change what is initially negotiated with developers.

“It’s not a static piece of paper that won’t change. We have to go by how can we do the best with the information we have,” Ken Anderson said.

A vote may be taken at the Sept. 17 meeting.

“Development is necessary We welcome new people, but also I don’t want to burden the existing community with new folks coming in. I want the bridge done for the existing residents and central Kane County,” Dave Anderson said. “We will make our decision on the best facts and information that we have at the time.”

Residents speak: Elburn Station public hearing remains open

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—With a village trustee absent again this week, the Elburn Village Board on Monday agreed to keep the Elburn Station public hearing open until all members are present. The board listened to comments from members of the public who lined up on both sides of the issue: whether to annex the Sho-Deen property that is being planned as the Elburn Station development.

Fred Houdak, a franchise business developer and former Chicago resident, spoke in favor of the development.

“I had two expectations when I moved here: one, that the Anderson Road bridge would be built, and two, that Elburn would be growing,” Houdak said. “My expectation was that Elburn was primed and ready to get growing. If you don’t move forward, you are moving backward. If you don’t move forward, you are dying. Let’s get ‘er done.”

Elburn residents Christina and Sean Joy pointed out the problems that Elburn’s Blackberry Creek development has.

“I have a problem with the empty lots. The foreclosures are growing by the day. Do we have enough room in the schools for all the kids that would be coming in? (We’re) inviting so many more people in that we can’t accommodate nicely,” Christina said.

“I’ve seen what happens when a community grows too fast,” Sean said. “I see (Sho-Deen) putting in streets and turning (the land) into an eyesore for 20 to 30 years.”

Houdak rebutted concerns that he hears expressed about the density of the development.

“Get out of Elburn and drive around in the suburbs. You will find areas that are pristine, townhouses with alleys that I would love to live in,” Houdak said. “Whether it’s apartments, condos or homes, you find (this is) the current way of developing – open area, open streets and open development. Chicago is coming out here. DeKalb and Sycamore are coming this way. We’re smack dab in the middle. I see Elburn as the golden spot in the Fox Valley.”

Others stated that they did not move to Elburn to see it become another St. Charles or Batavia. They came for the family orientation and close knit community, not to live in a commuter town.

“We don’t want to be a suburb,” Tanya Miller said. “I want the village and the board to understand that there’s more involved than Sho-Deen pushing and pushing that you need this bridge. We’ve gotten a long fine without it. I guess I’m frustrated and concerned that we’re making the decision off the bridge (coming in).”

Some objected to Houdak’s comments by asking, “Why did you move here?” and “Why do you want to change this town?”

Local realtor Ron Rosecky reiterated his concerns that there are still unresolved issues with the development, making it difficult to vote on what is still unknown. He also noted that Elburn business areas have many vacant stores.

“I feel like we’ve got a broken bone in downtown and we’re looking at a whiplash case over here (bringing in another development),” Rosecky said. “Going forward is not the best step if you’re not prepared. People from the east and west will come regardless whether we have a Sho-Deen development or not.”

The issue fresh on the minds of Elburn residents was brought up.

“Where on Earth are people going to park?” Bill Coglin asked. “I don’t see Sho-Deen buying the (Community Congregational Church’s) parking lot. That would sweeten the deal by saying, ‘Elburn, I’m not going to strangle you. I’m going to help you.’ Growth can be good, or it can clog you up.”

Houdak expressed his confidance that the economy would improve.

“I believe in America, and we’re going to work our way through this. It’s short-sighted to not do anything,” Houdak said.

A vote to close the hearing failed, 1-4, with Jerry Schmidt voting in favor of closing it. Once it’s closed, residents may speak during the public comments portion of the meeting, but their comments will not become part of the Elburn Station record.

The next opportunity to speak is Sept 4.

“This issue is not about us (the board),” Village President Dave Anderson said. “It’s about us (the community).We continue to look at the facts. Not one of us will make this decision based on innuendo or rumor. We don’t take it lightly.

“We’ve kept the hearing open since May. We want to hear what you have to say. Know that we have a vested interest here. We raised our families here. My grandkids go to school here. We may not always make decisions that are pleasing to all of you, but we make it based on the facts. We do listen.”

No vote yet

Elburn Station annexation hearing remains open
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—There’s still time to make your voice heard concerning the Elburn Station annexation agreement with ShoDeen.

Village trustees decided not to take a vote at the board meeting on Monday, and the hearing, opened nearly three months ago, will remain open. With the absence of vacationing trustee Ken Anderson, the board agreed to put off the vote until Monday, Aug. 20, when all the board members will be present.

During the continued hearing, some community members expressed their views. All were against the development, except for one.

In a letter received by trustee Jerry Schmidt, one family supported the annexation citing the high quality of work ShoDeen has done in other developments.

Two other letters, also read aloud at the meeting, were opposed to the development. One letter with 15 signatures argued that with so many foreclosures and unsold homes, and Blackberry Creek development incomplete, another development did not make sense. Another message talked about choosing to move to Elburn for its rural nature, which would be changed by a large development.

Community members in attendance at the meeting also addressed the board with their concerns. Paul Molitor spoke against the development, reminding the board that during the concept meeting, Village Hall was standing-room-only with people against the project. He told the board that some of the people who came then believed they had done what they could.

When asked if they would come back now that a vote is about to be taken, many said they had already voiced their opinions. Others said that it’s happening anyway and there’s nothing to do to stop it.

Elburn resident Ron Rosecky expressed his lack of understanding that the board has been hearing negative feedback and yet is appearing to go forward.

“I’m bewildered that, on hearing the responses from the general population, I don’t know if it’s going to affect your decision or not,” Rosecky said. “I’ve found out (by hearing other negative responses) that I’m not the only one. There are other people. I don’t know if you’re listening or not.”

Trustee Bill Graberek summarized his concerns with the Elburn Station development. He cited a lack of clarity and form regarding the water and sewer and other parts of the project until the final presentation.

“It’s down to the zero hour, and I still have problems with all this. Like trustee (Jeff) Walter said, we need a time line of how this will play out,” Grabarek said.

Grabarek said he had initially agreed to go forward with the planning under the condition that a bikeway-pedway be built. Now that he has seen the figures, it’s clear that ShoDeen is not paying enough, he said. The developer will pay $25 per unit for the pedestrian bridge—much less than it would cost to build even at total build-out of the development, according to Graberek. He called that amount “insultingly token” and “stingy.”

