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Sandack's State of the Village: 'We Turned on a Dime'

Mayor Ron Sandack's address about the year that was in Downers Grove has the tone of a farewell speech. It followed a lengthy first reading on the proposal to split the Nelson Meadow subdivision project into phases.

Mayor Ron Sandack attended his first Village Council meeting of 2011 Tuesday night in the flesh to deliver his 2010 annual report. His in-person appearance followed two council meetings at which officials debated whether the mayor should be allowed to attend meetings using electronic means.

His report, at times, sounded like a farewell speech. Sandack, was sworn in as Illinois state senator Jan. 10 to finish the term of Dan Cronin, who is the newly elected DuPage County Board chairman.

The presentation highlighted what Sandack categorized as positive developments during the past year in the areas of financial stewardship, infrastructure investments, economic developments and innovation.

According to Sandack, the village’s financial stewardship is exemplified by an $8 million reduction in spending since 2009 and the elimination of 45 village positions over the last three years as a part of the village’s Long Range Financial Plan.

“We implemented and continued to implement the Long Range Financial Plan, and it has positioned your village in a very good position,” Sandack said.    

Sandack said 20 major infrastructure projects were completed, $3.5 million was put into roadway resurfacing and maintenance, and $5.4 million was put into storm water projects.  

According to Sandack, 925 jobs were created in Downers Grove from partnerships with DeVry University, Midwestern University and Dover Corp. New car dealerships brought 60 new jobs and $180,000 in sales tax revenue while Lemon Tree Grocer and Michael’s Fresh Market brought 60 new jobs and $120,000 in sales tax revenue to the village.

“The touchstone for any type of real economic turnabout will be the creation of jobs,” Sandack said.

Sandack cited service privatization, service consolidation and green initiatives as examples of the village’s innovation. Also, Sandack used the village’s partnership with the park district on the Washington Park renovation as an example of why he thinks partnering with outside governmental bodies and businesses is the future.

“We’re going to need to look for partnership opportunities in order to provide basic or core services going forward,” he said.

The mayor used his address to look ahead. He said the Long Range Financial Plan 2011 update and the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan will be important items this year.

With Sandack’s obligations in Springfield, his participation in the remaining board meetings of his term will likely be sporadic and via electronic means. He also will not chair meetings he attends electronically. So Tuesday’s speech had a farewell tone.

“In 2007, when I assumed this seat, my colleagues and I had a certain path that we were walking on,” Sandack said. “We put into place campaign finance reform, an ethics ordinance, a gift-ban act. We put into place some improvements with respect to how we undertake these meetings—we webcast; we podcast. We empowered and emboldened village staff to do the best they could. But in ’08 things changed. They changed dramatically.”

Sandack said the village reacted well to the economic downturn and is now on track for “sustained financial stability.”

“I’ll look back on my service to this village, and what I’m probably most proud of is my colleagues and I and village staff and residents understood immediately that we had a game-changer economy and that we needed to do things differently… To this organization’s credit, we turned on a dime.”  

Nelson Meadow subdivision

Nearly five years since its first appearance on the agenda, the proposed Nelson Meadow subdivision was discussed by the Village Council for the first time since Joel Andersen, its developer, suggested in May the idea of dividing the project into two phases.

Officially, Tuesday’s first reading was a resolution for a first addendum of the subdivision improvement agreement.

The 4.8-acre plot sits north of Jefferson Avenue and is bound by Brookbank Road to the west and Carpenter Street to the east. Under the original plan, the land was to be divided into 11 lots zoned as single-family residences.

The new resolution still acknowledges 11 lots, but divides them into two groups. Lots 9 through 11 make up Phase I; Lots 1 through 8 make up Phase II. The three Phase I lots are those that run adjacent to Carpenter Street.

Under the resolution, Andersen would agree to post a security that could cover the public improvement of both phases and construct a full detention basin in Phase I. In return, the village would give Anderson more time to complete Phase II public improvements.

 According to the resolution, the public improvements to Phase I must be completed 18 months from when a site development permit is granted. Phase II improvements must be completed two years after the Phase I improvements are approved.     

The subdivision was originally approved in February 2006. The following September, Andersen halted the project due to economic conditions. The land has been undeveloped since.       

The addendum re-hashed concerns raised in 2006, which brought 10 citizens to the microphone Tuesday to discuss tree preservation, construction entrances, Jefferson Avenue improvements and detention basin concerns, among other issues.

Commissioner Geoff Neustadt expressed support for the phased effort, but was happy the council has two weeks to study the resolution.

“We have a few questions to answer, we have a few comments to address,” Neustadt said. “We will certainly look at all the comments raised by the residents.”

But Sandack made clear Tuesday’s resolution does not change anything from the original plan besides breaking up the project into two phases and attaching new time frame to those phases.

Construction will not start until the permit is pulled by Andersen, Village Manager Dave Fieldman said, and neighborhood meetings are held so residents can air their concerns.

In other council action:

  • The council heard a first reading of an ordinance to re-zone the property at 5101 Thatcher Rd., the Neuco subdivision. The re-zoning would consolidate three lots into one. According to community development director Tom Dabareiner, Neuco plans an addition to their property, though that was not a part of Tuesday’s ordinance.
  • The council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would vacate an alley adjacent to 812 Randall St. and 820 Randall St. Robert Olp lives at 5241 Lyman Ave., which is also adjacent to the alley, and spoke against the ordinance.
William Vollrath January 19, 2011 at 05:48 PM
How do we get "sustained financial stability" when millions of ballooning downtown TIF debt is soon coming due and the projected tax revenues to pay it off haven't happened?
Doug Grier January 21, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Now if we could just get decent roads, drainage, a better electrical infrastructure and quality retail development we'd have it made!
Earl M. McGuire March 03, 2011 at 09:24 AM
Some Lawyer/council in Ohio when serving in the National Guard while in Iraq heard city council meetings "using electronic means."

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