Welcome to 3rdWard.org, a website dedicated to communication and transparency between Des Plaines City Government and you. This website, maintained by 3rd Ward Alderman Denise Rodd, is designed to keep neighbors engaged in their community and informed about issues.


Intro to Infrastructure - 09/09/09

Do you know the difference between pervious and impervious pavement? Is your sewer combined? How long should streets last and how are they built? Where does that rainwater go? Our next ward meeting will be dedicated to understanding the piece of government you interact with every day: infrastructure. Our engineering staff will be on hand with an interesting presentation and a clipboard to record your infrastructure-specific concerns. Please tell your neighbors about this unique meeting. Every few months, we will have a new "Des Plaines 101" meeting to discuss an interesting topic in depth.

Wednesday, September 9th            7:00pm            Prairie Lakes


Sysco Noise Update

Read the update from Economic Development Director Mike Conlon HERE.


Des Plaines' Great Eats Map! 

Here is an interesting new resource which highlights all the local restaurants.
for a better view and detailed listing of local eateries.


City Commission Openings 

Presently, the Mayor's office is looking to fill nine vancancies on City Commissions:

2 - Zoning Board
7 - Youth Commission

Donna Catlett in the Mayor's Office will be your best resource to learn more about the specific workings of City Commissions.  She can be reached at: 847/391-5301

Here is the meeting schedule.



City Council Meeting - 08/17/09

Last week I asked you to give some thought to the issue of 4am liquor licenses.  Your responses to my question were much appreciated and taken into consideration. (read the discussion here)  As promised, I'm writing again to discuss the issue further. 

The Legal and Licensing committee considered a proposal to eliminate the possibility for future 4am bars.  That proposal failed in committee and was reported out to the full Council for discussion.  The motion on the floor was to eliminate all 4am liquor licenses (it is important to distinguish between the committee's failed proposal and the motion made on the floor)  Our future casino was discussed, with opponents of the 4am ban citing the possibility of lost revenue as a reason for their opposition.  I attempted to articulate an option where the casino and the surrounding area might have a unique liquor license where a 4am close time would be more appropriate.  In my opinion, this region of town will be off the beaten path, separate from places where non-drinkers or non-gamblers might choose to enjoy, and under the careful watch of private security and the Des Plaines Police.  As it became clear that the Council was not ready to distinguish the future casino area from the rest of the City, the question turned to the motion at hand: Do we eliminate all 4am licenses or do we maintain the status quo?

The owner and operator of the Rand Road House (a 4am establishment) gave a compelling presentation that caused me to reconsider the issue.  He discussed his midnight-4am crowd, the current economic climate, and his commendable stewardship of his clientele.  Standing right next to the Police Chief (who agreed with each thoughtful statement made by the bar owner), the gentlemen discussed his policy on drunk driving and the retainer he keeps with a local taxi company that he uses to send people home.  Will I support a future 4am liquor license? Likely not. But I was not about to take this local business man's livelihood away. I posit that we wouldn't be having such a heated discussion on the issue of 4am bars if all establishments had a track record like his.  

I'll have more on the topic when we discuss the casino corridor in the weeks and months to come. 


Class J, 4AM Liquor Licenses

On Monday evening the Council will discuss the Class J Liquor License Category.  In other words, we are going to talk about 4am bars and whether our policy on them needs to change.  Today there are five establishments with Class J Licenses:

Rand Road House
River Rand Bowl
Miner Street Tavern

Aldermen Robinson (Chair), Brookman, and Wilson -- members of the legal and licensing committee -- voted 2 to 1, to recommend to the full City Council that the Class J Licenses not be changed, but that further applications be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Where do I stand?
If you've been watching our first few meetings, you'll notice I'm not a fan of the City imposing it's wishes on local business owners.  The City should serve as a partner, promoting an environment where business can succeed.  Further, it really isn't our place to make decisions (a restaurant name change, or a decision to keep/upgrade a sign for instance) on behalf of a local business. Then we have liquor licenses.  The Council is asked to make subjective decisions on what businesses get a liscense and which ones go without.  So, it goes without saying that this discussion is not a natural one for me, considering my usual "business-minded" tendencies. 

I am pro-business and opposed to 4am licenses.  You'll hear more from me on the topic after I get a chance to discuss it with the other council members on Monday. Until then, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Please post HERE before Monday so I can share your thoughts with my colleagues.



Ward Meeting Minutes

Denise Rodd, writer and 3rd Ward Resident, has been kind enough to take minutes for the past two ward meetings.  Let's hope she continues to volunteer her services so those who can't make it out can stay current on the issues of the day.  You can find the minutes HERE or by clicking the "Meeting Minutes" button to the right. THANKS DENISE!!!


Bike Network Meeting - 07/15/09

This Wednesday at 5:30pm, the City's Engineering Committee will host an informal Bike Network Open House to collect input from residents on the proposed network. Here is a Daily Herald article written about this event: DAILY HERALD

You can also read my earlier post on the subject which includes detailed maps. EALIER POST


City Council Meeting – 07/06/09

What do a coffee shop, Christmas lights, omelets, and a large garage have in common? They all were points of contention in tonight’s council meeting.

