Geneva officials don't regret cutting down trees along Randall
You can't really categorize it as "controversial," or even a "heated" topic. You don't do that when a city council passes something without much push-back. But it was enough to get plenty of people to drop me a note or to voice displeasure on Facebook last summer.
And I mentioned it again two weeks ago in a 2018 wrap-up of stories that garnered attention in this column.
It was the cutting down of trees along Randall Road to give the developer of a Geneva retail strip a better chance of luring top businesses into vacancies.
In a show of unity on this topic, the Geneva City Council voted unanimously to approve the developer's plan, and amended a city ordinance to allow the tree removal along Randall. As part of that deal, the merchants agreed to donate nearly $25,000 to the community's tree fund.
It helped assure that At Home, Fresh Thyme and Burlington stores would take up empty spots in that strip.
For the most part, citizens haven't enjoyed this change in scenery, as it no longer fits with the landscape along most of the rest of Randall Road.
"It's always hard when you have to balance what a developer wants and what the city and its residents want," said Geneva Alderman Richard Marks, whose second ward is home to that part of Randall Road. "But looking back, I still don't regret it.
"We got what the developer really told us in regards to economic development; that if we wanted the shopping center full, the retailers needed more visibility."
It may take some time for the landscaping to mature, but as many as 400 new trees and bushes were planted in the parking islands and along the berms of that retail area as part of the deal.
"It's a stark change, there is no question about that," Richards said. "But I can't say we got the wrong advice from the staff or the developer, and it seems to be paying off at this point."
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said he has taken some phone calls from citizens who were not happy about the new look.
"Every potential tenant coming to Geneva said that if they were here when the development was first created, they would have 'grown up with the landscaping' and would have already benefited from the impact of visible sightlines," Burns said.
With the trees being so mature, and it being difficult to see the stores, they were not willing to invest the millions of dollars necessary to locate there, Burns added.
"Something had to be done," he said.
Ultimately, it was "a balancing act with those who wanted to invest in our community and what we could do with respect to striking that balance," Burns said.
I would certainly count myself among those who don't like the new look along this retail strip, but I have also been quick to point out the blight unfolding with numerous empty storefronts in various retail strips throughout our area.
This episode may say more about the lack of bargaining power some cities might have now in this modern retail world. Retailers need every possible advantage they can muster to keep growing. And they will make their pitch for those advantages.
The businesses bring financial benefits; the trees tell us what kind of towns we live in. In some cases, those two ideals clash. If we keep a perspective and balance in mind moving forward, everyone should ultimately win on these deals.
Blast of sports past:
Prior to catching some exciting basketball games last weekend at Geneva High School, we took a few moments to glance at the various photos on the athletics archive website display in the gym lobby.
It was the pet project of Assistant Athletic Director Matt Hahn and it is designed to take Geneva sports fans, former athletes and coaches down memory lane with information and photos about past teams.
It remains a work in progress, Hahn said, in that anyone browsing through the archive and noticing a team photo or something else missing can contact him to supply more images.
Congratulations are in order for Hahn and Athletic Director Dave Carli for getting this cool project off the ground.
The Italian beef sandwiches at Skippy's Gyros in St. Charles have been quite good on my few visits, but it appears there is another tasty selection there I should try.
Reader Ed Breckenfeld of Batavia tells me that, in his opinion, the Athenian Chicken Pita sandwich at Skippy's rates quite high.
In fact, he calls it "the unsung best sandwich in the area." For those who may not have stopped in yet, Skippy's is at 922 S. Randall Road.
Another cookie fix:
Just when we might be getting past the Christmas cookie overdose, the Girl Scouts are out now to tempt us yet again. It seems like it came upon us much quicker this time, but Girl Scout Cookies are for sale.
It's hard for me to pass those up, so it's usually a case of my wife establishing a limit for me.
And it's sort of a luck-of-the-draw thing. The first stand I see, or the first Girl Scout who comes to my door, usually gets an order.
Wasn't our night:
Through many years of participating in sports, I know how it feels when your confidence isn't quite where it should be for every single event.
For some reason, that's how I felt going into last weekend's Trivia Night fundraiser for TriCity Family Services. It seemed my brain might not be up to the task at an event that our team has won in the past.
I was right. We never could get any momentum going, and our team members spent as much time with puzzled looks as we did with confidently writing down answers.
Hey, at least I knew who was the manager-player for the 1907 World Series champion Chicago Cubs. But it didn't seem like I knew much else on this night.
Oh, yes. It was Frank Chance.