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Closer Look: Local leaders look to 2013

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 5:21 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 8:25 a.m. CDT

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GENEVA – Looking ahead to 2013, Mayor Kevin Burns said Geneva will continue to evolve and increase its success to meet consumer demands.

"From a micro level, our historic downtown – from East Side Drive to Anderson Boulevard –  will always take the lead in identifying trends and demands from more the discerning consumer," Burns said. "Our downtown has experienced consecutive sales tax revenue increases in 11 of the last 12 months."

Burns said the retail vacancy in the city's downtown was 15 percent, but is now less than 8 percent.

"It reflects the potential and the promise of the downtown district," Burns said. "It is encouraging to see independent business owners invest their resources to operate here."

The challenge of the new year will be the same as in past years, he said, and that is to "build budgets built on needs not wants, to meet expectations of residents, business owners and guests alike with dwindling resources."

Another focus in the new year will be  the growth opportunity for land from Kautz Road to Peck Road, he said.

"We do not need to expand in order to grow, and not enlarge in order to improve," Burns said. "Geneva is open for business, and developers we have met within the last year alone know that."

ST. CHARLES

ST. CHARLES – The notable projects and issues Mayor Don DeWitte foresees for 2013 are carryovers from recent years.

On the heels of opening Red Gate Bridge, St. Charles expects the new year will mark the completion of another road project: the Route 64 improvements, DeWitte said.

The $49.1 million Illinois Department of Transportation project involves reconstructing, widening and resurfacing Route 64 from Seventh Avenue in St. Charles to Route 59 in West Chicago. The project's website states the changes are intended to enhance traffic flow and reduce the potential for accidents.

Work began in April 2012. IDOT is targeting a fall 2013 completion.

The city will continue to seek solutions to make Charlestowne Mall economically viable again, DeWitte said. A market study conducted last year concluded the property needs new ownership, a new image and new attractions.

DeWitte declined to provide specifics regarding the mall, only that there are ongoing discussions with the owners and other parties who have expressed interest.

"The interest created from recent press related to the market study the city had done has clearly generated additional interest that we had not previously enjoyed," DeWitte said.

St. Charles is also working toward establishing a business district on the city's east side starting at Seventh Avenue, DeWitte said. He described the East Gateway Business District as a significant component in potential redevelopment opportunities.

"We're hopeful that the council will be supportive of the initiative, and the initiative will generate incentive to promote new and redeveloping commercial property," he said.

Finally, DeWitte said, the city should complete its revision of the comprehensive plan. The proposal will go to the Plan Commission for review, and the City Council is expected to consider it by the second quarter, he said.

A public hearing on the comprehensive plan is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 8. Click on the comprehensive plan link on the city's website, www.stcharlesil.gov, to view a draft of the document.

BATAVIA

BATAVIA – Batavia is posed to see more retail growth in 2013 and the expansion of its downtown streetscape program.

"We've got some positive energy floating around and let's hope that continues," Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

Yorkville-based Boombah, a sports apparel and equipment store, is set to open in the new year along Randall Road in a space just north of OfficeMax in the Wind Point shopping center. This is the first Boombah store to open in central Kane County.   

Residents also will see the opening of a Chick-fil-A in the coming months. Chick-fil-A is building a 4,869-square-foot restaurant with a two-lane drive-thru at the corner of McKee Street and Randall Road in front of the former Wickes furniture store.

Chick-fil-A is set to open Feb. 7.

The Walmart store at Fabyan Parkway and Randall Road will also expand this year to include a full-service grocery store. The 35,911-square-foot addition will bring the store's size to 189,343 square feet.

As it was in 2012, Batavia's downtown will once again be under construction this year. Wilson Street will become the second street to receive streetscape improvements following streetscape improvements along North River Street.

The project is set to get under way in June in coordination with the Wilson Street traffic modernization and interconnect project that is already underway. The city’s downtown streetscape advisory committee put together a plan for the downtown with Altamanu, the city’s design consultant company.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke, who is running unopposed in April for a ninth term, said he is running again to ensure the completion of the downtown streetscape program.

CAMPTON HILLS

CAMPTON HILLS – This year in Campton Hills officials will likely revamp some ordinances, make finishing touches on the village's new office and vote on a controversial proposal, Village President Patsy Smith said.

Just like the village's initial comprehensive plan, Campton Hills developed its subdivision ordinance by using material from other entities, including Kane County, Smith said.

Now, she said, it's time for the Plan Commission to amend the cut-and-paste document. She noted the Public Works Committee has made recommendations for the subdivision ordinance throughout the last five years.

Although village personnel moved their offices from Unit B at 40W115 Campton Crossings Drive to property in Fox Mill Square at 40W270B LaFox Road in July, Smith said final touches – such as signage for a back wall – are still needed at the new digs. The village still plans on having an open house so residents can see the offices, she said.

A vote on Kiva Recovery, a substance abuse treatment facility proposed for the former Glenwood School, should also come this year. Consideration of the hotly contested center is scheduled continue Jan. 8 with a fourth public hearing during a Board of Trustees meeting.

NORTH AURORA

NORTH AURORA – Village officials in 2013 will try to build on the retail growth it saw this past year.

"I want to put a special effort on trying to get more commercial growth," Village President Dale Berman said. Berman said the village is well positioned to see more commercial growth given its close proximity to I-88.

A CVS /pharmacy recently opened at Mooseheart/Orchard and Randall roads, and work has started on a Speedway gas station at the corner of Route 31 and Sullivan Road.

