Sugar Grove Village Board candidates sound off on development during forum

The five candidates running for the three open trustee seats on the Sugar Grove Village Board discussed development issues during a recent candidate forum at the Sugar Grove Public Library.

Incumbents Matthew Bonnie and Heidi Lendi are running along with newcomer Bela "Bill" Suhayda and two familiar faces - Sean Michels and Anthony "Tony" Speciale - in the April 4 election.

Michels served as a trustee from 1997 until he became village president in 1999, where he served until 2021. Speciale recently retired after working as Sugar Grove's public works director for nearly 20 years.

Lendi, an architect, said she loves the dual identity of Sugar Grove and wants to protect it while welcoming growth.

"We are part suburb and part rural, and I love that," she said. "And from what I've heard, that's what we want to keep. We want to make sure we're careful, and we maintain that dual identity and keep our small-town charm while attracting the commercial businesses and amenities that the residents want and need."

Bonnie, a veteran police officer with the Aurora Police Department, said he continues to be "pro-smart growth." He added that he is a critic of tax increment financing districts.

"It (a TIF district) is a burden on other taxing bodies such as police, fire," he said. "I believe there is a right time and place for TIF though. But the overall using TIF as a gift just to get developers here is just not appropriate.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again," he added. "I work for the residents of Sugar Grove. I don't work for the developers.

Speciale acknowledged that residents want a small-town feel yet they want to do things in Sugar Grove.

"They don't want to go to another town to do different things," he said. "So they have come to me and asked what we can do for that and that was the impetus of the Town Center Committee. It's all about make a livable community for everybody, all age groups."

Michels is concerned that everybody's voice isn't being represented. He says he would be an independent voice.

"I'm running for a variety of reasons," he said. "The most important reasons being an independent voice, experience and community involvement. I believe the village board needs a trustee that will raise questions to ensure that the village continues to grow in the right direction."

Suhayda said he loves the area for its natural beauty and trails and hopes that they won't be lost by development.

"Obviously, with progress that's not always possible," Suhayda said. "You have a trade-off in terms of sometimes nature kind of gets forgotten and progress is what we need. We do need a tax base. We do need to give our people tax relief."

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