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VBH__LogoThe Village Board will meet on Monday August 28th at 6:30 PM. The agenda can be viewed here and the e-Packet can be found here.

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audio_tape_revox_pr99-203Audio recordings from the July 24th, 2017 meeting of the Board of Trustees have been posted. To access the menu of recordings edited by agenda item, click here.

Most of the brief meeting consisted of routine business, but, again, property owned by Barrington Hills Farm LLC (BHFarm) provided the most interesting fodder for discussion.  As we mentioned previously, the owner(s) of the unoccupied property at 2400 Spring Creek Road had been cited for demolition of a residence without a building permit and for removal of two posted Stop Work Order signs. Additionally, many trees and much vegetation had been removed without a permit required under the village’s Heritage Tree Ordinance.

Trustee Colleen Konicek asked Administrator Bob Kosin for an update on the situation.  The issue of the removal of the Stop Work Order signs is currently in the hands of the village prosecutor, and the courts will be left to determine if the violation did take place, and what fines, if any, should be imposed.  Kosin went on to state that the necessary demolition permit had now been obtained, albeit AFTER the fact, and that according to the demolition contractor, none of the work to remove the debris from the demolition of the 2900 sq. ft. home had required an overweight permit.  Trustee Brian Cecola strongly questioned the notion that a residence of that size could be taken down without the need for an overweight permit.  Konicek pressed the issue further, asking Kosin what evidence had been provided that an overweight permit had not been required? Kosin was forced to admit there was no evidence, just the word of the contractor. We wonder how many other residents would be afforded this same benefit of the doubt.

On the issue of the trees that had been removed, Kosin stated that the Village’s tree contractor had been sent out, and he determined that no heritage trees had been lost or jeopardized on the site, again AFTER the fact, and that the property owner had been appropriately billed (and paid ) for the arborist’s inspection fee. Kosin expressed supreme confidence in the arborist’s psychic abilities to determine the species of trees which had been removed, without ever having seen them.  We don’t quite understand how this was possible — perhaps he conducted a DNA analysis of the sawdust residue?

President Martin McLaughlin expressed concern about the objectivity of the arborist, Chuck Stewart, who had performed the study of the property, because Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm. Trustee Michelle Maison was also troubled by this perceived conflict of interest and inquired if another independent tree analysis should be conducted.

McLaughlin then brought up the issue of the deannexation request (dated July 17, 2017) for 2400 Spring Creek Road. Back in the fall, the trust controlling BHFarm had expressed interest in annexing ALL of the former Duda property back into the Village during a friendly 2 1/2 hour staff meeting during which the village outlined two timelines to complete the annexation petition process. He found it odd that first they wanted to annex into the village, and now they want to annex out of the village. He also reminded the new Board members about the trust’s previous request for an easement for its proposed HARPS facility (which still has not broken ground).  The trust had wanted an easement, requested it, constructed the legal documents for it, and when the Board agreed to it, the trust wanted the easement out.

McLaughlin described how the Village has gone out of its way to say “yes” numerous times to requests by BHFarm, and explained how the Village has tried to work with the individuals representing BHFarm, only to have the trust change their minds about things that they themselves had asked for.  He likened dealing with the BHFarm trust as doing the Hokey Pokey — they want the easement in, they want the easement out, they want to annex in, they want to annex out. All of it, he said, amounted to much silliness, and in our opinion, wasting of board and staff time, not to mention taxpayer dollars.

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Doing the annexation hokey pokey

Trustee Paula Jacobsen wondered why the village couldn’t have employed a warmer and fuzzier process to inform the property owner of their violation of the cease and desist order, perhaps by placing a personal phone call. Jacobsen was either playing dumb in thinking that property owners’ phone numbers are listed on property deeds, or perhaps she was pandering to BHFarm’s board which is headed by a prominent donor to her recent trustee campaign. Her point seemed to be that the property owner was not being treated in a neighborly manner, despite the fact that the only publicly available contact information is an street address in Chicago. Never did she place any onus on the property owner who apparently assumed that it was okay to knock down a house without consulting the municipal authorities in advance. Maybe she has never heard of the expression “ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

And, if the village had gone to extreme lengths to track down a telephone number in this particular instance, wouldn’t that create a dangerous precedent for the village’s future contacts with other property owners?  AND, does Jacobsen really believe that the contractor(s) who removed the trees and demolished the residence didn’t inform their employer of the Stop Work Order?

Those conversations can be heard here.

