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.”