Eighteen coffee shops and restaurants around town were asked to present proposals to occupy the downtown Metra station coffee shop. Only one gave a complete proposal…the owner of “Brasserie” (the old Quiznos) in Library Plaza will run the shop during the morning commute, 6am-9:30am.

Potter road is being resurfaced and new signals are to be installed. Alderman Brookman asked if the new signals will be complete with an “opticon” and I just know I wasn’t the only one in the room that had no clue what that was. As it turns out, the “opticon” is the light gun that allows first responders to change traffic lights green. So yes, Potter Road will be equipped with light preemption devices like this…

There was conversation on the amount of money being spent on the City’s Christmas decorations. Aldermen sent the signal that they wanted city staff to scrutinize the decoration plan and bring the project in under budget.

The City’s Finance Director discussed the importance of building the City’s reserve fund and the large burden Police and Fire pensions place on our municipal budget. Here is an article that outlines the issue well:
Link to Daily Herald Article on Pensions

A long discussion arose over a new proposal to allow the City to fund the rehabilitation of historic signs in total. Unlike past façade rehab programs, this proposal provides an opportunity for the city to fund 100% of a rehab project (instead of contributing along with the store owner) and then the City becomes the owner of the sign. This option was billed as a way to save our history and maintain the character of downtown.

Let me be the first to say that I am absolutely in favor of preserving our history. That said I firmly believe that the City should not be in the business of business. In other words, the taxpayer should not be burdened with repairing a historic sign for a private business owner. Under this proposal, we would become liable for upkeep, and if the restaurant changes hands and it becomes a shoe store tomorrow, we would have to find a way to deal with the sign. We can protect our heritage without investing public dollars in private businesses.

I want to hear what you think.
Visit The Discussion and let's talk about it.

The final topic for discussion was a 3rd Ward garage that was built outside the scope of the City’s permit. After the permit was exceeded, the owner applied for a variance that was denied unanimously by the zoning board of appeals. He appealed the decision to the council who also denied the variance unanimously. I asked the council to reconsider the topic because the gentleman was not informed of the initial meeting. Tonight, the council upheld the April 2009 decision to deny the variance. The owner is going to have to bring his garage back within the scope of his initial permit.

That’s it for tonight. Make sure to come out this Wednesday, 7pm at Prairie Lakes for our monthly ward meeting.


Community Development Briefing

On June 22nd the Community Development Committee met for a briefing by the city’s Community Development Department. While I am not one of the three named members to this committee, I attended because it’s important that new councilmen get the full picture prior to a development debate. Remember that all of the following is history. Today’s council will learn from these experiences as we approach new development opportunities. The following is a short summary of the facts, details, and questions I found
most interesting.

Des Plaines is a fully developed community. Therefore any new developments in town will actually be re-developments of existing property.

Metro-Square Outline
142 Condos
114,000 sq/ft of retail space
27,000 sq/ft of office space
471 car garage
Total Public/Private cost: $90m

Did the City give the developers $20m? No.
The only City-funded incentive given to the developer was in the form of a land-write-down. When a developer goes to some far western suburb and builds on a cornfield there are few obstacles. That same development in Des Plaines would be at a premium because of the high costs associated with re-development in a place with:

Many owners and properties to assemble,
Environmental concerns, and
Inadequate infrastructure.

A $9.5m land write-down was given to the developer to make our urban site more comparable to the cost of developing a cornfield.

Value of land before development: $1.4m
Value of new Metro-Square: $22m

In an effort to set the record straight, a number of sources have been commenting on the amount of retail space goining vacant in Metropolitan Square. When I drive down Market Street those storefronts seem empty, so how can this development be 75% occupied? There are about 97,000 sq/ft of retail space in Metro-Square, and only about 25,000 sq/ft is vacant. The problem is, those vacant 25k sq/ft represent about 43% of all the small storefronts in the development. In short, the whopping 40k sq/ft Shop & Save skews the statistics.

Des Plaines General Commercial Site Inventory
Type (# of sites) Square Feet
Office Space (91) 1.5m
Industrial (69) 2.2m
General Commercial (5) 85k
Retail (97) 296k
For Sale (12) 70k
Total (274) 4.2m

Local Retail Space Vacancies
Park Ridge – 5%
Palatine – 6.3%
Arlington Heights – 9.6%
Des Plaines – 10.8%
Prospect Heights – 21.1%
Mt. Prospect – 31.2%
(ComEd – April 1, 2009)

Potential development opportunities:
Oakton street corridor
Grazie Restaurant / Oakton Street corridor
Sims Bowl / Ellinwood Street corridor

Over the next few months, City Staff will be working with the elected officials to outline an economic development framework that will sustain any one staff person or Alderman. This is an exciting opportunity for the entire community to come together and work towards the same goal, which has to be:

Ensuring Des Plaines is the best value in the Northwest Suburbs; quality services at a reasonable (and low) cost to the taxpayers.