Another objection Grabarek expressed was that the village is under pressure to approve the development in order to get the Anderson bridge built. He stated that it would be better to let it happen and not tie it to the development.

“That is a pressure we should not have let ourselves get into. We’ve been held hostage to this whole damn thing. The county has been hesitant to take it by eminent domain,” Grabarek said. “We’ve been talking about a bridge for years and years, but I don’t want to be held hostage with a symbolic gun to my head.”

“I suggest we plan on voting on this issue Aug. 20,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

Public speaks at annexation hearing

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—A small crowd at the Elburn Village Board meeting on Monday voiced their concerns about the annexation and planned development agreement between the village and Elburn Station.

The hearing has been open for two months, and prior to Monday, only one person has contributed their opinion. The hearing will remain open and will be continued at the Aug. 6 meeting.

“We’re doing the best we can, but we need your input,” Village President Dave Anderson told the crowd. “The responsibility is on all of us.”

Four people spoke and asked questions of the board. All were opposed to the development. Their concerns centered on the idea that, with businesses missing in downtown, foreclosures abounding in Blackberry Creek and a good portion of the Blackberry Creek subdivision still undeveloped, there was no value in bringing in a large development.

“Do we want to do it again (bring in a development) with fresh property that hasn’t been touched?” one speaker asked.

Others emphasized that the plan to essentially double the population of Elburn and bring in 400 apartment units doesn’t fit with the rural character of the community.

“Is it really in the best interest of the community? There’ll be more people, more traffic, more pedestrians. Where does it add up? I would plead with the board to consider what the people of Elburn want. If it were put to a vote, (it wouldn’t pass),” Elburn resident Ron Rosecky said.

While it is close to being too late to put the question of the development on the ballot in November, board members expressed their frustration that, even though a copy of the plan is available at Village Hall and at the public library, they have received very little feedback.

“In an Elburn Herald poll, the largest response to the question (of whether the public approved of the Elburn Station development) is 52 people,” Anderson said.

Another concern expressed was the $400,000 fee that the village must pay if the Anderson Road extension is approved.

“Do we have that budgeted for next year?” Elburn resident Jim Peterson asked. “It’s asking a lot of citizens to come up with that.”

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said that the money is there. It was collected in a transportation impact fee from the Blackberry Creek subdivision.

Some asked for clarification about the connection between the Anderson Road project and Elburn Station. Anderson explained that Anderson Road is a county project, not a village project. Kane County must first secure a right of way from ShoDeen in order to build the bridge. Whether ShoDeen will do that is not known because, Anderson said, the developer is in negotiations with the county at this time.

“I feel we need this bridge in the village of Elburn more than we need anything. Not everyone is negative,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said. “Are we postponing this project (by not approving the annexation agreement now)? I’m worried we’re going to lose the bridge. Without the bridge, I don’t see how we can get more development.”

Anderson replied that the village has no influence over whether the bridge is built. Trustee Bill Graberek said that the county could take the land by eminent domain. He also said that Dave Patzelt of ShoDeen said in a public meeting that ShoDeen was not going to sign over the land unless there was an annexation agreement.

“I personally won’t vote just to get the land without feeling totally comfortable with the development,” Grabarek said.

Trustee Jeff Walter agreed that the board can only do what’s right for the village.

“If it takes longer, then that’s what it takes,” Walter said.

Anderson encouraged the public to call or email him or Willrett with any questions they might have concerning the proposed plan.

“Everybody on this board has spent hours and hours busting our stones to protect this village,” Anderson said. “What better time to look at this when we’re not under the gun. We’re setting up ordinances and policies for future development.”

Shodeen development public hearing stays open

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board will keep the public hearing on the Shodeen property annexation open until Monday, June 4. Village President Dave Anderson said he hopes the three remaining issues are resolved by that date.

Anderson said the village is still working with the Kaneland School District on impact fees to arrive at a number acceptable to both the district and Shodeen developer Dave Patzelt.

Officials are also still in negotiations regarding the land/cash fee Shodeen will pay to the schools. The developer has the option to donate land or to pay what the land is worth. At question is the number set by Kane County a several years ago.

That number is $80,000 per acre. However, an appraisal the county obtained of Shodeen’s property for right-of-way to the Anderson Road extension came to $34,000 per acre. Patzelt said he thinks Shodeen’s land/cash payment to the schools should therefore be set at that amount.

The final issue still unresolved is the connection fee for water and sewer. According to Anderson, former village engineer Rempe-Sharpe delivered to the village a factual rationale for the fees. Engineering Enterprises, Inc., the new village engineer, is currently reviewing those fees.

“They’re just double-checking the numbers,” Anderson said.

Anderson said that the School District intergovernmental agreement and the water sewer numbers will probably not make Shodeen developers happy, but he hopes the village and Shodeen can come to an agreement by June 4.

“I know they’re not going to build right away; there’s no market right now,” he said.

However, Anderson said if all parties can get everything set now, things will be in place to begin construction once the economy improves. He said that he and the board just want to get the best deal for the village and the schools.

“I think it’s our duty to protect the interests of the village, as well as the School District,” he said.

Trustee Jerry Schmidt wanted to know if a longer delay on the agreement could impact the funding for the Anderson bridge project.

“It could,” Village Adminstrator Erin Willrett said.

Kane County has agreed to pay $3 million of the $22 million project, with the majority of the remaining amount coming from federal and state funding.

Anderson said that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin told him that Congress has moved consideration of the transportation bill, which includes this funding, to August.

“I think the Anderson Road project is far enough along, but who knows?” he said.

Shodeen said they are moving forward on negotiations on contracts with the county regarding land acquisitions for the road extension and bridge. The land acquisitions and engineering design are the last two remaining steps to be completed before bidding out of the project can take place.

Downtown Elburn parking lot closes

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Although the Community Congregational Church closed its parking lot on Sunday as promised, Elburn village trustee Jerry Schmidt asked the question anyway during Monday’s Elburn Village Board meeting.

“Does the (Village) Board have any interest in purchasing the lot?” he asked.

“Not without money,” Village President Dave Anderson responded.

The village received the same e-mail from the church announcing the closing of the lot as did the other businesses in downtown Elburn.

Citing insurance liability reasons, church moderator Sharon Lackey wrote that the decision was hard to make, knowing that the businesses in town could use the parking for their customers.

