Ward Meeting Minutes

The 3rd Ward meeting takes place on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:00 p.m. at Prairie Lakes Community Center. Please sign up for my eNewsletter to get the latest information about the meeting. Thank you to volunteer Ruth Bethscheider who takes minutes. The following notes are an informal account of these meetings.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

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.


Resident Input

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?
A: No.

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?
A: No.

Q: When will TIF1 expire?
A: 2021


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.

Potential benefits

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. 



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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


Craftsman Commercial

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

More user-friendly

Graphics used to show home standards

Higher level of detail for each type of house

Lot size


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

Commercial buildings

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.


Wednesday, January 10, 2010

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:

Increased efficiencies.
Budget cuts.
Revenue creation
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. Mulligan) Lobbyists will prevail in Springfield, and we need to work towards better negotiations with unions. 

(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.


Wednesday, November 9, 2009

There are no formal minutes from this month's ward meeting. Instead, a series of your questions -- unanswerable in the normal ward meeting format -- were recorded and City staff have worked to compile answers.

Will changes to Health and Human Services affect the 1/2 price cab fares for Seniors?(Holly)

How much of a liability is the Methodist Campground to the City of Des Plaines?

Is there anyway to break the endless cycle of pay raises for union employees considering binding arbitration?

When will new curbs be installed on Dennis Place? (Brydges)

What is happening with the land the City purchased for the fire station on the south end of town?

How deep does a yard need to be to qualify for the rear yard drainage program?


...answers will arrive shortly.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In attendance: 27 residents; Alderman Matt Bogusz; Jon Duddles, Asst. Director of Public Works and Engineering; Cmdr. Matt Hicks, Des Plaines Police Department; Elizabeth Makelim, Vice President, Des Plaines History Center Board

Introduction, Ald. Bogusz

Today’s meeting to focus on Carol Lane and City Budget

Special visitor from Des Plaines History Museum


Carol Lane Issue Overview

Residents have observed excessive speeding occurring on Carol Lane, north of Oakton and South of Algonquin in the 3rd Ward.

Ald. Bogusz part of Staff Traffic Advisory Committee (STAC) whose purpose is to develop a speed calming engineering plan for city streets
1. There is no state or federal guidelines to follow for speed calming

2. The city is challenged by a tough budget season
     a) Any plan for Carol Lane will cost money
     b) Are residents willing to pay for solution in form of assessment?
     c) Residents cannot expect quick turnaround due to budget constraints

3. Will look at the problem as a whole, and not just a concern for Carol Lane, but for surrounding streets and other streets throughout the city with similar issues

4. Speed humps and stop signs have already been proven to not work in street speed calming


Resident Comments

Vehicles speed from Webster to Carol Lane at all times of day and night; some in excess of 50 m.p.h.

Vehicles spotted speeding are Postal vehicles, school busses, and vehicles carrying Maine West High School students

Vehicles use Carol Lane as a cut-through to Oakton Ave, via Webster Ln.

Speeding has been a problem in all of Carol Lane’s history, and no solutions have worked so far.

“Local Traffic Only” signs were installed to placate residents’ complaints more than 15 years ago, but have proved ineffective as they are not enforceable.

Police patrols have been in place, but aren’t consistent, and the problem resurfaces once the patrols are gone.

Children who live and play on Carol Lane are warned by parents to not play near or to cross the street; however, at times, some children do, and an accident is likely to occur.

Vehicles often jump the curb at the bend and damage parkways, lawns and trees.


Residents’ Suggestions

Install speed humps

Install stop signs at Wayne and Dennis

Allow parking on both sides

All times

Alternating times

Increase police patrols

Increase fines given to speeders

Allow turns onto Webster only at certain times of day

Make streets one-way

Use Citizen’s Patrol to supplement police patrol

Create a dead-end at Webster


Commander Hicks’ comments

Traffic Units assigned to Carol Lane

Officers receive a list of problem areas and assign a beat car for one hour; Carol Lane is on the list.

