SUGAR GROVE – The Sugar Grove Village Board approved new boundary agreements with Batavia, Aurora and North Aurora during the May 21 board meeting.
The move was an effort to prevent Crown Development from approaching other towns with a request to annex the property surrounding the I-88 interchange for future development, said Village President Sean Michels on May 22.
Crown Community Development earlier this year had petitioned the village of Sugar Grove to rezone the 760 acres of residential property at the intersection of I-88 and Route 47 to multi-use zoning, which would have allowed other uses, such as commercial or warehouse.
After widespread opposition from Sugar Grove residents and those in nearby Blackberry Township, Crown withdrew its petition in February.
Since withdrawing their petition from Sugar Grove, Crown representatives have approached both North Aurora and Elburn to express their potential interest in an annexation of their development into those towns.
Opponents to the Crown development in Sugar Grove have said that Crown had also approached Aurora, but a call to Aurora to confirm that contact was not returned by press time.
“The agreement prevents neighboring municipalities from being used as negotiation pawns by land owners and developers,” Sugar Grove Development Director Walter Magdziarz stated in a memo to Michels and the board regarding the boundary agreements with Batavia and North Aurora. “The boundary agreement permits both parties to conduct long-range land use planning and capital improvement planning with a high degree of certainty as to where their respective future boundaries will be located.”
With property owner Ron Cope slotted to talk to the board in June about plans for his property south of Galena Boulevard and east of Route 47, board members at the meeting also discussed their preferences for future development, as well as current and future challenges for growth within Sugar Grove.
Michels, current board members and staff brought the new trustees, Jen Konen and Ryan Walter, up to speed on previous plans for development that had been interrupted by the great recession.
They were all in agreement about their desire to create for Sugar Grove a more unique landscape, and not simply have the big box stores and other large chains that so many other suburban communities have opted for.
In addition, trustees agreed on continuing to choose a more unique type of architecture and additional amenities that form the façade and feel of a business.
“It doesn’t have to fit their corporate esthetics,” Konen said. “What I find charming are things….that create a homey feel where people are happy to come and spend time.”
She said she would like to see places that would keep Waubonsee students and residents in town, instead of driving them to Geneva or Randall Road to spend money.
However, Magdziarz inserted a dose of reality into the conversation, saying that a town can have its own development desires and interests, but that when it comes down to it, all of it is going to be market-driven.
Magdziarz explained that the rules of commercial property development have changed in recent years. Before the recession, developers could put up commercial buildings and fill them. He said that although it is not the case in Sugar Grove, there is now generally too much empty commercial space, so instead of building more, developers are looking to fill up the existing overbuilt commercial property.
He said that retailers and restaurants are also fixated on data. For example, 42 square feet of commercial development per capita is the industry’s national norm. By contrast, Sugar Grove can support only 12 square feet.
In addition, according to the developers he talks to, Sugar Grove might as well be in Iowa, because the town is too far out, he said.
“Where Randall Road used to be the dividing line between development and rural, Route 59 is the line now,” he said.
Magdziarz said that there has also been very little residential growth in recent years, not just in Sugar Grove, but throughout the Chicagoland area. He added that the lack of job growth in the state of Illinois has also been a drag on the area.
“These are some of the headwinds we’re up against,” he said. “Our small victories have been the infill development within the subdivisions.”
Trustee Rick Montalto said that the board’s vision for Sugar Grove has always been for steady and sustainable growth.
“You sustain yourselves by small businesses,” Konen said. “That’s how towns survive.”
Montalto said that a model he thought could still work is the mixed-use type of development, in which the first floor of a building is an office or a retail store, and the second floor is residential. That’s the type of development the town has envisioned for the area around Division and Park Streets.
Michels said that one large hurdle to commercial development is getting developers to help pay for the infrastructure that’s needed to support such growth.
Magdziarz said that the lack of empty building space is also an issue for the village.
“We don’t have the retail space for small businesses, said Magdziarz. “They would need to come in and build their own building. It’s a big cost barrier.”
And yet, when businesses have come to town, such as McDonald’s, Culvers and Walgreen’s, they do extremely well, he said.