Barrington residents speak out at town hall
Even as Barrington officials reported positive news regarding the village's economic development, they heard some skepticism from several residents about its current direction at a town-hall meeting Thursday.
The village's plan to redevelop the southwest corner of Main and Hough streets in the heart of the downtown has taken undeniable steps forward in recent months, with several vacant businesses demolished there to make way for a new concept plan by an Evanston-based developer.
But at least a couple residents who attended the meeting at the Barrington Public Library questioned whether adding more businesses to compete with existing ones was a better use of the land than additional open space or parking.
Trustee Beth Raseman said the village believes the downtown is still short of a critical mass of commercial property that when complete would be beneficial for all businesses.
Meanwhile, residents who live near the site said the parking configuration there has always been a problem for them from both noise and light pollution. They said the concept plan the village is pursuing squanders an opportunity to improve their situation.
These residents were strongly encouraged to bring their input to future plan commission and appearance review commission hearings, where the concept plan will be hammered into reality.
Raseman said another expected economic boost this year will be the opening of Heinen's Fine Foods in September, which will provide about 100 jobs. Officials are also trying to secure a new hardware store in town.
Trustee Jim Daluga reported that even now the village is experiencing significant recovery from the long recession. Sales taxes in 2011 were up 6.7 percent from 2010, and January 2012 was much better than January 2011.
"Car sales continue to do well," Daluga told residents. "If you're going to buy a car, buy it in Barrington. It does help."
A budget surplus of $12,000 last year has gone toward rebuilding the village's reserves, which are aimed at providing three months of emergency operations even if all revenues dried up.
On other issues, village President Karen Darch reported on recent steps to manage the impacts of Canadian National Railway's increase of freight traffic through town.
The village continues to petition for CN to pay a greater share of a proposed Northwest Highway underpass beneath the tracks and to require the retrofitting of tank cars to reduce the possibility of spillage in a derailment, Darch said.
Trustee Steve Miller said there will be public hearings in early May on both the proposed Northwest Highway underpass as well as on long-awaited improvements at the intersection of the highway with Hart Road to reduce peak-time congestion near Barrington High School.
Trustee Robert Windon said the village is reaching the final stages of fine tuning its new local adjudication process to replace trips to the courthouse for people receiving local ordinance tickets.
And Trustee Paul Hunt said the village continues to concentrate on finding the right balance of resources in its fire department, which handled 1,800 ambulance calls but only four structure fires last year.
Public Works Director Dennis Burmeister said Barrington is also working out the balance between replacing and treating existing ash trees in response to the threat of the emerald ash borer.
This is a problem the village will continue to wrestle with for probably the next eight years, but a recent inventory revealed that Barrington's number of ash trees was slightly fewer than was previously thought.