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updated: 8/14/2012 5:03 PM

New downtown, pensions highlight Buffalo Grove town hall meeting

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Buffalo Grove's new downtown proposal, state pension reform and civility at public meetings were among the topics Monday when Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman, Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman and state Rep. Sidney Mathias held a town-hall meeting at the Vernon Township Community Center.

Braiman fielded most of the questions, many sparked by last week's announcement of a major development effort to create a "new downtown" for Buffalo Grove near the village's municipal campus and golf course.

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While radiating optimism about the village's financial prospects, Braiman spoke cautiously about the recently proposed plan by developer Chuck Malk.

"I do want to warn everybody that it's not a done deal," he said. "There are a lot of issues, a lot of questions. This is a journey. This is a process that is going to take a long time."

If the idea becomes a reality, he said, it could bring more economic stability to the village, adding as much as $2 million in sales tax revenues annually.

The $320 million proposal includes 320,000 square feet of stores and 55,000 square feet for sit-down and casual restaurants. There would be 66,000 square feet of office space, a 45,000-square-foot movie theater, 60,000 square feet devoted to cultural amenities, such as a community center or museum, and more than 500 condominium and apartment units. A three-acre "European Plaza" would have an open green, an outdoor stage, a Millennium Park-style fountain and Bellagio-style fountains at the entrance.

There was some skepticism of the plan in the audience, however.

"I can't even imagine why this seems like a good idea," said village resident Karen Storino. "The traffic is horrendous during rush hour. Lake-Cook Road is terrible. Weidner Road is terrible. Buffalo Grove Road is terrible. And to put in condominiums or rental units ... in an area that is having problems with their housing at the moment, foreclosures and empty houses and condos, makes no sense to me."

Downtown development wasn't the only Buffalo Grove issue Braiman discussed.

Asked about treating trees infested with the emerald ash borer, Braiman said he does not believe treatment is a long-term solution.

"Our staff has been researching that a lot in the last several years, and the evidence they have right now is that the treatments are not very successful," he said.

Mathias fielded several questions on pension reform for government workers.

"The pension issue is very very important in the state. We can't ignore it," he said. "It's there. Pensions are not sustainable the way it is."

But he added that it is unrealistic to expect a quick solution, nor does he believe in a partial solution. He does not favor proposals that would transfer some of the burden for funding pensions onto local taxpayers.

"In this day and age where taxes are so high already, I don't think that's the solution. So I am vehemently against taking the state's portion of pensions that the state is obligated to pay and saying, 'OK, here is how we are going to solve our state issue -- our state budget. We'll have somebody else pay it. Let the school district pay it,'" he said.

In his opening comments, Stolman lamented the loss of Motorola from Libertyville.

"My heart goes out to (the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs)," he said, adding that the county is looking for ways to stimulate the local economy by buying up foreclosed properties or those in need of repair.

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