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Elburn focuses on 'growing smart'

Village looks to the future, while wanting to retain some of its past

Dave Wissman has been a barber for over 40 years at 132 N. Main St. in downtown Elburn.
Dave Wissman has been a barber for over 40 years at 132 N. Main St. in downtown Elburn.

ELBURN – Of the 25 or so villages nestled within Kane County, some have grown quickly in recent decades. Others have grown cautiously and slowly, while still others seem unchanged.

Elburn’s new village president, Jeff Walter, said that although “bigger is coming” for Elburn more through organic growth, he is focused on “growing smart,” i.e., closely studying each issue, never rushing to make decisions. Plus, decisions must always benefit village residents.

Walter cited Elburn’s Latin motto “Melior Non Maior,” bigger is not better.

“I never thought about how big Elburn could be,” he said. “I’m OK with staying within current village boundaries. If we build-out only within our current borders, we won’t get much bigger without annexation – which is a decision village residents must make.”

Strengthen the village

Walter’s priority is economic development. Work on Elburn Station, a master-planned community surrounding the village’s Metra train station southeast of downtown Elburn and south of the Union Pacific West line railway tracks, is underway. Being built in phases over the next 20 years by Shodeen Homes, this development could double Elburn’s population to 12,000 by 2037.

“When more people move to Elburn, more businesses will want to operate here,” said Walter, who’d like to see downtown Elburn resemble the business area encompassing Third Street and Route 38 in downtown Geneva.

Downtown Elburn improvements are set to begin. New sidewalks will be laid after Elburn Days concludes Aug. 20. Many utilities will be buried underground, plus hanging baskets and banners will be hung along Main Street.

Walter hopes more downtown business owners will take advantage of the village’s facade grant in which Elburn pays 50 percent of the cost, up to $5,000, to help businesses develop a quaint, downtown look.

The village needs new businesses that don’t compete against big-box stores.

“These include destination stops, such as a clothing boutique, jewelry store, florist, doctors office and family-style restaurant,” Walter said.

To help lure new businesses to town, Elburn’s Building Department is reviewing/updating building and business ordinances. Some created 50 years ago are no longer relevant and could discourage new businesses from coming to town. The Village Board also may be open to offering tax incentives.

Shodeen’s Elburn Station project will include a commercial area near the Metra train station.

“We’ve discussed possibly developing North Street [which runs east and west just north of the tracks] west to Main Street [Route 47] and building a pedestrian/bike bridge crossing the tracks to connect the train station to North Street, so people exiting the train could conveniently walk to downtown Elburn,” Walter said.

Dave Rissman, 75, owner/operator of Dave’s Barber Shop in downtown Elburn, has lived and worked in the village since 1964. Despite Elburn’s increasing population, he’s pleased its small-town values and atmosphere remain.

“Everybody knows everybody, and they’re quite helpful to each other,” he said.

Rissman would like to see downtown Elburn regain vibrancy through smart economic development.

“Elburn’s people will continue making a positive difference for the village – not its size,” Rissman said.

Looking forward, attorney Bill Grabarek, a 39-year Elburn resident and forth-term village trustee, asked, “How do we retain that sense of quaintness, continue strengthening the sense of community, manage to prevent runaway growth and provide sufficient passive recreation?”

Grabarek and others want the village to retain sufficient buffer zones of commercial development areas or open forest preserve or historical land, so neighboring villages can’t be directly adjacent to Elburn homes in the future.

“Elburn is fortunate to contain almost 1,100 acres of forest preserve land,” he said.

“Growth is inevitable,” Walter said, “but we want the character of Elburn to remain a small farming community 50 years out.”

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