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2013ReviewInPics

The Observer takes a look back at the year gone by and presents our most frequently read editorials and news stories for 2013.  Click on any title to read or revisit stories from this past year.

Editorials:

It’s morning again

In May, the Observer anticipated the swearing-in of newly elected Village President Martin McLaughlin, and presented readers with a message of healing and reconciliation.

September Board recordings released and our observations

This was our most commented story of the year, and focused on the efforts of Trustee Patty Meroni to block the Inaugural Hills are Alive Fall Heritage Festival.

Time to step aside

This editorial from August discussed the ongoing difficulties that Village Board member Karen Selman seems to have with her duties chairing the Finance Committee.

The IAA Battle: Why it was over before it began

After East Dundee approved the proposed IAA auto auction facility in July, the Observer reflected upon a multitude of reasons that Bob Abboud’s strategy was doomed to fail.

It’s all about the money

This editorial, leading up to the April Village Election, highlighted the financial issues which faced the Village, including exorbitant legal spending and high FOIA costs.

McLaughlin for Village President, Konicek Hannigan and Stieper for Trustee

This opinion piece featured The Observer’s endorsements for Village Board seats in the April 9 election. 

News Stories:

McLaughlin Looks Ahead to Barrington Hills Presidency

The day after Martin J. McLaughlin’s surprise election victory over incumbent Robert G. Abboud, the Daily Herald interviewed the President-Elect, and discussed the challenges which lay ahead.

2013 Survey Report

As was the case in 2012, the compilation of the results of this year’s annual resident survey was one of the Observer’s top five stories of the year.

Hills are Alive Heritage Festival draws big crowd

The first-ever Hills Are Alive Fall Heritage Festival drew a large crowd of over 800 residents, who enjoyed many activities at the Barrington Hills Park District Riding Center.

AG’s office reviews ex-mayor’s Barrington Hills appointments

Shortly before leaving office, and with little if any prior notice, the former Village President made over thirty nominations or renominations to nearly every Village non-elected board, commission and committee. 

Ex-Barrington Hills mayor admits talking to ComEd about auto auction plan

Former Village President Robert Abboud admitted in July that he had contacted ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore and had urged her to deny Insurance Auto Auctions’ request to allow access to their East Dundee business using a ComEd easement.


2014 New Year

Once again, we at The Observer would like to express our heartfelt thanks to our readers and subscribers.  We wish you all           

Happy New Year!

–     The Observer

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the stories reported by The Observer in the month of July 2010 to 2012.  These articles, gathered from various publications, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

‘Dark sky’ proposal refined – 2010

The Barrington Hills Zoning Board of Appeals further refined a proposal to restrict outdoor lighting, conceding that security lights can be on longer in emergencies, but not giving ground on more decorative fixtures.

The board allowed no public comment at Monday’s meeting, but residents packed the room, and were admonished several times about their snickering and giggles over discussions of defining glare and light pollution.

The TribLocal story can be read here.

Village expected to be fully lit up again by midnight – 2011

The tiny village of Barrington Hills, which was left in the dark when a storm swept through the suburbs Monday,  should soon be lit up again, as electricity to 250 homes is expected to be restored by midnight, a spokesman for ComEd said Friday.  Since Monday, power has been restored to 1,300 households, the spokesman said.

This TribLocal piece can be read here.

Prologue to Farce and a Tragedy – 2012

Throughout the pages of the Observer, readers often see references to OMA – the Open Meetings Act, and FOIA – the Freedom of Information Act, but may not be fully aware of their provisions.  According to the Illinois Attorney General’s website,

“… public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business.”
– Illinois Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/1.

Read the full July 2012 Observer editorial here.

July 16 Zoning Board meeting audio recording released – 2012

In an unprecedented move, the Village has released a recording of this month’s Zoning Board meeting.  It was during this meeting that the ZBA voted to set aside the Home Occupation Ordinance Amendment addressing Commercial Horse Boarding in the Village and make no recommendation to the Board of Trustees on the matter.

A link to the forty-eight minute long meeting recording can be found here.

Horse boarding likely to be an election issue in Barrington Hills – 2012

Horses have long been a distinguishing feature of Barrington Hills, but could these four-legged residents prove to be the driving issue in the next village board election?

Read the Daily Herald perspective here.