The village recently hired a new director of community and economic development to replace former North Aurora community development director Scott Buening, who in August became Batavia's community development director.

North Aurora will see new restaurant offerings in 2013. A restaurant called Run-A-Way will replace the former Ernie McCann's Tavern and Grill and Uncle Pat's restaurant on Butterfield Road. The restaurant will serve burgers, gyros sandwiches and other fare.

Berman will run unopposed in April for another term. He first served as North Aurora village president from 1985 to 1989 and returned to the office in 2009 when he was elected to succeed Village President John Hansen, who did not run for re-election.

Berman was a North Aurora village trustee for 14 years.

ELBURN

ELBURN – Dave Anderson doesn't own a crystal ball. Nor is he an economist.

But Anderson, Elburn's village president, believes that the travails of the past few years will remain there – in the past – and that better days lie ahead for the community in central Kane County.

"I'm an optimist, always have been," said Anderson. "And I think the economy is going to turn, and turn for the better.

"But things only rarely go back up as quickly as they came down."

In recent years, economic troubles have plagued Elburn, just as most other communities in Kane County and elsewhere. Foreclosures have wracked the local housing market, new development has dried up and property values have fallen.

While Anderson doesn't foresee a rapid return to the boom years, he said the village should expect some new opportunities, in 2013 and beyond.

He said the village will continue working with Geneva-based development company ShoDeen on its proposed Elburn Station plan, a huge planned development project that, over the next two decades, could add more than 2,000 new homes to the village's east side, centered around the Elburn Metra station.

The proposal languished at the village board in 2012, as village officials balked at the more than 1,300 new apartments and condominiums proposed in the plan.

Anderson said he believes it is possible for the village and ShoDeen to forge a compromise that eases concerns.

"All of us who decide, do so based on the facts and information we had available to us at the time of our decision," Anderson said. "This is a 20-year development, and we cannot lose sight of that."

Discussions, however, have been further complicated by the inclusion in the plan of an extension of Anderson Road from Route 38 to Keslinger Road, with an overpass of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks – a transportation project long sought by the village.

ShoDeen owns the land needed for the extension project, and has indicated it would be unwilling to relinquish that land without a deal in place for Elburn Station.

Anderson said he hopes the road project will advance soon, to ease congestion on Route 47 in downtown Elburn, where an at-grade crossing regularly backs up traffic near the tracks.

"I'd sure like to see that happen," Anderson said.

Kane County has indicated it could proceed with work on the project as soon as it secures the land.

Anderson is running unopposed for a new term as Elburn's village president, meaning he expects to be in office to oversee completion of the terms of a deal.

Anderson said, for now, other economic development opportunities remain quiet around Elburn.

He said a new pancake house-style restaurant will open on the village's north side.

"And we have a couple other people looking," Anderson said. "But nothing else ready to announce."

But Anderson said he believed a little economic growth could change that.

"We know 100 percent about our yesterdays, but nothing about our future," Anderson said. "And I believe we should bet on better times ahead."

SUGAR GROVE

SUGAR GROVE – Sean Michels can't say whether his role in the village will change between now and the end of 2013.

But Michels, Sugar Grove's village president, believes the new year could bring several changes to the village that could work to further round out the community as one in which residents cannot only live, but also work, play and find more options to meet the needs of daily life.

This spring, voters in the village will select a village president and village board members. Michels, who has served as village president since 1999, is being challenged by Kevin Geary, a village trustee who also has served on the board since 1999.

Voters will also select three village board members from among five candidates, a list that includes incumbent trustees Robert Bohler and Rick Montalto and challengers Gayle Deja-Schultz, Stephanie Landorf and Sean Herron.

But regardless of what happens at the voting booth in April, Michels said Sugar Grove residents should benefit from some of the developments forthcoming this year.

For Michels, that list begins with the opening of the village's first medical facility, as Rush-Copley opens the doors of a convenient care clinic on Route 47 in February.

"Getting health care for our residents, right here in the village, is a big deal for Sugar Grove," Michels said.

In addition to health care, village residents could gain more access to financial services, as well, as American Heartland Bank is expected to break ground on its new facility in the spring.

And Michels said improving conditions in the local housing market have also begun to manifest in Sugar Grove, as the village issued permits for four new houses in 2012. And Michels said he believes even more will follow in 2013.

Michels said he expected employment to be boosted in the village soon, as plans advance for the 150-bed Hampstead Court assisted living center.

But for Michels, the big prize for Sugar Grove remains the construction of a full interchange at Interstate 88 and Route 47, which he believes will generate large amounts of development at the village's north end.

Michels said he hopes state transportation officials will decide soon on a request from the village to receive a share of the money that had been allocated to the defunct Prairie Parkway highway proposal. That money could help the village assemble the money needed to partner with the Illinois Tollway to make the interchange project a reality.

Michels' vision for the interchange, however, differs from that of Geary, who has said he'd prefer the village use Prairie Parkway money to widen Route 47 from Sugar Grove to Kendall County and improve the interchange at Route 47 and Route 56 in the village's center.

"This village has a lot of good things going for it," Michels said. "There's a lot to look forward to next year."

MAPLE PARK

MAPLE PARK – The Maple Park Village Board will work on saving money in 2013, according to Village President Kathy Curtis.

She said there are no development or construction plans in the works for 2013. She said the village will focus on rebuilding its cash reserves, which were whittled down through the recession.

"We're financially strapped, so we have no plans," she said. "Right now, we're sustaining ourselves."

Five village board seats are up for election on April 9. Two two-year terms and three four-year terms are available, along with the four-year village president position.

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