Later in the meeting, during discussion of the disconnection petition itself, Village Attorney Mary Dickson described the legal requirements for disconnection and confirmed that the subject property meets all of them. However, the village cannot act on such a petition sooner than 30 days after receiving it, and, as a result, the attorney will prepare an ordinance for possible action at the next Board meeting in August.

Dickson cautioned that any penalties regarding the cease and desist order violation pending in court should be resolved and that any other monies due to the Village should be paid PRIOR to the Board of Trustees taking final action on BHFarm’s petition.

Jacobsen continued to puzzle over the reason for the disconnection request into unincorporated McHenry County, and asked if the petitioner would be making a presentation to the Board explaining the reasons for the disconnection.  Dickson explained that no such presentation is legally necessary.  (We suggest that Jacobsen pick up the telephone a place a neighborly phone call if she wants to quench her curiosity.) Attorney Dickson opined that maybe developmental rights are the reason, and perhaps the best prospects for the owner’s desired development of the property may lie with the county rather than the village. We’d say that Ms. Dickson hit the nail on the head with that assessment.

The disconnection discussion can be heard here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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fringed-orchidFor years, June Keibler has nurtured the threatened eastern prairie fringed orchids within a ComEd-owned property in Barrington Hills with few complications until an unknown number of vehicles destroyed some of the orchids last year.

About four or five times each year, Keibler, who lives in the Carpentersville area, drives along a road through Helm Woods Forest Preserve to hand pollinate the delicate, white blossom orchids underneath electric transmission towers operated by ComEd.

Read more here.

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Too Many SignsThere are too many signs in Barrington Hills.  Drive down most roads, and it will be obvious.  Too many election signs.  One next to the other and then another and another.  What’s worse than that?  There are too many “for sale” signs.  They signal a broad sense of dissatisfaction and a desire to get out.  This may or may not be true, but the signs say to the world and to us that we are in trouble.

The truth is that it has become far too noisy in Barrington Hills.  The noise comes not from the sounds of traffic or congestion but from one group of voices trying to drown out the other.  And we are all to blame, including this publication.

There are too many blogs and political parties.  Their names are an allegory for something that has been lost or diminished:  “Save Horse Boarding in Barrington Hills,” “Don’t Change Barrington Hills,” “Save Open Space,” and “Preserve Barrington Hills.”  But what have we really lost?

There have been too many lawsuits:  Iatarola, Duda, Sears, LeCompte 1, LeCompte 2, and now a fresh lawsuit challenging the Village’s handling of its own horse boarding laws.  These lawsuits are also a sign that we have lost control of our problems and now must ask faraway judges, strangers to our Village, to decide what we were unable to resolve ourselves.

We talk too much about lawyers and legal fees and government investigations.  We have had too many controversies:  cell phone towers; exterior lighting (remember the HALO signs?); horse boarding; bike lanes; disconnection; 911.  The list and the signs go on and on.

There have been too many headlines portraying our small Village as the epicenter of wealthy-folks’ petulant controversies:  “Horse feud splitting Barrington Hills”; “Residents, cyclists feud over Barrington Hills roads”; “AG’s office reviews ex-mayor’s Barrington Hills appointments”; “Appellate court sides with Barrington Hills police officers.”

Of course we would be remiss or (worse) hypocritical if we did not recognize that these pages too, within the Barrington Hills Observer, have added to the “noise.”  If only by necessity, we have editorialized and perhaps sometimes heightened the public debate on controversial local political topics and public figures.

We spend too much money on trustee campaigns; we stuff mailboxes with too many mailers; there are too many political coffees (and too few social ones); and too many articles about all of them.  And, while we could never be critical of public participation in government, the reality is that our Village Board meetings are too well attended because they are filled with so much drama.  We’ve become a rival to reality television, including the expletives.

Now back to the question.  What have we lost?  The answer is that we have lost peace and a commitment to the public and private service of our neighbors.  We have taken the noise to a level that cannot be sustained and it is time to back down.  If not, what’s next?  More signs.  More lawsuits.  More lawyers and lawyer fees.  More mailers.  And, regrettably and not coincidentally, more “for sale” signs.  We have written before on the need to restore peace to Barrington Hills, (Read “Why Barrington Hills must change”). It is equally or more true today.

On April 7th, next Tuesday, we will have an opportunity as a Village to restore peace to Barrington Hills at the ballot box and, one can only hope, to usher in a new era of public and private service of our neighbors.  Our roads and budgets and zoning laws need repair.  For those jobs we need trustees who will be devoted to public service and unity.   We need residents who possess the skills needed to fix our broken roads, budgets and zoning laws, not noisemakers.

