Ward Meeting Minutes
Thank you to volunteer Ruth Bethscheider who takes minutes at our monthly ward meetings. The following notes are an informal account of these meetings.
In attendance: residents; Alderman Matt Bogusz
What the City Council would like to do with the Sim’s Bowling property...
Midwest Bank owns the property.
The City of Des Plaines made the only offer.
The majority of the City Council voted to buy the property for around $800,000 for a property that was worth $2 million two years ago.
TIF1 is the only district that is solvent—others are in the red.
In the past budget battle, the subject of the city’s bond debt was discussed, and determined to be too high.
Tax bills are going up in Des Plaines.
The city just eliminated 38 employees from the payroll.
The State of Illinois is cutting back on money allocated to the city by $1.3 million.
The property comes with a $40,000 back-tax bill.
It would cost $100,000 to tear down the property, backfill and pave the lot.
The bowling alley has been gutted and scavenged, and would cost at least $600,000 to make it usable again.
City staff were tasked with finding a way to pay for the property
The adjacent TIF property was not showing a profit, and funds had to be transferred from TIF1 to TIF2. Fund are no longer available in TIF1.
The city will issue a bond debt to be voted upon at the March 15 City Council meeting.
Where the City Council stands
For: Haugeberg, Higgason, Robinson
Opposed: Argus, Bogusz, Wilson
Undecided: Brookman, Walsten
Mayor is in favor of purchase.
Q: How much will be bond be?
A: $900,000 not including the cost to demolish the building and convert the land to a parking lot.
What is the reason the city wants to buy the property?
The Council feels the development of the Kinder property did not maximize its potential, and doesn’t want it to happen again.
Pearson to River is now not as desirable because the corner lot is occupied.
The entire strip is viable, but many properties exist between Midwest Bank and the Heritage.
Q: Are we going to start a new TIF?
Q: Who in the Economic Development Commission is pushing this sale?
A: Mike Conlon, Director of Community Development, identified the property sale as something the city should look into.
The property can’t be sold to developers with a dilapidated building.
A level lot would be more desirable to future developers.
What is the best-case-scenario for this purchase?
The economy will improve.
The strip where Sim’s sits will be purchased at a profit to the city
The land will be converted to mixed-use.
The properties will be profitable.
Q: Is the prospect of the casino what Aldermen who are in favor of the Sim’s purchase are hoping will generate interest from developers?
Q: When will TIF1 expire?
Miscellaneous comments from residents
If it’s the land the city wants, then they should buy the land and not the building.
We should let the bank continue to own the property and maintain it.
We’re all going to have to pay for it eventually.
We shouldn’t use TIF to make a hole in the ground but rather to improve the neighborhood as TIFs are designed to do.
Stores that are eventually built on the Ellinwood strip won’t fill up anyway as shown by the Metropolitan Square development.
What residents can do
Residents should think about how this purchase will help us or hurt us if we do it.
Residents with opinions about the purchase should attend the March 15 meeting.
Residents who live in the Wards where aldermen are undecided, should make their opinions known to them.
Residents can e-mail comments to Matt Bogusz.
Summer 2010 Bike Race in the Villas
Alderman Wilson and the Mayor are in favor of this new event.
The Villas are a good location if the residents buy-in to the idea. There are logistical problems, and if the residents don’t want it, the event won’t happen.
The free event is being organized by a non-profit cycling organization.
Residents on the inside loop will be free to come and go during set windows of time during the race.
Street improvement will need to take place to make the course safe for cyclers.
Charitable donations will be made from the proceeds of the event.
In attendance: residents; Mike Conlon, Des Plaines Zoning Director; Alderman Matt Bogusz
Des Plaines 101: Form-Based Zoning Code
Zoning regulations came in during the Industrial Revolution. 1916 was the first attempt to separate industrial from residential and commercial buildings.