“We had hoped that the village of Elburn would see the value of the parking lot to the viability of the downtown businesses and make an offer for the lot so that it can continue to be available for public parking. This has not occurred, so the lot will be closed as planned on April 15,” Lackey wrote.

The church’s asking price for the lot was $250,000. The Elburn Chamber of Commerce paid for an appraisal of the lot, which was delivered to the church last week.

According to village trustee Jeff Walter, the village would only be able to offer the appraised amount.

“That’s all we can borrow against,” Anderson said.

The village declined to provide the results of the appraisal.

“That would only be made public if we would have made an offer,” Anderson explained.

There is a downtown parking lot owned by the village, located on the southwest corner of North and First streets, Anderson said. Employees from NAPA Auto Parts were parked there on Monday morning.

“It’s been a village lot for 15 years,” he said.

Village finalizes budget for vote

Straw poll indicates 2 board members will vote no
by Susan O’Neill
Elburn—The Elburn Village Board will vote on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget at its next board meeting on Monday, April 16. The general operating budget is $2.5 million, and the total village budget is $4.7 million.

“It’s a bare bones budget,” Village Administrator Erin Willrett said. “It’s tight. The expenses are more than revenues in some areas, but overall, it’s balanced.”

According to Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven, the big ticket items for the coming year will be the rehabilitation of Well No. 3 on North First Street, cleaning and interior repairs on the two north water towers, power washing the exterior of the three water towers, and updating the waste-water treatment plant.

The village has submitted a request for a low-interest loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to help with the funding for the treatment plant. With additional money from waste-water connection fees, the village will replace the pumps and control system in the plant, change the configuration of the flow and add an excess flow tank, Nevenhoven said.

On the March 20 ballot, voters were asked to pass a line item levy to pay for the police pension fund. It did not pass, so the money will have to come out of the general operating fund. Now that the village has hit the 5,000 mark in population, it is required to put an upfront, lump-sum payment of $162,765 into the fund within the first year, and in addition come up with a 21 percent contribution out of the police salaries. The lump-sum amount will come out of this fiscal year’s budget, but there is also a line item in next fiscal year’s budget of $100,000 for the police pensions.

Two trustees will vote no on the budget, based on a straw poll at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Ken Anderson said that, while he has appreciated all the work that everyone has put into the budgeting process, he felt they could have done a better job of living within the village’s means, based on the salary increases for the Elburn Police Department.

“I’m not in favor of the police increases,” he said.

Calling himself fiscally conservative, Anderson said that although he believes that people should be rewarded for their efforts, in these economic times, everybody needs to work together. He said that if village officials had extrapolated the operating budget plan five years out, like they did for the Public Works budget, they would see that after year one or two, they have used all their reserves for salaries.

The other ‘no’ vote will be Jerry Schmidt, who said he thought more money should have been allocated to the Public Works budget, for items such as maintenance of Prairie Park and the pavilion, a building to store the village’s salt, and more funding for street maintenance.

Village discusses downtown parking lot

by David Maas
ELBURN—With the impending closure of the Community Congregational Church parking lot on the corner of Shannon Street and Route 47 in Elburn, local businesses are looking to the village to help them out. While the church’s asking price for the lot is $250,000, the village doesn’t have the money to take on the burden themselves.

During the week, Village Administrator Erin Willrett invited business owners from downtown Elburn to meet with her regarding the issue, and then reported to the trustees at Monday’s meeting.

“The business owners are really invested and care about what’s going on,” Willrett said. “The majority want something to be done; some of them want the village to purchase it.”

The village, however, can’t outright buy it, so they discussed other ways.

“The only bond we could go for with this would be a General Obligation bond,” Village President David Anderson said.

Going with a General Obligation bond would also prove to have its problems, such as the need to go to a referendum.

“My concerns with a G.O. bond is the timing,” trustee Jeffrey Walter said. “It’s a long and drawn-out process to put something out to vote, which could still be voted down. We could essentially be waiting eight months for a ‘no.’”

Another option is a Special Service Area (SSA), wherein the business would get taxed.

“Every business has a different profit margin. Some can’t afford to take that risk,” Willrett said

Additionally, if the lot is paid off, the village would own it and have the right to sell it for a profit.

“If the SSA were just on us, I’m not sure we would go for that,” said Kevin Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Towne Tap. “If it was a joint project with the village, I think the businesses would go for that.”

There was some talk that a joint SSA, or something similar, could be a step in the right direction.

“If we start an SSA agreement, we could say something like we couldn’t sell the lot without offering a replacement,” Walter said. “I think being creative on the agreement would be a good thing to look into.”

While the village will still be looking at various options, the board was in agreement that the process needs to be started.

“We need to start somewhere,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said. “We should get the lot appraised, and work from there.”

While some trustees didn’t think the appraisal bill should fall to them—a $500-$700 bill—individuals stated they would pay for it, including Kevin, and trustee Ethan Hastert.

“It’s a starting point,” Kevin said. “We will try to work with the church after that. If it doesn’t work out, at least we tried.”

“We want to have a bond with our downtown area,” Walter said. “We can’t sit here and do nothing, but we have to do this smartly.”

In the meantime, it is important to remember there are other parking areas near downtown, village officials said.

“There are other lots; they just aren’t as convenient,” Anderson said.

The village also stated they are looking toward the future for new parking lots that could one day be established, which could happen if someone were to buy the lot from the village in the future.

“It’s just important in a situation like this to remember that no one is the good guy, and no one is the bad guy,” Anderson said. “It’s just no one has any money.”

Elburn board approves tax levy increase

by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board voted to approve a tax levy increase of 24.86 percent, which represents a 22.5 percent decrease from the amount requested last year.

Only Trustee Jerry Schmidt voted against the levy.

“I just believe that now is not a good time to raise taxes for the village of Elburn,” Schmidt said. “I believe there are other areas we could cut instead of raising taxes.”

The tax levy is the first step in a complicated process used to calculate how much each property owner owes in real estate taxes. The levy is the total amount of tax revenue a taxing body requests from Kane County.

“It’s a request by the village to the county for tax dollars needed to support the services provided by the village, such as potable water, wastewater treatment, police protection, streets, and insurance, pensions and audit,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

However, the amount actually disbursed from the county (also called the tax extension) is often less than the levy amount.