–        The Observer

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rga_portrait_b&wThe Illinois attorney general’s Public Access Bureau is reviewing a complaint that former Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud’s 35 proposed committee appointments made after he lost the April 9 election were not adequately identified on a meeting agenda.

As such, the review is looking into whether the action constitutes a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. She would not speculate on the time frame of the review or what action would be appropriate if it determined a violation had occurred.

Abboud said he was following the advice of the village attorney that sufficient notice on the agenda did not necessarily have to include names.

Read more here.

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A copy of the approved April 22 Village Board meeting minutes can be downloaded here.

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BOT RecordingsThe Village has recently released edited audio recordings from the April 22 Village Board meeting. To access the menu of the meeting’s topical audio recording segments, click here.

Special attention should be paid to the “Administration” segment of the recordings, particularly when it comes to some of President Abboud’s choices for nomination to critical Village boards, commissions and committees during this, his last full Village Board meeting in office.

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Following are some of the stories reported by The Observer in July 2010 and 2011. These articles, gathered from various publications, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community. Readers can view further articles from those and other prior months by utilizing the “Archives By Month” menu tool on the right sidebar in all page views of this website.

Residents turned off by ‘dark sky’ proposal (2010)

A well-lit church steeple might be picturesque to some and a beacon to others, but at least one northwest suburban village president wouldn’t mind pulling the plug, saying the glare makes it hard to see the stars and detracts from the beauty of the nighttime sky.

“At 3 a.m., my sense is that God’s pretty powerful, and he knows where the church is,” said Robert Abboud, village president of Barrington Hills.

The full TribLocal article can be viewed here.

Landowner faces big fine for wood piles, dogs (2010)

Philip Maksymonko’s property in Barrington Hills is as secluded as most of the parcels of land that line the roads of this rural oasis in the middle of the Northwest suburbs.

For the last half decade, though, his neighbors claim he has caused problems for everyone in the area by keeping huge wood piles on his property, raising dogs and composting his dogs’ feces.

Read the Daily Herald account of the story here.

Village expected to be fully lit up again by midnight (2011)

The tiny village of Barrington Hills, which was left in the dark when a storm swept through the suburbs Monday, should soon be lit up again, as electricity to 250 homes is expected to be restored by midnight, a spokesman for ComEd said Friday.  Since Monday, power has been restored to 1,300 households, the spokesman said.

TribLocal’s story of last year’s massive power outage can be read here.

Village Board considering ZBA proposal on horse boarding (2011)

ZBA chair Judith Freeman presented a proposal to address horse boarding codes in the Village at the July BOT meeting. President Abboud deferred discussion/comment by the board on the ZBA proposal until the August BOT meeting to allow time for trustees to further consider the proposal.

The ZBA proposal calls for any property owner that boards ten (10) horses or more within the Village on R-1 properties to be classified as “Commercial” and residents boarding nine (9) or fewer horses would be allowed to conduct their businesses under the “Home Occupation Ordinance.”

For more detail, download a copy of the ZBA proposal from a year ago this month here.

–     The Observer

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Barrington Hills’ zoning board Monday unanimously recommended disregarding proposed conditions for the allowance of commercial horse boarding as a home occupation business use.

The board’s recommendation was made on the basis that the conditions would only confuse current debate as to whether commercial horse boarding is permissible at all.

The complete article can be read here

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The Observer recently likened the proposed commercial horse boarding Home Occupation Ordinance (HOO) Amendment to a square peg in a round hole.  We’ve since come to the conclusion that it’s not just our opinion, it’s a fact.

That editorial prompted a resident to survey five “equine friendly” villages similar in nature and character to Barrington Hills for information on how their village codes address horse boarding.  That resident has forwarded their findings to The Observer, and the results are eye opening.

Based on the regulations in Bull Valley, Homer Glen, Mettawa, Wadsworth and Wayne, if our Village approves the commercial horse boarding language contained in the HOO amendment as drafted, Barrington Hills will be the only community that:

  • Considers horse boarding a home occupation
  • Requires no special use permit for boarding
  • Has no limits beyond total FAR for stable size, and
  • Has no limit of horses allowed on residential properties

The comparison of “equine friendly” village codes can be viewed by clicking hereWe urge all residents to read and share this comparison.  Then, consider that to what our Village is contemplating by downloading a copy of the HOO Amendment here.

