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Intent on making vacant land west of The Arboretum of South Barrington shopping center viable for development, Hoffman Estates officials may create a tax increment financing district to pay for sewer and water utilities on the site.

The land in question is a 24-acre parcel and a 16-acre parcel at the northeast and northwest corners of Higgins and Old Sutton roads. Along with adjacent right of way, a total of 64 acres would be included.

The development partnership behind Plum Farms dropped its request for a TIF district amid controversy over its plans for dense residential development, a proposal that drew objections from school officials and others.

Read more from the Daily Herald here.

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Representatives from the Canadian National Railroad met last week with a roomful of Northwest suburban homeowners upset over the company’s plan to build a 4.27-mile track near their properties.

The track would run adjacent to the existing CN mainline track from Spaulding Road in Elgin to Shoe Factory Road in Hoffman Estates, part of a sprawling transcontinental network that has the Chicago area at its center.

Residents aired a litany of grievances about the proposal over the course of the two-hour meeting Thursday at Timber Trails Elementary School in Hoffman Estates. Among them, noise pollution from trains which frequently idle for hours on the track behind their homes.

The public meeting was a requirement of the permit approval process for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. CN must now address all public comments received by the Army Corps, as well as comments from their office.

The full Daily Herald story can be found here.

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The following notice was posted by the Village.  The Wisconsin Central Ltd. is a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway:

PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE

Wisconsin Central Ltd. Proposed Track Expansion

From Milepost 37.80 and 41.80 on the Leithton Subdivision (between Spaulding Road and South Sutton Road) Cook County, IL.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project #LRC-2018-00651

The purpose of this public meeting is for the presentation of additional project information and details to the public about the proposed track expansion between Milepost 37.80 and 41.80. The public meeting is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit review process. The application for the project was submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by WCL which was placed on public notice for a 60-day comment period. This public meeting is being held as a result of public comment.

WCL will share project related details and give the public an opportunity to ask questions about the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be available to answer questions about the agency’s permitting process only.

Date: Thursday May 30, 2019

Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Location:     Timber Trails Elementary School (Commons Room)

                    1675 McDonough Road

                    Hoffman Estates, Cook County, Illinois 60195

Further information can be found on the Village of Hoffman Estates website by clicking here.

 

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The Canadian National Railroad is asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to construct a 4.27-mile-long second track adjoining the existing mainline track between Hoffman Estates and Elgin. The new rails would run between Shoe Factory and Spaulding roads and west of Poplar Creek Forest Preserve.

CN said the new and existing tracks would create a 6-mile reliever allowing an “uninterrupted flow” of northbound and southbound freight trains.

“The project will enhance the safe and efficient flow of rail traffic including the Milwaukee District West Line of Metra,” CN spokesman Alexandre Boulé said. “Commuters should also see reduced delays at Shoe Factory Road.”

Metra officials could not confirm CN’s assertions.

The Army Corps is involved because CN’s plan to mitigate impacts to Poplar Creek and its tributaries, which connect to the Fox River downstream, requires government approval under the Clean Water Act.

Read more here.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 2.45.14 PMOnce again, supporters of former Village President Bob Abboud have taken to the social media networks to begin creating a false controversy to stir the pot prior to the 2019 Village Board Elections.

Recently, some Facebook pages have started publishing information about the proposed Plum Farms Development in Hoffman Estates. One of these pages is purportedly run by the same individual who publicly cast aspersions upon the character of the Village President and members of the Board of Trustees in April of 2017 (but was unwilling and unable to provide any corroboration of her ridiculous accusations). See April 24th Board meeting recordings released.

Long-time readers of the Observer will recognize the same tired tactics of the Abboud-o-philes: create a false controversy, then stir up resident sentiment against current leadership and against those whom they may support in the upcoming elections. Save 5 Acres! Save Horse Boarding! Ban the Bikes! Save Open Space! Save Polo!