For example, the village’s tax levy last year was $939,718, but the actual extension made by the county was $659,933, or about 70 percent of the original request. Anderson said receipts to date show the village still has $700 of the money that was actually extended last year.

The amount to be levied for 2011 is $824,000, which Anderson said he doesn’t expect to receive.

“The bottom line … history has shown it’s not gonna happen, and I guarantee it will not happen,” he said. “If it did, the taxpayer owning a $250,000 real value home—their taxes for the village of Elburn would increase $108.”

Once the total tax extension is determined, that dollar amount is divided by the total equalized assessed valuation of all the property in the village. This then sets the tax rate, which is then applied to each individual property’s equalized assessed value to determine the property taxes owed on that property.

The board has cut more than $300,000 in salaries in the last two-and-a-half years and saved $60,000 by restructuring the health insurance program. Another $300,000 was sheared off the bottom line by negotiating with ComEd on the secondary power source for the wastewater treatment plant, something that is required by law.

Despite those cost-saving measures or Anderson’s assertion that the village will not receive its full levy amount, the potential increase in the village’s tax extension combined with a drop in its total equalized assessed valuation means that tax rates—and possibly total property tax dollars owed—may increase.

The Kane County Assessor’s office has numerous presentations available online to help explain the tax levy process at www.co.kane.il.us/soa/Presentations.htm.

Public Works contract goes to Wisconsin company

Photo: The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 didn’t waste any time expressing their opinion on the decision by the Elburn Village Board to award a labor contract to a company located out of state. The huge inflatable rat is used as a visible display of the union’s solidarity against those not supporting local labor. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski

by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—In a 4-3 vote, the Elburn Village Board on Monday voted to award a public works contract to a company in Wisconsin after more debate on labor disputes and keeping the work closer to home.

Municipal Well & Pump bid $43,364.88 for repairs on Well No. 3 that include extensive work to repair and possibly replace the pump and motor. Village President Dave Anderson cast the deciding vote in favor of awarding the contract.

Trustee Bill Grabarek said he’d gone over all the material from a previous Committee of the Whole meeting in which questions were raised about labor disputes filed against Municipal, whose representative said all had been resolved. Grabarek recommended that the board award the contract to Municipal, the lowest bidder.

Trustee Jerry Schmidt said the board needs to set a firm starting and completion date.

“If it’s not completed on time, I think we should have a fine in place,” Schmidt said.

Craig Allen, representing Municipal, said liquidated damages are included in the contract at $500 a day for substantial completion and $250 a day for final completion. If the motor is sent out to another vendor, he said his company has no control over that, and his experience is that municipalities don’t hold the contractor responsible for outside vendor delays. Allen said depending on the extent of repairs needed once the well is inspected, the job could be finished in anywhere from three weeks to 10 weeks.

Trustee Jeff Walter said only one of the three companies can say they have factory-trained certifications to do the work, Layne Christensen Co., the highest bidder at $53,879. The company is headquartered in Kansas but has a local office in Aurora.

“We’ve had excellent experience with Layne Christensen,” Walter said. “I ask you guys (that) we think about that.”

Trustee Schmidt expressed his desire to award the bid to Water Well Solutions of Elburn.

“They’re the middle bid—I really feel that we should do business with a local company,” Schmidt said.

Village President Anderson reiterated his comment from two weeks ago that the board is fiscally responsible to the community and the taxpayers.

Trustee Ken Anderson agreed, saying the board is accountable to the residents and obligated to do all it can “with the limited amount of money that we have to make it go further.”

Trustees Anderson, Grabarek and Hastert voted in favor of awarding the contract to Municipal; Trustees Schmidt, Walter and Gualdoni voted no. Village President Anderson broke the tie with an affirmative vote.

Elburn passes budget with 4-1 vote

Sticking point for ‘no’ vote was personnel raises
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board officially passed its 2011-12 fiscal year budget in a special Village Board meeting Monday. The vote was 4-1, with Ken Anderson opposed and Jerry Schmidt present but abstaining.

“We have an ending balance from last year of $5,325,902. That’s $1.1 million to the positive,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “This year’s budget, we probably won’t have as many line changes. We ended up with $280,000 more in the bank than we started with this fiscal year.”

The budget includes a 2 percent raise for all personnel, except administrators, and a contract-mandated raise of 3 percent for police.

Trustee Ken Anderson voted “no” to the budget on the issue of providing raises to village employees during these tough financial times.

“I appreciate everybody and the hard work they do for the village of Elburn. I would love to be able to (give the raises), but the time now is not the time to do it,” Ken Anderson said. “I’m trying to be fiscally responsible and continue to be ready for difficult times. Salaries are a major expense.”

Ken Anderson said that a variety of things could happen this year, such as the state not matching funds. Others believed that the village is in good shape.

“We have a cushion now in case we have something like a well issue,” Trustee Jeff Walter said. “We have enough to help us through a difficult time.”

The board also passed a supplemental budget appropriation that provides for the expenditure of funds not foreseen at the time the budget is adopted. The appropriation for this fiscal year is 1.2 percent over the budget.

Tax levy discussion draws a crowd

Residents, officials discuss Elburn’s financial situation
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—The announcement that the village of Elburn was going to ask for a 47 percent increase in the 2010 property tax levy to Kane County awakened a crowd of citizens to ask for the facts while expressing their protests.

The 2010 property tax levy of $939,718 would extend the tax rate to .49700. In other words, on a $300,000 house, taxpayers would pay $176.16 a year more in taxes.

That’s if the village gets the entire amount requested.

According to village officials, it’s not likely they will. Last year, the village asked for $742,321 and received $637,404.

Nevertheless, residents asked the hard questions at the public hearing Monday. Citing foreclosures and unemployment, food pantries and fixed incomes, people called for the village to take a hard look at its expenses.

“Take a hard look at reducing wages and salaries and other expenses—do hungry people and those on fixed incomes care if we are a Tree City USA?—before looking to increase taxes,” said Jack Hansen, an Elburn resident and former village trustee.

Where does the money come from?
Village President Dave Anderson explained that roughly one-third of the money the village collects comes from property taxes, one-third from local sales taxes, and another third from state income taxes.

Municipalities present their property tax levies to the county by the end of each year. The county, in the spring, determines the actual amount each municipality will receive, as well as the property tax rate.

Where does the money go?
Here’s where it gets dicey: you have mandated costs that the village has no control over like retirement funds, social security, liability insurance and an audit. These expenses cost the village more than it takes in from the tax levy.