Times and days traffic units spend on Carol Lane have been decreased due to budget constraints.

State controls (City cannot control)

Fine structure for offenses

Placement of stop signs

Speed humps can cause more accidents by vehicles that do not slow down and lose control

A traffic study could assist engineering in making plan

Residents should call the police department to make a report every time there is an incident with a vehicle that tears up the parkway, hits a tree, etc. on Carol Lane.

“Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25” campaign
1. Program places speed limit signs in residents’ yards
2. Designed to raise drivers’ awareness on residential streets
3. Proven to reduce speeding
4. Signs for Des Plaines are already ordered, and will be rotated throughout the community. Carol Lane will receive signs next month indicating 15 M.P.H speed zone.

Jon Duddles’ comments

Speed humps

Mount Prospect and City of Chicago are taking out speed humps because of ineffectiveness in speed calming

Speed humps actually increase vehicle speeding by drivers who perceive being slowed down, and speed up between humps to make up time.

Park Ridge has had none since 2006

Need 75% of street residents in favor; 50% of surrounding streets

Funding got out of hand

Don’t work on “collector” or main residential thoroughfares—more resident complaints

Carol Lane would need 5 humps at a cost of $25,000

Stop signs

Placement of stop signs are subject to federal regulations.

Stop signs are a method of traffic control, not traffic calming.

Because Carol Lane is a dead end street, federal mandates will not allow a stop sign placed at Carol and Webster.

In order for stop signs to be placed on Webster, it must meet 8 warrants in the federal mandate to qualify.

STAC will look into warrants

Residents need to report all incidents in order for reports to go on record

Other traffic calming measures

Striping: painted parking lanes narrow drivers’ perception of street width,

Have been proven to work in traffic calming

Done on Prairie Ave. between Graceland and Wolf

Parking on 2 sides of street: difficult to implement because one side needs to remain clear in case of water main break


Current plans for Carol Lane

Police patrol saturation for one week

Install 2 chevron signs (yellow with black chevron symbol) at the bend

“Stay Alive, Drive [15]” resident yard signs distributed next month


Next steps for Carol Lane

Residents report all incidents on Carl Lane and Webster to Police Dept.

Ald. Bogusz will look at Park Ridge’s plans for traffic calming
1. Residential yard signs
2. “Pace car” volunteer program
3. Citizen radar speed clocking

STAC will draft a plan to benefit the entire city that will create a sustainable way to deal with traffic calming

Ald. Bogusz will hold a public hearing


City Budget

Budget of $100 million is $3 million short. It costs Des Plaines 20% more to run than Mt. Prospect

City employees are 90% union

Set standards are set by their union boards

Contract expirations are staggered; Fire up next

Fire negotiates with binding arbitration

Union employees without binding arbitration work along with the city and walk away believing in fair deal

Every ¼ point reduction City Council can negotiate with unions means $20,000 in savings


Invest to build up capital reserve without layoffs or increased taxes

ERI: Early Retirement Incentive offered to police and fire employees

Possible savings of $3 million

Keeps newly-trained employees; does not fill positions left by retiring employees


Board reported eliminating 3 full-time positions; really eliminating part-time positions to equal full-time hours

Budget discussed and approved by city without challenge


Budget draft

Shows increases in every department

Likely won’t pass as-is; up for amendments at next council meeting


Des Plaines History Center

City of Des Plaines has funded the History Center since 1969

Current funding of $166,000 is set to be eliminated

Receives $77,000  from the Park District

Receives $45,000 from membership

History Center does a lot of good for the City


Repository for historical documents

Reduction in funds would mean less staff support; fewer programs; shorter hours of operation

Resident input

History Center should find other ways to support itself with traditional fundraising

Value services, programs History Center provides, and would be willing to pay more as members

City should reduce funding in incremental amounts over time—not all at once


Next steps

Board President Burke to create a business plan to present to Council

Residents can sign a petition at the History Center.