The Plum Farms Development in Hoffman Estates was used as a major 2017 campaign issue by Trustees Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak, but both have been eerily silent on the issue for well over a year. As candidates, Jacobsen and Zubak were so adamant about the Village having legal standing, authority and ability to impact this development, and they vowed to be the voices to vigorously “oppose harmful development”.

Today, as it was then, they chose to remain ignorant to the simple fact that this issue was over in 2004 when Bob Abboud and former administrator Bob Kosin botched the chance to work with the landowner to come to a development compromise that would have kept the property within the village, and would have protected our community from the dangers of deannexation of the parcel into an adjacent town with an insatiable hunger for more tax dollars.

But in fact, the current administration has been working in concert with South Barrington and District 220 to slow the progress of this development.  Strange that this hasn’t been reported by any of the social media outlets managed by those folks who enjoy stirring the pot.  Accusations of inaction and mismanagement by President McLaughlin and others on the Board will be aired, but nary a word of criticism of Jacobsen or Zubak.

And speaking of Jacobsen, the more vocal of the less-than-dynamic duo, what has she personally done with regard to Plum Farms as a Trustee? Nothing.  She bemoaned the Longmeadow Parkway project as a candidate, but did she volunteer to be on the IDOT advisory board for Route 62?  Nope.

Does anyone remember the laundry list of issues that she & Zubak used as their campaign platform? We do.

YBH_issues

The only issue they are truly interested in is commercial horse boarding, which wasn’t in their campaign platform at all.  Strange…

And back to that lengthy list of issues — what have they accomplished from that list? Nothing. And why?  Because none of those “problems” actually existed.

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Paula Jacobsen with former trustee Fritz Gohl

However, Jacobsen, who has been absent from more than 26% of the fifteen Board Meetings held since she was elected as trustee, has had the opportunity to advocate for some other interesting issues.  As stated in our previous articles, May and June 2017 Board meeting recordings released  and July Board Meeting recordings released , she has found time to question the meeting minutes which characterized her friend’s public comments at the April 24thboard meeting as slanderous.  She has questioned why the Village couldn’t have employed a warmer and fuzzier process to inform a property owner of their violation of a cease and desist order with regard to illegal demolition of a residence and violation of the tree ordinance. It should be noted that the property owner in that case was a prominent donor to her trustee campaign.

Jacobsen has pondered the complexity of the Exterior Lighting Ordinance and wondered if it shouldn’t be revisited and revised, oblivious to the divisive history of the ordinance.  Coincidentally, her interest in lighting ordinance enforcement occurred only when another friend of hers had filed a complaint against a neighbor.

Paula has also suggested giving landmark status to historical homes in the village.  When asked to explain who would be the arbiter of this distinction and the mechanics of implementation or enforcement, she had no suggestion.

She also has given detailed reports of Arbor Day plans by the Heritage & Environs Committee at no fewer than three meetings. Let’s hear it for the oak sapling giveaway!!

And there has been advocacy for costly live video-streaming of Village Board meetings, which are only attended by a handful of the same residents each month.

It is not surprising that NONE of these issues were in the Jacobsen/Zubak campaign platform and that NONE of the issues in the platform have been pursued by the duo in any meaningful way in the past fifteen months.

And why is that? Because a quiet village operating harmoniously is not something the Abboud-o-philes can tolerate.  They must have controversy and they will create controversy were none exists. And when faced with the reality that President McLaughlin & this Administration have delivered on each and every promise they have made to the community, they pivot back to the old worn-out talking points. The village is operating better than it ever has, spending has been slashed and services are more efficient.  And that makes some embittered people very unhappy.  Change is not easy for some. And they are desperate to regain control.

So the pot stirring will continue.  With a little eye of newt and toe of frog mixed in for good measure.  Here’s hoping that this bad spell will be broken soon.

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As the Observer looks back at another year gone by, we thought we’d take the opportunity to point out some people and issues that made an impact in Barrington Hills news, whether it was good, bad or just plain phony.