In 2009, Kane County extended $120,414.17 to the village for retirement funds, but the actual cost to the village was $159,000. It received $63,285.43 for liability insurance, but paid out $92,000. Social Security cost the village $158,000, but it received only $87,920.17.

“We have zero control over mandated costs, other than letting people go, and then service is going to be diminished,” Anderson said. “The money has to come from somewhere.”

The only place cuts can be made are in the discretionary costs that involve cutting personnel, reducing salaries, losing services, and trimming day-to-day expenses.

“The residents brought up good comments, and I think we need to discuss, in depth, ways we could cut expenses before we raise taxes,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said.

The board discussed the difficult process of cutting. Ken Anderson reiterated his commitment to being fiscally responsible in the face of tough times.

“We can come up with a bunch of things to cut, but the village of Elburn is going to look different, and the village of Elburn is going to feel different,” he said. “But I’m going to keep saying it: when we get into the budget, we need to keep chipping away to be the leanest, meanest machine we can. We’ve got to do that.”

The state-mandated process ends when the village submits its levy to the Kane County Treasurer’s Office before the Dec. 28 deadline. After that, the village can discuss the budget in more detail.

“We ask for what we need. Are we going to get it? No. But if we don’t ask, then it’s shame on us,” Dave Anderson said. “If we don’t approve the levy, we get nada. We still have time left, through the budget process. That’s when we can make decisions.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the levy. Trustees Bill Grabarek and Jeff Walter were absent.

Sho-Deen development discussion on hold

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Several village officials are not sure whether they want Sho-Deen Inc. to reduce the commercial scope of the planned Elburn Station development on Elburn’s east side. Others are concerned about the residential density of the project.

The Elburn Village Board on Monday with a 4-2 vote tabled a motion to approve the Geneva developer’s request to eliminate a commercial parcel from the project plan. However, the board intends to continue discussing Sho-Deen’s proposal.

“This can be brought forward (again) at a future meeting,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

Sho-Deen no longer wants to develop the parcel that is just north of Route 38. That section includes most of the plan’s commercial development.

Trustees Jerry Schmidt and Patricial Romke opposed tabling the motion. Dave Anderson and trustees Jeff Walter, Ken Anderson and Bill Grabarek voted to table it.

“The (potential) loss of that commercial bothers me,” Grabarek said.

Sho-Deen representative Dave Patzelt said that just because an area is zoned commercial does not mean businesses will want to locate there. However, his comment did not sway Grabarek.

“I can’t go with it right now,” Grabarek said. “Not without the commercial property north of 38.”

Sho-Deen Inc. first proposed Elburn Station to the village in January 2007. The development property is on the east side of the village between Route 38 and Keslinger Road.

Plans for Elburn Station feature single-family homes on lots ranging in width from 30 to 80 feet; multi-family housing within a half-mile around the Metra station with density up to 12 units per acre; and commercial areas on the north and south sides.

Aside from the proposed removal of most of the Elburn Station commercial property, the development’s density concerns several trustees.

“How does having more people … benefit the village of Elburn?” Ken Anderson said.

Walter said, “You are putting too many people in a small area.”

Trustees Walter and Anderson were not on the Village Board when it approved the existing concept plan for Elburn Station in March 2008. In that plan, the total number of planned residences was approximately 3,000, including up to 1,000 multi-family units.

Schmidt was not on the board in 2008 either, but he said he likes the existing concept plan’s multi-family housing, particularly if Sho-Deen builds condominiums rather than apartments.

“I like the whole (Elburn Station) concept,” Schmidt said Tuesday. “In today’s market, things change. Sho-Deen said they could offer Elburn something it doesn’t have.”

Romke said Monday that Elburn’s multi-family units would be a housing opportunity for singles, younger professionals and retirees, which could attract new businesses to Elburn.

“The whole trend in housing is to go smaller,” Romke said.

Romke also said that she approves of Sho-Deen’s desire not to develop the commercial portion of Elburn Station north of Route 38, adding that she does not want the area “to turn into another Randall Road.”

On Oct. 5, the Elburn Planning Commission voted 4-2 not to recommend Village Board approval of the proposed change.

Businesses ask for expanded liquor-sales hours

[quote]by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Two Elburn business operators want the village to expand the number of hours they can sell alcohol under the current municipal liquor code.

Kevin Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Towne Tap in downtown Elburn, asked the Village Board on Monday for permission to open his bar at 11 a.m. on Sunday instead of at noon as currently allowed under his Class A liquor license.

Currently, restaurants, clubs and taverns may not sell alcohol on Sundays until noon. However, liquor stores in the village may sell packaged liquor starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Schmidt said since the village allows liquor stores to sell alcohol Sunday morning, bars should have the same privilege.

“I want to be able to open the doors (of Schmidt’s, a sports bar) at 11 a.m., for the pre-game shows,” Schmidt said.

Also on Monday, Hughes Creek Golf Club manager Heather Espe requested that the village allow clubs that hold a Class F liquor license, including Hughes, to begin selling alcohol at 9 a.m. on weekdays and at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“We have golfers who want a beer or a bloody Mary at the (course) turn,” Espe said. “It would be a nice added bonus for us, since our competitors (Bliss Creek Golf and Tanna Farms golf clubs) can do it.”

Trustee Jerry Schmidt said he supports both the proposed Class F and Class A liquor code changes.

“I think it’s good for Elburn,” Schmidt said.

Trustees Gordon Dierschow and Patricia Romke also said they support allowing the earlier liquor sales.

If the Village Board approves the Class F and Class A ordinance changes, all businesses in the village that hold those liquor licenses would be affected, not just Schmidt’s and Hughes Creek.

Trustee Bill Grabarek said he is hesitant about permanently allowing the sale of liquor at bars before noon on Sunday, as opposed to just permitting a temporary variance during football season.

Grabarek said that before the board votes on the proposed liquor-code change for Class A licenses, he wants to gauge community sentiment about the issue.

“Do they really want the bars to open at 11 a.m. (Sunday)?” Grabarek asked.

The Village Board possibly will vote on the proposed changes on Monday, Aug. 2.

Liquor stores in Elburn, which hold Class C liquor licenses, would not be affected by either proposed liquor-code change.

