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Property owners react strongly to potential annexation

Nearly 500 homes may be annexed and hours for liquor sales may be permanently amended.

The village council’s consent and active agenda items were passed unanimously with no discussion last night, but the tone changed when the issue of involuntary annexation came up.

Next week the village will vote on whether or not to annex approximately 475 properties in five territories.

Residents of these area, who are opposed to becoming Downers Grove citizens, filled much of the council chamber as they voiced their concerns and disapproval.

Village Manager Dave Fieldman listed reasons for annexation:

  • Improving service delivery efficiency
  • Aligning cost of services with those who benefit
  • Enhancing the village revenue base

Fieldman said annexation was part of the village’s long-range financial plan.

At the end of the meeting Mayor Martin Tully also said this was being done because they—including prior councils—think it’s in the best interest of the entire community to annex these properties.

Calling it the “greater good,” he said it’s about maintaining economic viability and sustainability.

There have been neighborhood meetings, official notice letters, finance and administrative meetings, and now the village plans to vote on it at the Aug. 16 council meeting.

Land parcels being considered in this involuntary annexation process are surrounded by the village and are less than 60 acres, Fieldman said.

If passed, the property annexation would be effective Jan. 1, 2012, and the newly acquired property would start receiving village services immediately.

Water was one issue that several property owners brought up.

Some of the areas are not currently served by municipal water, Fieldman said, and it is a policy issue of when and how the village would extend water mains.

At the end of Fieldman’s presentation, council members asked few questions.

Tully said the lack of questions and discussion shouldn’t be read as anything other than the culmination of a long process. The annexation has been in the works for two years.

However, much more was to be said on the resident side of things.

Potential new Downers Grove residents were happy with the level of services they currently have through their agreements with various townships, and are content.

In fact, some property owners feared the level of service, such as snow plowing and tree debris cleanup, will go down once the village of Downers Grove takes over.

Yet their taxes will go up.

Vanessa McGriff Culver, a resident at 7309-5 Winthrop Way, said their area has a bond agreement that gives them access to the Indian Prairie Library that they were paying off. She wondered what would happen if they were annexed and now had access to the Downers Grove library.

Fieldman said that McGriff Culver and others would have to continue to pay until the bond was repaid regardless of their being annexed.

So, in McGriff Culver’s case, she would now pay for two libraries.

When another resident from one of the potentially annexed areas talked about snow removal done by York Township being more prompt than the village, the audience applauded. Tully though didn’t seem a bit amused when he said, “Please, folks…”

Another property owner talked about not even wanting sidewalks and curbs that might potentially come after annexation.

At one point Tully told a resident who was unhappy about a tax increase that he’d just be enjoying the same streets and sidewalks that he currently uses, but doesn’t pay for.

Another resident was concerned about a couple of the potential annex areas that don’t have water mains and the cost involved with bringing water.

Fieldman said it costs the village an estimated $200 per linear foot to install a water main, and the above property owner said that a rough total estimate could be around $20,000—approximately 10 percent of house values in the area.

And all the while, this resident pointed out, he had no say in the matter. “This seems a little unfair,” he said.

Another resident said they specifically bought their property because it was unincorporated.

A man who lives in an area that may be considered for annexation asked the council whether or not they’d considered a referendum so people could express their opinions.

“I don’t think we could do it,” Tully said. Whether it’s a wise thing is one issue, but the logistical side of it is another issue, he said.

Because these property owners are not citizens of the village they can’t vote in a village referendum. The resident said he understood, but wondered if there was some vehicle the village could use — unless the governing body doesn’t care what the people want, he challenged.

“We obviously care about this because this is not something we decided to do this last week,” Tully said, but have been working on it for two years.

Another property owner said that in May a petition, signed by 200 residents, over 90 percent of the property owners in that area, was sent to the village, opposing the annexation. He also said that services provided by York Township were “very efficient.” Why would be consider paying more on our taxes and receiving less, he asked.

Tully announced that he didn’t want to hear generally about annexation that night—that wasn’t on the agenda, he said, he wanted to hear from people who lived in the specific areas being currently considered for annexation.

“I’ve heard what people have to say—they don’t want to be annexed,” he said.

Donna Samiec, who lives in one of the areas being considered and is opposed to the annexation, asked the council if they had considered surveying property owners feelings about potential annexation.

Yes, the village could, Tully said, but instead they were pursuing annexation through statutory means.

“We’re elected to make policy decisions, which by their very nature can’t make everyone happy,” Tully responded.

So you’re not interested in knowing how the residents feel, Samiec questioned.

“I think I have a pretty good idea,” Tully said.

In other business:

There was a first read on an ordinance that would allow Panera Bread to install a drive-through window. Commissioners expressed some concern over traffic flow and pedestrian safety. Tully is in favor of the proposal.

Also up for a first read was an ordinance seeking permission to add to an existing parking garage and construct a new six-level parking garage at 3500 Lacey Road—the site of the Sara Lee corporation.

Beth Simmons, construction manager for Hamilton Partners, which manages the property, said this move was necessary to make the property economically viable in the future.

It’s not an unusual request from an economic enhancement perspective, Tully said. “Quite frankly, I’m glad that you’re asking to do this,” adding, to Simmons, that the village was as interested as she was that the building has full occupancy.

