S. Elgin challengers: Bad location picked for Water's Edge
By Elena Ferrarin
The three incumbents running for re-election to the South Elgin village board voted in favor of a new development downtown, but the two challengers say the board made the wrong decisions.
Incumbents Scott Richmond and John Sweet are running for three open seats on the board, along with challengers Robert Sauceda and Jennifer Barconi. Incumbent Bill DiFulvio is running as a write-in candidate, after he was knocked off the ballot by objections to his nominating petitions.
The incumbents all voted in February to approve a preliminary development plan for a 50-apartment building for low-income and disabled people, to be called Water's Edge of South Elgin. The $14 million development will be located in a vacant industrial area downtown, east of the Fox River.
Barconi and Sauceda -- both of whom unsuccessfully ran for Kane County Board in 2012 -- said they object to the location of the project.
Sauceda, who owns an insurance agency, said it's a mistake to have Water's Edge downtown. Instead, village staff should have pushed the developers -- the Association for Individual Development and The Burton Foundation -- to consider other locations in the village.
"It's between a river and train track. There's no services, there's no public transportation," he said. "We have to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. We're setting them up for failure."
Barconi, 39, who sits on the Kane County mental health advisory committee, said she signed a petition against the development.
"All we want is a change of location, and not one trustee has talked about that," she said. "It's like they chose the developer over the residents and the residential concerns."
DiFulvio, 52, who works in auction consulting and has served on the board since 2001, said residents often don't understand the village board can't interfere with land deals that follow the letter of the law.
"We can't say yes or not based on whether we think it's the best project (for the village)," he said.
Richmond, 44, a lawyer who was first elected in 2005, said the developer met all village requests regarding beautification and public safety.
Board members did take into consideration the 900 signatures on a petition against the development, but ultimately has to think of the welfare of the whole town, he said.
"It's overall an excellent project for the benefit of the entire village," he said.
Sweet, 54, a professional land surveyor who's been on the board since 1997, believes many of those who signed the petition were mislead into thinking the building would be filled with low-income residents.
"I think it was just not in my backyard kind of stance," he said.
Candidates did agree South Elgin needs more retail development to boost its tax base. Water's Edge might entice businesses to move into downtown, Sweet said.
DiFulvio pointed out that studies show South Elgin needs more rental properties. "We have developable land, we just need the economy to come back," he said.
Richmond said entertainment venues such as Pinstripes or Brunswick Zone would be a great addition to the village. "Staff is always looking for ways to do that," he said.
South Elgin should look into a fiber optic cable network, like Gilberts is doing, Barconi said. "We need modern-thinking, innovation, and see how we can market (the village)," she said.
Sauceda suggested looking at annexing properly along Randall Road in unincorporated Kane County. "There is money, cost involved," he said. "However, if you look at the long-term goal, growth, those costs can be justified."