Trained auxiliary officers would aid Elburn police

[quote]by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn village officials want to appoint voluntary auxiliary officers who will be available to assist the Police Department with traffic control and emergency and disaster response.

Under a proposed ordinance, the village would be able to appoint people as auxiliary officers after they received training from the village’s Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) program.

“It isn’t like the Old West anymore, where you could deputize anyone and form a posse,” trustee Bill Grabarek said during Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, for which he is chairman.

Elburn Police Chief Steve Smith said having auxiliary officers on hand for emergencies would be extremely helpful.

“We (the Police Department) have only got two officers on duty at any one time,” Smith said. “We don’t have the number of bodies, the staffing to provide extra officers during accidents and weather-related emergencies.”

The ordinance would allow the village to appoint auxiliary officers who would not have arrest power, weapons or emergency vehicles.

The volunteers would not wear police uniforms but would have distinctive garb such as polo shirts identifying them as auxiliary officers. They also would receive reflective vests and flashlights. The village would pay for those items with C.E.R.T. grant money.

“It sounds like we’d be pretty fortunate to have them. They would not cost the village any money and they would be performing a service, a great service,” Trustee Jerry Schmidt said.

The pool of auxiliary officer applicants will come from this year’s seven-week C.E.R.T. program, which finishes up on Thursday and included instruction in fire suppression, disaster first-aid and psychology, search and rescue, terrorism and weather. Elburn Police Department and Elburn and Countryside Fire Department conducted the training.

Best face forward

Elburn trustee Jerry Schmidt spent the afternoon of May 19 planting geraniums and several other varieties of flowers in a concrete planter recently installed in front of Village Hall. Schmidt volunteered to buy and plant the flowers because he wanted to improve the appearance of Village Hall, 301 E. North St., often the first place a visitor goes in Elburn, he said. American Bank & Trust in downtown Elburn donated the planter, which it no longer used, and Blackberry Township employees helped transport it to Village Hall. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Committee wants senior tax rebates restored

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board eliminated municipal utility tax rebates for seniors, less than two months ago. Since then, some residents have asked that the program be reinstated, village officials said.

In response, the Elburn Finance Committee recommended Monday that the board restore the rebate program, with some changes.

The committee recommended reinstating the program only for seniors age 65 and older with annual household incomes of no more than $55,000.

“We want to help the people who really need it,” committee member and trustee Bill Grabarek said.

The committee also recommended allowing the rebates only for gas and electric bill taxes, not for telephone service.

Village President Dave Anderson, who attended the meeting, agreed with making the changes before restoring the program, saying the rebates should apply only to necessary services.

“You need heat, you need light,” Anderson said.

Village officials said the reason for the changes is that some individuals abused the program in the past by requesting refunds for several different phones, and that people who could afford the utility taxes obtained rebates.

Finance Committee members, who voted unanimously Monday to recommend the board’s reinstatement of the senior utility tax rebate program, were trustees Patricia Romke, Jeff Walter and Bill Grabarek, as well as Village Treasurer Mike Greenen.

On Sept. 21, trustees Patricia Romke, Bill Grabarek, Ken Anderson and Jerry Schmidt voted to eliminate the program 4-0. Trustees Gordon Dierschow and Jeff Walter were absent from the board meeting. Village officials at that time said doing away with the program for 2009 could save more than $10,000.

Village staff will estimate what the program will cost after the eligibility changes are made, Village Administrator David Morrison said. Then, the Village Board will decide whether to approve the committee’s recommendations.

Village examines Prairie Park needs

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Prairie Park at North and Third streets needs work, said Elburn Public Works Committee Chairman Jerry Schmidt.

The committee on Monday discussed items needing attention at the park, including a falling footbridge, overgrown weeds and invasive plants, as well as the walkways.

The village will address the weed problem first by holding a controlled burn of the park’s landscape sometime next week.

Last spring, Public Works Supervisor John Nevenhoven identified another project that needs attention—removing and possibly replacing the footbridge across a stream at the park. However, the Village Board did not include the expenditure in the 2009 fiscal-year budget.

Nevenhoven said Monday that the state of the bridge is even worse now, and the structure currently is potentially hazardous.

“The bridge was safe until last week, when someone walked on the guard rail. Now the rail is bent out of shape,” Nevenhoven said.

In addition, some of the bridge’s supports are cracking and heaving.

The Public Works Department recently placed tape and barriers at each end of the bridge to let people know they should not use it.
Nevenhoven again recommended that village officials include the bridge project expense in the next annual budget.

“We wouldn’t have to replace it. We could put in plantings instead, with a concrete overlook,” Nevenhoven said.

Schmidt said he does not want to do away with the bridge.

“I think it would be nice if we could save it,” he said.

The committee asked Nevenhoven to look into the cost for removing and rebuilding the bridge, with a design that includes deeper installation for its piers.

For the time being, the Public Works Department will make sure the bridge remains blocked off, Nevenhoven said.

Schmidt also asked Nevenhoven to identify a way to improve the flagstone walks at the park, which he said are shifting and could be unsafe.

Photo: The village of Elburn blocked off the footbridge at Prairie Park because a vandalized
railing and other weaknesses in the structure make it potentially hazardous.
Photo by Martha Quetsch

Majority of board says no to video gambling

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—A majority of trustees want to ban video gambling in Elburn. So although a new state law would allow the activity, it will not be coming to Elburn while the current board is in place, unless one of the opposing trustees changes his, or her, mind.

Following its second discussion in a week about whether to allow video gambling in Elburn, the Village Board on Monday voted against it. The board then directed the village attorney to draft an ordinance banning video gambling in the village.

Only one trustee, Jerry Schmidt, voted in favor of allowing video gambling in the village, saying it would be a pro-growth measure.

“If we ban it in Elburn and they have it in other towns, people are going to go there instead,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said video gambling also would boost the village budget through tax revenue it would produce.

Voting to ban video gambling were trustees Patricia Romke, Bill Grabarek, Jeff Walter and Ken Anderson. Trustee Gordon Dierschow abstained from voting, saying the village should take more time to decide.

Grabarek said he wanted to ban video gambling now, as a “pre-emptive measure,” before the state adopts regulations he worries might prevent the village from banning it later. He said state estimates of tax revenue that video gambling could generate are way overstated. He added that most of the money from video gambling would go to bar owners.

“To me, that keeps the money within too small a circle,” Grabarek said.

