Seeing green in Dundee Twp.
On the surface, each town appears distinctly dissimilar to its neighbor.
There's the lively village embroiled at the center of a national debate, the twin cities with historic downtown areas straddling the Fox River and the sleepy town of about 3,500 residents, just shy of its 50th birthday.
But village leaders from four Dundee Township communities say, deep down, their villages share similar goals and needs.
At a luncheon hosted by the village of East Dundee for local senior citizens Thursday, village presidents from Carpentersville, East and West Dundee and Sleepy Hollow presented the state of their respective towns.
Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay talked about several programs geared toward senior citizens during the program before 60 seniors at the Dundee Township Park District Senior Center.
Though each leader presented unique challenges and opportunities, a common thread ran through each speech -- economic development and raising sales tax revenue.
"We recognize the status quo is no longer an option," East Dundee Village President Dan O'Leary said. "The need to say we want to be a sleepy town doesn't work any longer. We are going to sleep ourselves into a coma."
Although East Dundee has watched several businesses close in recent years, such as Santa's Village and a handful of antique shops, village staff is working to right the ship, O'Leary said.
"I don't want to call it a ghost town," O'Leary said. "If we want to accomplish goals and move forward with economic development, we have to find a better way to attract businesses."
One way is to offer developers incentives to spruce up specific areas through a special taxing district.
In October, the village designated an area at routes 25 and 72 a tax increment financing district.
Finding suitable retailers is also a challenge for the township's largest town.
While Carpentersville Village President Bill Sarto summarized the many infrastructure improvements -- like street, sidewalk and utility repairs that had been neglected for more than 30 years -- economic development was at the fore.
Like East Dundee, Sarto said Carpentersville could soon implement special taxing districts in hopes of sparking sales.
Sarto described his village of more than 37,000 residents as "upside-down" because property tax revenues outweigh sales tax revenues.
"The tax base we are working with makes it difficult for us to meet needs," said Sarto, who estimated 61 percent of the village's housing stock is considered affordable and ranks first in the county. "We are constantly looking for ways to squeeze every penny we can out of those revenues to do the things we are doing in the village."
Topping the village's economic development list is the Village Fresh Market under construction on Lake Marian Road in the former Jewel-Osco building.
"This will be a great addition to the east side," Sarto said. "I would venture to say it would draw people from the west side to shop there."
Other recent additions include Walgreens on Randall Road and several stores at Huntley Road and Route 31.
A recently designated taxing district also plays a large role in West Dundee's economic future, Village President Larry Keller said.
"West Dundee is becoming a better and better village as time goes on," Keller said.
Work began in August on the newly named Spring Hill Gateway, formerly known as Spring Hill Fashion Corner.
"We hope it will once again become vibrant," Keller said.
Other projects in the works include the Edinburgh Center across the street from the post office on Route 31, a senior housing development on Randall Road and the redevelopment of downtown.
Significantly less populous than its neighbors, Sleepy Hollow also is concerned with generating enough sales tax to keep up the village.
That likely won't include a TIF district anytime soon, Village President Stephen Pickett said.
"We have learned to maintain a village on a very small and stingy budget," said Pickett, whose village celebrates its 50th birthday in April. "We would like to say that we can continue without sales tax revenue, but needs sales taxes as much as anyone else to maintain the village."