How Naperville council candidates define 'responsible development'
Browse the websites of the 11 candidates seeking four seats on the Naperville City Council and it quickly becomes apparent many care about the same thing: responsible development.
But how to define "responsible" differs among candidates in the field for the April 2 election. Responsible can mean forward-thinking, inclusive, transparent, generational or financially successful, depending on perspective.
Here city council candidates, listed in ballot order, share their views on what responsible development means and how to achieve it.
Bradford Miller said the city needs to take into account traffic, density, resident opinions and the effect on schools and city services before approving any plan. Outreach to nearby residents, especially, is something he said the city should step up.
"We have to be more proactive in reaching out to people," Miller said. "People need to be brought into the mix before it's too late."
Theresa Sullivan said responsible development requires a "laundry list" of considerations be reviewed, including sustainability, future costs and maintenance, demand, necessity and the effect each project would have on taxes, city services, affordable housing and residents from various generations.
"That's all part of being responsible when we talk about what we want to do with the land we still have left," Sullivan said.
Incumbent Paul Hinterlong said balance and compatibility are the main elements of responsible development. Finding such uses requires thinking about existing conditions in terms of safety, neighborhood characteristics and school capacity, while negotiating between resident and developer desires.
"My goal in every situation where we have controversy is to find that balance," he said. "Typically when I find that balance of something I can agree to move forward with is when both sides have a little bit of skin in the game."
Patrick Kelly wants viability and long-term sustainability to be among the top components of development, saying the city shouldn't aim for the largest or most dense proposals, but those that fit surrounding areas. Satisfying residents with the city's process also requires getting them involved, he said.
"That includes having everyone have a seat at the table," Kelly said, "not just getting your three minutes at public comment, but really being actively engaged with city council, staff and the developer."
Michele Hilger Clemen said it's important to refer to master plans and land use designations when considering development. Also significant are effects on schools and police and fire services as well as seeking commercial projects - not only residential - to offset property tax burdens.
"There has to be community involvement to get a feeling for what the residents of those neighborhoods are thinking," Hilger Clemen said. "There has to be compatibility with the surrounding area."
Bruce Hanson has practiced balancing the thoughts of neighbors with the best interests of the city while he's served on the planning and zoning commission. He said he'll use that background to make difficult decisions.
"We have to be very respectful of the sense of neighborhood and sense of community that we have, but also what's best for the entire city of Naperville," Hanson said. "The experience I have on the planning and zoning commission has enabled me to develop some leadership skills and experiences that allow me to move forward, even in the face of controversy."
Incumbent Patty Gustin served for about a decade on the planning and zoning commission, which she said gives her a fluency in land use discussions and a strong understanding of the community.
"It gives me that talent that just comes naturally after all the years," Gustin said.
Naperville, she said, is "blessed" to have both residential and retail developers interested, so the city's work is to make smart decisions about what to allow.
Whitney Robbins said responsible development must start with an understanding of current conditions and include a focus on preparing for the future, with features such as conduit and fiber for broadband internet.
"When I talk about smart, I talk about making sure that we are prepared and we can handle those millennial-type businesses coming in," Robbins said. "We need to be forward-thinking so as we age out and we become the old people of Naperville, our kids are excited still to be here."
Barbara O'Meara wants to prioritize transparency at the beginning of entitlement processes so neighbors know from the get-go what's being considered, where it might go and who is proposing it. Traffic is her other top consideration.
"All they (residents) want is to have their opinions heard," O'Meara said. "They know their opinions won't be the end-all, but they want to have a voice, and I think the people of Naperville deserve a voice."
Nancy Turner said Naperville needs to weigh trends in housing and workplaces before approving projects, and the city also should pause before overwhelming its busy roads with too many new residents or employees.
"You're just adding in so much more traffic, so much more congestion that I think that really needs to be carefully considered with the existing infrastructure," she said.
Former city council member Joe McElroy defines desirable development as projects that succeed financially and won't detract from the quality of life or work in the area.
"Responsible development is development that enhances the entire city and also the adjoining neighborhoods," McElroy said. "It helps the entire city and can't be a detriment to the immediate neighbors."
Eleven candidates will be on the ballot seeking four Naperville City Council seats in the April 2 election. Here are the candidates in the order in which they will appear on the ballot.
1. Bradford Miller, a 39-year-old attorney
2. Theresa Sullivan, a 42-year-old professional career advisor
3. Paul J. Hinterlong, a 53-year-old licensed plumber and business representative
4. Patrick Kelly, a 36-year-old attorney
5. Michele Hilger Clemen, a 38-year-old sales manager
6. Bruce R. Hanson, a 51-year-old consultant
7. Patricia A. Gustin, a 58-year-old real estate broker and paralegal
8. Whitney R. Robbins, a 44-year-old director of client services
9. Barbara O'Meara, a public service administrator
10. Nancy Turner, a 62-year-old teacher
11. Joseph McElroy, a 66-year-old city planning and communications consultant