The reason Romke voted for the ban was that she wants family-oriented businesses in Elburn, and if she had small children, she would not want to take them into an establishment with gambling. She said she finds the possibility of Elburn being a gambling destination, “scary.”

“It does not, in my opinion, fit the village of Elburn,” Romke said.

Trustee Ken Anderson is opposed to having video gambling in the village, because it could promote addiction to the activity, which he said can cause serious problems for gamblers and their families, he said.

Trustee Walter said most of the residents he has talked to about the issue are against having video gambling in Elburn. Like Grabarek, he said unless the village places a moratorium now on video gambling, he is concerned that it could lose the opportunity for that control.

Village President Dave Anderson said he understands the fear of not being able to opt out later, but is concerned that future regulations also might prevent the village from reversing a ban on video gambling.

When the ordinance banning video gambling is ready for the Village Board to vote on, he would not participate unless his vote was required to break a tie.

Updated 7/24: Code change allows liquor license for space village president owns

updated 7/24/2009 at 2:11 p.m. CST
Village president said in July 23 email building was under contract, now sold (not rented)
Trustee’s son’s application granted, 2 others pending
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The Elburn Village Board changed an ordinance on Monday to allow a liquor license to be issued for a new tavern in a building, at 107 N. Main St., that was owned by Village President Dave Anderson, even if he has an indirect interest in the business.

“Good common sense says everyone in the village has an indirect interest in the business,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The previous ordinance would have prohibited a liquor license for a business in which Anderson or any village trustee had direct or indirect interest. The change approved by village trustees Monday removed the reference to indirect interest. Anderson said the language change in the village liquor code mirrors the wording in the state’s liquor code. Anderson said he does not have a direct interest in the tavern business planned for the space he said July 23 he sold to Kevin Schmidt.

Anderson sold the building Thursday, July 23 to Kevin Schmidt, attorney Bob Britz said.

Also on Monday, the Village Board approved two ordinances allowing for the establishment of three new liquor licenses in the village, but not granting them to applicants.

After the board meeting closed, Deputy Liquor Commissioner and trustee Bill Grabarek approved an application for one of the licenses, for Schmidt’s bar, Village Attorney Bob Britz said. The license will allow the bar to sell beer, wine and hard liquor.

Applicants for the other two liquor licenses are Michael Rafferty, for the Riley Boys Tavern planned for the former Emma’s Pub at 117 Main, and Rosati’s—for a new restaurant space near Jewel-Osco at Route 47 and Route 38. Rafferty is seeking a license to sell beer, wine and hard liquor, and Rosati’s is seeking a license to serve beer and wine.

Rosati’s and Rafferty still must sign the letter of understanding with the village before Liquor Commissioner Dave Anderson can grant them the other new liquor licenses, village officials said.

Kevin Schmidt’s father, trustee Jerry Schmidt, voted during the July 20 Elburn Village Board meeting for an ordinance allowing for a liquor code language change, and for an ordinance creating a second available Class A liquor license, one of which was obtained by his son after the meeting. Trustee Jerry Schmidt said Wednesday that he did not believe voting for the ordinances on July 20 was a conflict of interest. Schmidt had recused himself from voting for the creation of one of the two Class A licenses in June. Those licenses are not assigned to any business at the time they are created. The license is granted to the applicant only when the liquor commissioner approves the application and assigns the license.

“I didn’t think it was. I want to support my son in this project, but I have no interest in the business,” trustee Schmidt said.

He added that during his campaign before being elected in April, he was a proponent of bringing new businesses to the village to boost tax revenue.

Village establishes a second Class A liquor license

Officials with conflicts of interest did not vote Monday
by Martha Quetsch
The Elburn Village Board established a second Class A liquor license Monday following Kevin Schmidt’s recent application for that type of license for a bar at 107 N. Main St.

A Class A license permits a bar to sell liquor for consumption on site and packaged liquor.

Schmidt said he wants to obtain the liquor license before proceeding with the plan for his business. His application requires approval by the Liquor Commissioner and Village Board.

Just before the discussion and vote on the matter, Village President and Liquor Commissioner Dave Anderson appointed, with Village Board consent, a Deputy Liquor Control Commissioner, trustee Bill Grabarek.

Anderson appointed Grabarek and did not take part in the discussion and vote regarding increasing the number of Class A licenses because he owns the property where Schmidt wants to open the business.

“I will be excusing myself because of conflict of interest,” Anderson said.

For the same reason, trustee Jerry Schmidt, Kevin Schmidt’s father, also excused himself from the discussion and vote about the second Class A license.

Grabarek and the board agreed to make the new license available through an ordinance it approved Monday. They are expected to decide in the near future whether to grant the license to Schmidt.

The village previously had one Class A license, held by Knucklehead’s Tavern. Elburn reduced the number of available Class A licenses from two after Emma’s Pub & Cantina closed in 2008; Emma’s shut down after the village called a hearing in 2008 to suspend the business’ liquor license because of illegal gambling on the premises.

Attorney will review regulations
Kevin Schmidt asked village officials whether under the Class A liquor license he is seeking for a bar in Elburn, children may eat there even if liquor sales exceed food sales, he said.

Officials at the Elburn Village Board meeting Monday were not certain if it is allowed under the current municipal liquor ordinance. So Village Attorney Bob Britz said he will study the ordinance to make that determination.

Trustee Jeff Walter said he hopes children are allowed in establishments like the one Schmidt plans.

“It’s a big point right now, having restaurants where we can take our families,” Walter said.

Schmidt wants to open the bar at 107 N. Main St.

Club may post temporary signs

Lions, Hughes Creek granted variances to new ordinance
by Martha Quetsch
The Elburn Village Board granted exceptions Monday to its brand-new sign ordinance.

The board will permit Hughes Creek Golf Club to display a six-foot banner during its May through September season, and the Elburn Lions Club to post trailer-mounted signs for five events during the year.

Under the village’s sign ordinance approved in April, the signs are not allowed. However, the board granted variances for the Lions and the golf club.

Trustee Patricia Romke suggested that golf club operator Heather Espe erect a permanent sign in the future at the club on Hughes Road. The club has posted the banner with its name and offerings for many years, but the banner now is prohibited by the sign ordinance.

Espe said a permanent sign might be cost-prohibitive.

“This is an expensive venture. We just got a three-year lease (from the Kane County Forest Preserve, which owns the golf course property) but I don’t want to buy a sign if we won’t be there beyond three years.”