ThumbsUpPresident Martin McLaughlin and Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan were re-elected for their second terms in April 2017. We applaud their excellent service to our village and appreciate the personal sacrifices that they have made to keep Barrington Hills the special place that it is . conicek-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpMcLaughlin continued his astounding record of financial stewardship. Having analyzed every aspect of village spending for the last five years, Marty has surgically excised waste and improved efficiencies in the village budget. Since 2013, the tax levy has been reduced by 20%, 20% more road miles have been paved per year, and cash reserves have increased by 40%.McLaughlin-300x200@2x

ThumbsUpSince McLaughlin took office, every administrative employee at Village Hall has changed. In prior years, Barrington Hills hired a new Village Attorney and Treasurer, and, due to the retirement of Chief Michael Murphy, Rich Semelsberger became Police Chief. In 2017 alone, a new Building Permit Coordinator, new Engineering Firm, Clerk and a new acting Director of Administration were hired.

ThumbsDownTwo candidates from the “Your Barrington Hills” slate narrowly won election to the Board of Trustees. Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak ran on a platform of unfounded and disproven complaints about village governance, and promised to do more to: 1) protect open spaces and property rights, 2)produce better results for our tax dollars, 3) restore public safety and security which they alleged had been sacrificed, and 4) improve transparency and information distribution. More than eight months have passed since the duo were sworn into office, and nary a mention has been made of any of these so-called initiatives. And, not surprisingly, neither trustee has presented their new ideas for those better results for our tax dollars.  This confirms our belief that their sole reason for running for office was to attempt to change the current commercial horse boarding protections.

Paula Jacobsen Robert ZubakJacobsen and Zubak also made campaign promises to vigorously challenge the Plum Farm land development in Hoffman Estates, falsely accusing McLaughlin and Konicek of doing nothing to oppose the project. Yet Jacobsen and Zubak have not even aired the Plum Farm issue during a board meeting.

ThumbsUp For the first time in many years, the Riding Club of Barrington Hills did not officially involve itself in the village election. Despite pressure from some of the Club’s most strident and vocal members, club president Jane Clement declined to make an political endorsement to the RCBH membership. We commend her for that. Politics and non-profit social clubs shouldn’t mix.

ThumbsUpThe 2017 hiring of Nikki Panos as part-time Building Department permit coordinator was a breath of fresh air. Panos brought competence and professionalism to the office whose previous occupant was frequently brusque and unkempt. We congratulate Panos’ promotion to Village Clerk and are confident that residents will be well served by her.

Panos

Nikki Panos, Village Clerk

ThumbsUpThe wave of change at Village Hall continued with the engagement of a new engineering firm – Trotter & Associates – replacing Gewalt Hamilton. Gewalt Hamilton had served the Village for decades, but without review or evaluation. We look forward to the fresh perspective that Trotter will provide and hope that residents will receive better service at a lower cost.

ThumbsDownIn the spring of 2017, the owners of Barrington Hills Farm (whose 600+acres is now located almost entirely OUTSIDE the borders of Barrington Hills) flouted village laws when they demolished a home, engaged in major earth-moving, cut down numerous trees without adhering to the Tree Preservation Ordinance, and failed to obtain proper permits prior to engaging in the project. When the activity on this property (formerly owned by the recently deceased Barbara MacArthur) was finally discovered by the Village, two stop work order signs were posted by the village inspector, and both signs mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, and all the village could do was collect the permit fees and penalties months after the fact.

ThumbsDownApparently feeling slighted by having to follow the Village Code as all other residents and property owners have to do, the Barrington Hills Farm L.L.C. ownership demanded disconnection of the property in question into unincorporated McHenry County, a request that was granted by the Board of Trustees.

jokerSpeaking of Barrington Hills Farm, whatever happened to the HARPS facility they had planned near the intersection of Church and Chapel Roads, immediately adjacent to Barrington Hills homes on Alderberry Lane? It’s been over two years since representatives of the L.L.C. presented plans to both the village and McHenry County, and after all the hullabaloo they created over necessary curb cuts for the proposed driveway entrances and the nonsense over granting easements and rights-of-way, the corner remains undeveloped. There is no new information about the facility on the HARPS website either. Strange, isn’t it?