Current code created 12 years ago
New code will focus on how a building is built (form) rather than how it is used (function)
Process of creating new code
Every street in Des Plaines was evaluated for aesthetics
Des Plaines’ building needs evaluated for next 10 years
Energy needs evaluated in order to build a sustainable community
Focus on preserving unique character of Des Plaines
Focus on what’s important to Des Plaines
There could be some commercial areas that would support residential communities
OK to mix housing and commercial buildings as long as they are compatible
Can we allow some commerce within residential homes?
Software developers & architects-contemporary
Live/Work Units: office downstairs, live upstairs
New Housing Categories
Cottage House A – small, postwar, modest (English, Tudor)
Cottage House B and C – medium, postwar (Bungalow, Split, Raised Ranch)
Manor House A – larger (American Four-Square, Victorian)
Manor House B – larger (Georgian)
Manor House C – larger (1970s Ranches and Splits)
Estate House – largest (“McMansions” or homes that replace smaller tear-downs)
Add to the tax base, nicely built
Don’t honor the character of neighborhood
Least liked among neighbors
New Zoning Code
After categories were determined, standards were re-written into a new code to be made available to developers and home builders
Graphics used to show home standards
Higher level of detail for each type of house
Parking: alley, driveway, etc.
Will specify character of neighborhood
Will create areas where large-scale construction is limited
Will allow for more green spaces connecting with trails
Will address other areas
Downtown buildings – Main Street A
Street types and surfaces
Current Problems in Des Plaines Zoning
Residential areas abut industrial areas with no buffers
Incompatible land use
R1 Zoning states any type of building can be built as long as it is under 35 feet high
Summary and Timeline
New code is still in development
Alderman decided regulating “Pop the Lid” home additions (roof torn off to add 2nd level) in favor of back-of-home build outs was too restricting
Dialogue begins in 6-8 weeks
This code will affect everyone’s neighborhood
Between some and all of the new zoning proposals will make it into the future code
Zoning Question & Answer Session
Q. Will developers still be able to build after buying half lots next to older homes on full lots with intent to tear down?
Mr. Conlon: Yes.
Q. Why isn’t the Zoning department doing something about foreclosure problems and the noise of industry next to residences?
Ald. Bogusz: The current state of the economy is something all departments are dealing with. The Zoning Department is making use of the down time (less permits are being requested now) to update the zoning code so we’re prepared for the time when the economy makes an upswing.
Mr. Conlon: The reason housing prices in Des Plaines are lower than surrounding areas without industry is because of the proximity to railroads, highways and the airport. Most of these industries were here first, and Des Plaines homes built up around them.
Q. When will the Oakton Corridor undergo a facelift?
Mr. Conlon: It depends on the economy now. When new development and tenants take over, the beautification can happen.
Q. Do we want the city to control what people can build?
Resident input: OK as long as zoning code is easy to read and implement. OK since zoning has always regulated what people can build and as housing stock ages, preserving the integrity and character of neighborhoods becomes more important.
General Question and Answer Session
Q. Who is responsible for leaves that fall from Prairie Lakes trees?
Overhanging branches are property owners responsibility. Ald. Bogusz will check with Park District to see how much they can do to minimize impact on residents.
Q. Why did Des Plaines inspectors leave cars running several years ago?
Things have changed since then and the city is more conscious of energy conservation now.
In attendance: residents, Representative Rosemary Mulligan (65th), Representative Elaine Nekritz (57th), Alderman Matt Bogusz
Questions and Answers with Local Representatives
Note: These are not actual quotes, but response summaries.
What has been your greatest legislative achievement so far?
(Rep. Nekritz) Work on the state-subsidized, high-speed, inter-city passenger rail which is 4 lines on Amtrak from Chicago to St. Louis that will create jobs in Illinois and also work on giving the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District more authority to help curtail flooding.
(Rep. Mulligan) Work on the Human Services budget and the public awareness campaign on compulsive gambling.
Why does the government have to subsidize the rail?
(Rep. Nekritz) Illinois subsidizes $28 million, or the equivalent of 17 round trips a day. This is cheaper than road construction and repair. This is a public benefit that every government around the world takes part in.