The Observer will publish its endorsements on Monday.  Suffice it to say we will not be endorsing the candidates whose names have been synonymous with the noise that now covers the Village like a blanket.

It is time to reflect and to reduce the “signs” of trouble in our Village.

–     The Observer

 

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The Village has released recordings from last Monday evening’s Village Board meeting.  We understand an overflow crowd of residents witnessed what ultimately deteriorated to an “R-Rated” display of political theater near the conclusion of the three-hour meeting.

Twelve residents spoke during public comment.  Eleven of them were given due respect from the board beginning with the first speaker who called for an investigation of President McLaughlin’s actions in office.  The speaker was met with no interruption, and in fact, was acknowledged with a respectful “thank you” from President McLaughlin at the end.

To listen to the comments of the speaker, who just happens to be the Campaign Chair for Trustees Meroni and Selman’s SOS Party, click here.

However, the third speaker was interrupted so loudly and frequently by Trustee Messer that the chair was forced to suggest he would need to leave the room if he could not maintain decorum.  Even Trustee Meroni stated “Let him go on continuing to make a fool of himself” when Messer continued on even after the speaker was done.  A direct link to that exchange can be found here.

As always, we recommend readers listen to all comments from residents who took the time to attend and contribute to the discussion.

After public comment, three representatives from ComEd provided an update on the planned installations of Smart Meters in Barrington Hills beginning in May.  Their presentation can be heard here.

During the finance discussion, Trustee Harrington once again objected to payments to Patrick Bond, temporary Village counsel, despite the fact that neither he, nor any other Trustee, has recommended a replacement for Bond who continues to gladly answer legal questions from every board member.  Bond’s billing was denied by five trustees, and according to recorded minutes, he has not been paid since August or September of last year, yet he continues to serve the board dutifully and without hesitation.

The vote on the 911 consolidation ordinance was tabled by Trustee Gohl due to public comment that evening and because of pending insurance information from QuadCom.  His motion passed with only one nay vote from Trustee Meroni.

During her Roads & Bridges report, Trustee Meroni stated that she was unprepared to present a mid-range plan beyond the current year to catch up on the 4.5 mile backlog of road resurfacing, but committed to present one at the February board meeting.

Trustee Messer presented an ordinance he had drafted repealing the code allowing the Village President to appoint special counsel.  Many, including The Observer, viewed Messer’s draft as ambiguous in scope and could have also been used to take the power to appoint the Village Attorney away from the office of the Village President.  After much wrangling, Messer finally agreed to change the dubious language, and it passed by a 5-2 vote.

During the Board of Health report and discussion, Trustee Harrington and Bob Kosin gained support from the board to allow for more extensive periodic testing of well water from public locations required to do so by law, such as churches, the Riding Center and the Village Hall well.  We commend the members of the Board of Health for taking on this initiative, since nearly every resident has no alternative to well water.

Finally, after nearly two and half hours the much-anticipated report on Administration that had attracted most of the crowd was presented.

President McLaughlin stated that he had vetoed the Anderson-LeCompte commercial horse boarding amendment on January 6th, and then proceeded to provide a very reasonable explanation regarding why he exercised his right, as can be heard here.  Despite this veto, the same five Trustees who voted to approve the amendment can override the veto at the next Board meeting.

McLaughlin then spoke to his initiation of a special counsel review into the manner in which the Anderson-LeCompte boarding amendment was handled and allegations of impropriety brought forward by residents.  That recording can be found here.

No sooner than the President finished, Trustee Harrington interrupted the agenda with his own call for an investigation in a lengthy prepared statement mirroring the comments of the SOS Party chair earlier in the evening.

Harrington, who recently donated $10,000 to Trustees Meroni and Selman’s SOS Party, accused McLaughlin of political motivation in his call for a special investigation regarding the horse boarding amendment and cited a laundry list of anything he could name, from appointments made by McLaughlin that adhered to Village Code and the Open Meetings Act, to allegations of impropriety in conducting the annual Village “party” known as the “Hills are Alive Heritage Fest.”

shocked_womanDespite the disrespectful interruptions by fellow Trustees throughout the meeting, particularly from Messer, McLaughlin kept his composure and continued to maintain order in the crowded MacArthur room as best he could.  He never objected any investigation Harrington proposed, but his assuredness clearly got to Messer who finally burst out with something we will not reprint in this publication, though it can be heard here, but readers are advised it is NSFW (not suitable for work).