ThumbsUp

Trustee Brian Cecola continued his excellent management of the Village’s Roads and Bridges.  He is completely engaged in his position, interfacing well with residents, village engineering firm and his fellow board members.  Miles of road paving per year are up, and Cecola is looking to increase that benchmark in the coming years.  Congratulations for a job well done!

brian-c

Trustee Brian Cecola

ThumbsUp 2017 brought the long-overdue retirement of Village Administrator Bob Kosin. His 35 years of service to Barrington Hills is much appreciated, but Kosin had long since ceased serving the residents efficiently, and was increasingly difficult to work with. His convoluted explanations and arcane knowledge of village history may have been interesting in the past, but residents and commission members no longer found his digressions amusing or beneficial.

AnnaPaul

We are hopeful about the appointment of Anna Paul (previously Village Clerk) as acting Administrator. While the search for a permanent administrator may continue, the Observer has been pleased to watch Paul’s progression through the ranks of village administration. She offers a familiarity with VBH operations that no outside candidate with years of lead experience can match. Her organization and communication skills are outstanding, and despite her relative youth, she is steady, impartial and poised in any situation. We wish Anna Paul well in her new assignment.

jokerThe Observer usually doesn’t comment on state or federal races, but we feel compelled to comment on the unlikely candidacy of resident Kelly Mazeski in the Democratic Congressional primary in IL-06. Mazeski, whose recent civic resume consists of only of membership on the village’s Plan Commission, previously ran unsuccessfully for Village Board in 2013, and unsuccessfully for State Senate in 2016. Her campaign’s PR machine has been busy at work, trying to repackage her from the “financial expert” she called herself in 2016, now calling herself “mom/scientist/cancer survivor”. What’s next – butcher/baker/candlestick maker?

jokerSpeaking of Kelly Mazeski, it seems as though she’s been grasping for endorsements, trotting out support from “environmentalists” Karen Rosene and Karen Selman, as well as a big thumbs up from former trustee Mikey Harrington. Now that’s a lot to be proud of, isn’t it?

jokerAlthough he opted not to run for re-election as trustee, the specter of Fritz Gohl continues to loom over the village. Gohl, now receiving financial compensation as a Barrington Township trustee, still can claim his title of village buffoon. His frequent public comments during Board of Trustees meetings are no more logical or coherent now than they were during his tenure on the board.

ThumbsDownChuck Stewart, Village Arborist, is the last of the Kosin-era hold-overs. In appearances in front of village commissions and the BOT, Stewart communicates poorly and comes across as disorganized. The Observer is also concerned about the questionable judgment he demonstrated in enforcing the Tree Preservation Ordinance both in the Hasan case and in the aforementioned Barrington Hills Farm matter. Those faults, combined with an undisclosed potential conflict of interest (Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm), makes him a poor choice to continue in the role of Village Arborist. The Village needs a tree expert who can communicate clearly with residents and builders, as well as with Village administration.

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PlumFarmAerial A group of South Barrington residents has filed a lawsuit against a developer and the village of Hoffman Estates in an attempt to stop the controversial Plum Farms development proposal at the northwest corner of routes 59 and 72.  The 127-page document filed Thursday in Cook County circuit court seeks declaratory judgment, injunction and other relief against plans to build single-family houses on a 145-acre parcel previously disconnected from Barrington Hills.

The 145-acre parcel is the largest portion of a total 185-acre development plan that would also include multifamily housing and commercial development. While Barrington Hills requires a minimum of 5 acres per lot, the density of the Plum Farms development would be much higher under new zoning approved by Hoffman Estates officials this spring.

The plaintiffs in the suit are more than 30 residents of the Regency at the Woods of South Barrington subdivision, an age-restricted retirement community immediately across Route 59 from the development site.

To read the full article in the Daily Herald, click here.

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