New village trustee Jerry Schmidt said the board should look at revising the new sign ordinance.

“We have to help our businesses,” Schmidt said.

The Lions will be permitted to post temporary signs at locations including Route 47 and South Street and Route 47 and Stetzer Street, to advertise events such as its summer farmer’s market, Day in the Park and Elburn Days. The events benefit charities.

Proposed structure calls for more meetings

Board to decide May 18 whether to establish committees
by Martha Quetsch
If the Elburn Village Board establishes committees, trustees and some staff members will have more meetings to attend. However, the work they can accomplish will be worth their extra time, Village President Dave Anderson said.

The specialized committees would focus on separate village issues and make recommendations to the Village Board.

“For the most part, we will trust their recommendations,” Anderson said during Monday’s Village Board meeting. “I have seen it work.”

Anderson proposed creating the committees when he took office on May 4.

The committees Anderson designated are Finance, chaired by trustee Jeff Walter; Public Works, chaired by trustee Jerry Schmidt; Development, chaired by trustee Ken Anderson; and Public Safety, chaired by trustee Bill Grabarek.

Each committee would include three trustees and at least two staff members, meeting as often as twice a month.

Before the committees can be formally established, the Village Board must approve an ordinance allowing for them. Trustees are expected to vote on the ordinance on Monday, May 18.

Currently, all Elburn trustees gather twice a month to discuss village issues during their Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings. The COW structure has been in place for nearly 10 years.

Issues trustees talk about at COW meetings can be placed later on a Village Board “consent agenda,” allowing the board to decide on several matters with one vote.

However, commitee recommendations may not be placed on a consent agenda. So, each issue would require a separate vote, Grabarek said.

Anderson wants the committees to meet at often as twice a month for a period of time, and then possibly once a month.

“It’s going to take awhile to get comfortable and to know what our roles are on the committee side,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the committees will allow for more in-depth involvement and lead to more educated recommendations than are possible at the COW level.

Grabarek said he supports creating committees but wants trustees still to have the option to meet together as the COW.

Anderson reinstates board committees

by Martha Quetsch
After former Illinois Supreme Court Justice John Nickels swore in Village President Dave Anderson on Monday, Anderson said he wants to establish a committee structure for the board.

Committees were in place when Anderson was on the Village Board in the 1970s.

The committees will be made up of trustees and staff members who will research and discuss village issues and bring their findings to the board. The Village Board unanimously approved the committees and members Anderson assigned: Finance, chaired by trustee Jeff Walter; Public Works, chaired by trustee Jerry Schmidt; Development, chaired by trustee Ken Anderson; and Public Safety, chaired by trustee Bill Grabarek.

The committees will meet regularly, with dates and times to be announced.

Before the committees can be formally established, the Village Board must approve an ordinance allowing for them. Trustees are expected to vote on the ordinance on Monday, May 18.

Village Board Committees

Trustee Jeff Walter, Chairman
Trustee Bill Grabarek
Trustee Patricia Romke
Village Treasurer Mike Greenen
Village Administrator Erin Willrett

Public Works
Trustee Jerry Schmidt, Chairman
Trustee Gordon Dierschow
Trustee Ken Anderson
Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven
Village Administrator Erin Willrett

Trustee Ken Anderson, Chairman
Trustee Jeff Walter
Trustee Gordon Dierschow
Planning Commissioner Jeff Metcalf
Fire district representative
Community Development Director David Morrison
Village Administrator Erin Willrett

Public Safety
Trustee Bill Grabarek, Chairman
Trustee Patricia Romke
Trustee Jerry Schmidt
Fire district representative
Police Chief Steve Smith
Village Administrator Erin Willrett

Outgoing Elburn officials praised for work

New trustees, village president to take office May 4
by Martha Quetsch
Elburn Village President Jim Willey and trustees Tom Burgholzer, Jeff Humm and Craig Swan received thanks Monday from other village officials for the work on behalf of the village during their terms of office.

Among those expressing appreciation during the Committee of the Whole meeting was 14-year Village Attorney Bob Britz.

“I have had the opportunity to work with all of you and I am a better person for having served under you,” Britz said.

Eight-year trustee Burgholzer and six-year trustee Jeff Humm sought re-election unsuccessfully April 4; and 14-year trustee Craig Swan and 12-year Village President Willey did not run for another term.

Trustee Bill Grabarek complimented Willey for his “intelligence, insightfulness and ability to take complex issues and make them understandable.”

“It’s been an honor. Elburn is an infinitely better village, better run and managed-90 percent due to you,” Grabarek told Willey.

Willey said before he took office in 1997, the board was “contentious and divided.” He thanked the outgoing trustees for helping to make the Village Board a consensus-building body. He recognized Humm’s useful expertise in infrastructure matters, Burgholzer’s comittment to providing more recreation for residents, and Swan for being the “conscience of the board” and for running for trustee when no one else would.

The last day in office for the outgoing board members is Monday, May 4, when Elburn’s three new trustees, Jeff Walter, Jerry Schmidt and Ken Anderson, and the new village president, Dave Anderson, will be sworn into office at 7 p.m. during the Village Board meeting at Lions Park clubhouse.

Elburn village notes

by Martha Quetsch
Elburn officials to be sworn in at Lions Park
Elburn’s three new trustees, Jeff Walter, Jerry Schmidt and Ken Anderson, and the new village president, Dave Anderson, will be sworn into office during the Elburn Village Board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 4.

The meeting will take place at the Lions Park clubhouse in Elburn.

Elected April 4, the three new board members will replace two-term trustee Tom Burgholzer and one-term trustee Jeff Humm, who ran unsuccessfully, and 14-year trustee Craig Swan, who did not seek re-election.

Dave Anderson will fill the village president position held for the past 12 years by Jim Willey, who did not seek re-election.

Dental office receives grant
Elburn Dentist Richard Stewart thanked village officials for providing a façade improvement grant to help pay for exterior renovations to his office at 135 S. Main St., Elburn.

During the Village Board meeting April 20, Stewart said the redesign is nearly finished and will include awnings and outdoor plantings.

Stewart received the maximum grant available-$10,000-from the façade grant program the village started a few years ago to help improve the downtown.

Express Evaluations also availed themselves of the grant program, in 2007, to enhance the outside of the building at 17 S. Main St.

The grant program requires businesses to provide matching funds for façade projects.