Earlier in the evening, Trustee Messer had expressed disappointment when he reported that only five permits had been issued in 2014 for new home construction.  Frankly, given the frequent negative publicity Barrington Hills has endured for nearly a decade over cell towers, lighting ordinances and multiple failed attempts to address horse boarding in our “equestrian” branded community, conflicts of interest on two boards and his precedent-setting drop of the “F-Bomb” in a public meeting, we’re pleased anyone is building here at all.

The link to the full menu of edited recordings from the meeting can be accessed here.

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In his WTTW documentary “Northwest of Chicago,” Geoffrey Baer quoted a local source who declared Barrington Hills, Barrington and South Barrington to be “North shore communities without the shore.”  This may have been true when the show first aired, but this is far from accurate today.

Read any recent real estate report on the average time on the market for homes in our area and you’ll find our Village bests all others for the wrong reasons.  Barrington Hills homes consistently have the longest time on the market and lead at the lowest sale price compared to the original asking price.  Home and lot values have plunged to prices not seen in over a decade.

It doesn’t take a WTTW documentary to conclude that recent political unrest and unnecessary drama are making us the pariah of the Chicago suburbs, which clearly is not helping, and probably is hurting, property values.

This includes the false recent drama over bike lanes; the real and potentially character changing debate over commercial horse boarding; and the embarrassing fiasco over the exterior lighting ordinance in our recent history.  Outsiders can reasonably question whether they want to have any part of this madness.

For example, one vacant five-acre lot in our Village is now going for $119,900.  Another breathtaking estate on Hawthorne Rd has had its price slashed by more than fifty-percent of the original eight-figure asking price.

While the housing market across the country is generally picking up after years of decline, this is not the case in Barrington Hills.  True, there are a number of factors beyond our control, but there is one major factor we can clearly change for the better, and that’s to stop making our Village look arrogant, dysfunctional elitists time and time again.

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Since 2005, some of our elected politicians and residents have made some local issues very public.  Residents do have every right to voice their concerns loudly, but it’s usually a few politicians that make our Village look bad.

First, there was a proposal for sky-high cell towers in our picturesque Village by some on our Village board.  Then, there was the ill-conceived exterior lighting ordinance proposal from a small group of “dark sky” zealots on our board and in the community, which outraged residents enough that the issue was covered in the Wall Street Journal (seeEverything is Diluminated”).

One of this year’s topics of resident concern is bike lanes.  While The Observer shares many resident concerns on this hot-button issue, all of this would have been alleviated back in 2012, if the administration at the time actually communicated with residents about the plan before pursuing it.

Two newspapers recently took  Barrington Hills’ residents to the woodshed in editorials over objections to bikers in our Village.  And even though residents were assured over a month ago that there will be no bike lanes in our Village, the group “Don’t Change Barrington Hills” (apparently assisted  by the former Village President) persists in encouraging their supporters to keep protest signs up along our roadways and continues to disseminate rumor and innuendo on their website.

Do you think that helps our property values?  Do you think that encourages people to seriously consider Barrington Hills as a place to make their home?

Additionally, we have commercial horse boarding amendments back on the table — for the third time since 2005.  Calling itself “Save Horse Boarding in Barrington Hills,” one group circulated an online petition based on a false mission statement that has garnered electronic signatures from as far away as southern Yemen.

Really?  After all, we were “branded” by the former administration as an “equestrian community” years ago, so why do we still not have effective codes to address commercial horse boarding?  Perhaps we are waiting for advice from southern Yemen!

Sadly, the Village Board meeting held earlier this week provided even more fodder for the press.  We find it a very interesting coincidence that this was the very first meeting reporters have attended since President McLaughlin was sworn in.

It certainly was convenient, considering the clearly rehearsed barrage by four trustees against the chair due to the dismissal of the law firm that has cost our Village millions of taxpayers’ money.

Regular readers of The Observer are familiar with our monthly “Flashbacks” column, and each month it pains us to review what our Village reputation has endured in the press for many years.  Yet there is still a dwindling faction among residents who get pleasure it seems  by fueling misinformation and innuendo.

It’s time for us to stop being a sideshow for the entertainment of surrounding communities.  Instead of “Don’t Change Barrington Hills,” a more productive goal is “Let’s Change Barrington Hills.”

After all, didn’t most residents vote for that goal in the last election?

–     The Observer

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