SUGAR GROVE – Sometimes it takes a crisis or a threat of losing something you love to wake up a person, or in this case, a community.
Those were the words used by Village Trustee candidate Ryan Walter while introducing himself and explaining why he was running during a Sugar Grove Candidate Forum at the Sugar Grove Township Community Building on March 21.
“I’m encouraged by our residents’ interest in this election and future community affairs.” Walter said. “The next few years are going to be critical in shaping the future of Sugar Grove while maintaining what makes us a unique and desirable place to live.”
Like Walter, candidates Jennifer Konen and Heidi Lendi, have been endorsed by The Independents for Sugar Grove Village Trustee.
Konen fought through her emotions when discussing her reasoning for running in the election – Crown Development’s proposed business park.
“As I was searching for information, I contacted village officials for clarification on this project,” she said. “I wanted them to explain what I might have been missing. Through my research, I wasn’t given any answers to justify this massive project, just more questions and more doubts. That’s when I knew we needed a change in Sugar Grove. I believe in transparency and accountability. Doing the minimum that is required to communicate isn’t enough.”
The Crown Development seemingly found a way to seep into the answers to questions from many of the candidates. And what was scheduled for a 45-minute forum went nearly twice as long.
“This project was DOA,” eight-year Trustee David Paluch said. “It was not going to pass the plan commission, and if they kicked it up to us it would not have passed the Village Board, so obviously we want to take the sentiments of other surrounding communities just like we did with Heartland (Recycling).”
Paluch reminded folks that the board has done a lot of great things during his tenure.
“Since 2011, as we were coming off one of the worst economic recessions in American history, we’ve seen a lot of growth come into our town,” he said. “Numerous new business, which is including and not limited to, McDonald’s, Ace, Culver’s and Walgreens and we’ve resolved issues in (Hannaford, Settler’s Ridge and Mallard Point and more).”
Paluch said he’s committed to doing more.
“We’ve done a lot and there’s a lot to do,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make the Village of Sugar Grove the best place to live in Kane County.”
Trustee Heidi Lendi explained her approach to resident involvement.
“I am dedicated to hearing what the residents have to say before making decisions,” she said. “As a trustee, my approach is of listening first, research and then discussing, which allows me to create the most effective outcomes. I want to be your voice on the Village Board.”
None of the candidates have lived in Sugar Grove or served as long as Mari Johnson has. She’s served as a trustee for the past 24 years, longer than any other candidate, except for Paluch, have lived in the village.
“Over these years we’ve added over 15 subdivisions, growing our population from around 2,500 to nearly 10,000,” she said. “Those subdivisions offer a variety of housing options and price points. We’ve added to our commercial corridor along Route 47 and we’ve added to our industrial base, all of this to diversify our tax bases. Our community continues to be fiscally responsible with excellent credit ratings.”
Candidate Alex Kline-Wedeen asked people to vote for change, but not from him, but from Konen and Walter.
“I feel that change is needed,” he said. “And I think passion is extremely important and we need people willing to put the time and effort into getting things done. I’m going to take a different stance from everyone else and I feel that the best two candidates, and who I’d vote for, would be Jennifer Konen and Ryan Walter.”
Candidates answered a variety of questions and most of their responses were similar. Collectively, the candidates would like to see communication vastly improve between the village and the residents, are leery of TIFs but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider them, are anti-eminent domain, would review the village’s comprehensive land use plan, said they don’t have any ties elsewhere that would be a conflict of interest, and want Sugar Grove to remain a unique village.
The League of Women Voters (LWV) hosted the forum.
Only Tim Cicero attended in the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District race. LWV officials said David Blankenship and Timothy Czekala were supposed to attend but were no-shows.
Willie Mayes Sr. was also absent in the Waubonsee Community College trustees race.