Why is our bond rating so low, and how can we fix it?
(Rep. Nekritz) We’ve been under funding pensions since the 1970s, and now it’s manifesting itself in our low bond rating and crushing debt. The money was spent on other priorities, and pensions were ignored. We need to bring the operating budget back in line with:
Reforms such as the public employee pension system for state employees, teachers, state university teachers, and judges.
(Rep. Mulligan enters meeting at 7:15pm)
Polices and Fire pensions are going up. What can municipalities do?
(Rep. Nekritz) The returns on municipal funds are much lower, and under funding is significant. Municipalities can raise the retirement age and cap benefits. We have reached a tipping point and need to change the retirement system for current employees.
(Resident) We need to have employee-defined benefits. People are afraid of the Stock Market. We need to have an account just for government securities.
Do you favor raising taxes over cutting essential services?
(Rep. Nekritz) Some of both, and it will impact everything if we raise income tax 3-4%. We should have gotten out of this budget mess years ago.
(Rep. Mulligan) Should we raise taxes on services such as legal services? The industry will just pass the cost along to citizens. This will be the worst year we’ve ever seen. Will it hurt the public if I raise taxes or if I don’t raise taxes? There’s a compromise when raising taxes in that it will “fill the hole,” and eventually to good for Illinois. We ask ourselves how do we fund necessary services now, and people really want us to get the budget work done.
What can we do to break the stranglehold that certain democrats have on the legislatur
(Rep. Nekritz) It is frustrating to work under the current Speaker of the House, and people in the legislature are leaving. We need to encourage friends in other parts of Illinois and let them know that his system is not working. I voted “no” on the rules of the House that gave the Speaker of the House so much power and talked with him about why I made my decision.
(Rep. Mulligan) The Democratic caucus’s ethnic diversity gives them better leverage that the Republican’s caucus. The Speaker of the House is becoming more aware of his negative reputation.
Illinois has more legislation than any other state in the Union. Why can’t we get anything done?
(Rep. Mulligan) There was a time before when we worked together--before personalities became in the forefront.
What can Des Plaines do to improve its business profile?
(Rep. Mulligan) Support the chamber and its local businesses, support local resources for education like Oakton Community College. TIF is not a solution, and we need to figure out a way to improve business.
(Rep. Nekritz) We have had bad infrastructure. Des Plaines can work with the state to improve and attract businesses.
Thank you for working together! State business has been taken away by surrounding states. What can we do, and are there any projections for education cuts?
(Rep. Mulligan) We need to do more to incubate businesses.
(Rep. Nekritz) Things were so unpredictable under Blagojevich that it turned away businesses from Illinois. We can’t have predictability without a solid budget plan. We receive a pay-per-pupil amount based on property taxes. The northwest suburbs may be cut.
Do you support a private school voucher program?
(Rep. Mulligan and Rep. Nekritz) No.
Where does the Lottery money go? What about income from other forms of gaming?
(Rep. Mulligan) It’s put in the budget and is a wash. In the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, we look at the rules for legislation. When video poker legislation came through, it wasn’t in order. It will be 2 more years before we see it, but Des Plaines will opt out as other surrounding suburbs have. Illinois will equal Nevada in gaming. IDOT will be given some of the money to go towards roads.
(Resident) We should bring in sports betting instead of video poker and run it like off-track betting. It won’t cost as much, and will be easy to implement.
What’s your job creation plan?
(Rep. Nekritz) The high-speed passenger rail program will create jobs.
(Rep. Mulligan) At the Federal level, we need incentives to keep businesses here.
What are the plans for the traffic circle and the “S” curve?
(Rep. Mulligan) IDOT controls the circle. They marked lines and put up signage.
(Ald. Bogusz) Residents around the circle are opposed to its removal.
(Rep. Nekritz) The railroad over the “S” curve has been secured, but plans to straighten the “S” curve are a matter of money and priority.
End of Question and Answer session with State Representatives. Ald. Bogusz answered a few questions afterwards.