Also up for a first read was an ordinance amending the liquor serving hours. It would remove the six-month trial “sunset clause” for Friday hours and permanently allow liquor to be sold until 2:00 a.m. Village staff and police have said there has been no significant increase in liquor-related issues or police calls resulting form the extra hour of liquor service. There were no questions or comments from the council or audience.

Lastly, the council had a first read on a resolution to amend the village’s agreement with Downtown Downers Grove, Inc. and exempt them from village-imposed fees for community events they sponsor. 

Last year, the village—which funds the organization—charged Downtown Downers Grove, Inc. $10,000 for services the provided to various community events.

Commissioners debated for a while whether or not the organization should be exempted, especially because other groups in the past have also requested to be exempt, but the council turned them down.

“I think the proper way to frame this is not about charging someone, but about someone who should’ve been exempt from the policy from day one,” Tully said.

According to the village’s agreement with the Downtown group, the village obligates them to have events—which must be approved by the council—and also provides them with funding, Tully said.

“So, in that context, it makes zero sense to me to fund an organization,” and then charge them, he said. “But, basically, giving them funds and then puling them back makes absolutely no logical sense.”

goddess August 10, 2011 at 05:01 PM
They don't want to be annexed in. So, don't. To me it seems to be nothing but a money grab.
Melanie C August 10, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I believe that annexing these residents is purely a way to obtain more revenue. Clearly some of these people do not want to be annexed into Downers Grove. I think that the council should take more time and set up a meeting with just the residents that will be annexed. Allow them to voice their concerns and complaints. Address the issues that they have and truly try to do what's right by these individuals. However, I don't have anything to compare it to but I don't see any problems with the services that I receive, being incorporated. My garbage is picked up every week, my snow is shoveled in a timely manner, etc. On the flip side, I have had my fair share of difficulty in dealing with the some of the village staff. I don't know where these residents go in order to get permits and such but that should be their biggest concern. The core services we have are sufficient and I believe are on par with other municipalities. Again, I don't have anything to compare it to but it can't be that far off.
Albert Rouffa August 14, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Melanie, this particular unincorporated area, surrounded by incorporated Downers Grove, benefits by that kind of proximity whether they understand the implications or not. Property value, for one. Would their home be valued the same at a distance from an incorporated area such as Downers Grove as it is embedded within the environs of Downers Grove ? Indeed, I am sure that there are other subtle benefits also gained by that very close physical presence within an incorporated area. All of which would be improved by incorporation into Downers Grove.
Jeffrey Crane August 14, 2011 at 08:18 PM
Those are very valid and good points. But why now? The answer is still revenue.
Albert Rouffa August 14, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Of course. And why not ? If not now, when ? It's a matter of wishing to live in the past, yet benefiting by the present.
Jeffrey Crane August 15, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Well because it is the precedent that is established which is to always seek out more and more revenue. I used to live in an unincorporated area and believe it or not there are people that seek out those areas because it is a lower standard of living that they can better afford. They give up some of the extras that you obtain by being incorporated. That is why there was such an outpouring of emotions at the village council meeting. But in the name of revenue, residents be damned. Even if you are incorporated, it is residents be damned. These municipalities never plan for the future and the possibility that revenues might decrease because of some unforeseen event. I sure hope they do not run there households that way. I bet they do not except when dealing with our money. Unless they want Downers Grove to become a ghost town they had better be more fiscally responsible. They claim they are, but they are not. Raises for top level staff, consultants for every little problem. Well I digress.....
Albert Rouffa August 15, 2011 at 02:33 AM
As a 59 year resident of Downers Grove I hardly think that Downers is a paragon of virtue in the art of governing, but there's been other communities a lot worse. Let's get back to the subject of the annexation in question. Frankly, I seriously doubt that most of these householders chose to live in DuPage County and within the environs of Downers Grove seeking a low standard of living. I'd rather think they might even be insulted by that. I also believe, and I'm hardly an elitist, that if they thought that, or thought that they could continue to do that, they would be sadly mistaken. The time is long past when DuPage Co. was the boonies when one could get away from it all and live the fantasy of carefree suburbia unfettered by big city politics. Believe me, I lived that fantasy for a very short while until reality set in living from paycheck to paycheck, bringing up a famile and commuting to Chicago to pay for it all. I believe those in the unincorporated area wanted something better than a low standard of living when they moved chock- a- block to Downers. They are benefiting by that proximity, but not willing to recognize that intangible environment in which they are actually living, and to pay the cost of doing so. They have lived the fantasy of residing in Downers Grove without admitting it. It is now time for them to officially join the village and relinquish the fantasy.
George Swimmer August 15, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Property owners in the annexed areas, myself included, will pay significantly higher taxes for services received from the Village of Downers Grove for services we already receive. Sounds like a great deal to me.
goddess August 15, 2011 at 04:05 PM
I know a number of people who very seriously sought out and bought in unincorporated Downers Grove. Maybe oddly to most, one bought there because they absolutely did not want is sidewalks. What's the first thing the village is going to do (after raising their taxes of course)? Put in sidewalks. If nothing else this is the wrong time, wrong economy to hit these people with the tax increases. They are paying for the services they are using. Let them be.
Albert Rouffa August 15, 2011 at 05:06 PM
How fortunate you are.. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels. As a beneficiary of your close proximity to your unfortunate annexed neighbors, you should in all good faith convince them to de-annex.

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