The Observer fully supports horse ownership and enjoyment.  We also support the right of a resident to board one or two horses for other Village residents.  That stated, we cannot support the current commercial boarding proposal that lacks any sensible, objective safeguards to protect adjacent landowners from potential encroachment of their deserved privacy and peace.

Some people mistakenly believe this matter is only about one boarding operation in our Village.  It’s not.  It’s about any present or future commercial boarding and training facility allowed on any five-acre or more residential property in our Village.

We encourage residents to voice their opinions at the June 18th ZBA Public Hearing at Countryside School.  Please do not assume that “someone else” will speak out on your behalf so you don’t need to attend.  If you can’t attend, or would prefer not to speak publicly, then send your opinions to the ZBA and Village Board via our Village Clerk either by mail or email at clerk@barringtonhills-il.gov.

–        The Observer

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Tonight our Zoning Board of Appeals will be fine-tuning their recommendations to the Board of Trustees in an amended Home Occupation Ordinance (HOO) proposal.  First, however, a Public Hearing is tentatively scheduled for June where residents can provide feedback to the ZBA prior to their final recommendation.  Then the proposed amendment to the ordinance will finally handed over to our Board.  A copy of the current draft can be downloaded here.

In an effort to bring some of our readers up to speed on this long and contentious journey, we thought we should start at the beginning of this odyssey or ludicrousy depending on one’s view.

The original HOO was enacted long before President Abboud’s time to address small residential-based occupations occurring in our Village.  Those occupations might include piano teachers, tutors, consultants, sole practice attorneys, etc.  The intent at that time was to prevent small inside-the-home occupations from growing to become a disturbance of “peace, quiet and domestic tranquility” in in our neighborhoods.

Notwithstanding its original intent, within a year after Bob Abboud became president of our Village, (some say due to the heavy influence of the equestrian community’s politicking), he forged ahead to include small-scale horse boarding under the existing HOO with minimal modification.   It wasn’t long after that that it was evident this would prove to be a costly mistake, as neighbor complaints arose surrounding a number of larger scale boarding businesses.  Sadly, the responsibility of rectifying the situation was placed primarily on the shoulders of the members of our Zoning Board at the time.

Over the course of the next six years,  scores of Zoning Board meetings and a handful of Plan Commission meetings included topics with titles such as “Equestrian Boarding Regulations”, ”Animal Husbandry,” “Equestrian Land Use,” and  “Commercial Boarding/Agriculture.” The Board of Health and Legal Committees were also asked to weigh in on various aspects of different iterations of boarding propositions.  Our Equestrian Commission crafted a commercial boarding “White Paper” which, in one version, recommended limitations on barn size and the number of boarded horses allowed (see White Paper) in order for a boarding operation to be considered a home occupation.  A group consisting of equestrians and non-equestrians was tasked with developing a proposal by the ZBA and their recommended guidelines can be viewed hereOrdinances pertaining to boarding and keeping of horses from other Villages have also been presented and reviewed.

So with all of this information as a platform to craft an ordinance, what is our Zoning Board now doing to address boarding operations?  They’re attempting to plug the same war-torn square boarding peg back into the round home occupation hole where it didn’t belong in in the first place.  Lawsuits, comparable ordinances and well thought out guidelines have been dismissed.  They have learned nothing.

Instead of tightening restrictions on home occupations, they will be relaxed.  Those operating boarding and training operations home occupations or other property-wide businesses can begin operations at 6:00 AM instead of the current 8:00 AM start time regardless of day of the week, time of the year or even whereabouts this activity will to occur on the homeowner’s property.  Sure, there are some other minute alterations, but after six years of time, effort and legal struggles, that’s about all there is to show.  More specific restrictions which would help protect the rights of neighbors seem to have been stricken than added to the HOO according to the draft document so that homeowners are left to wonder how they will have to cope with the doubtless disruptions to their peace, quiet and domestic tranquility.

If you look at our Village’s Comprehensive Plan, there is not a single mention of horse boarding for profit.  And, the original HOO was neither conceived nor enacted with any consideration whatsoever to boarding operations.  It was intended for residence-based professionals working out of their homes.  Some Village officials have pointed this out in open meetings only to change course later due to influence from more strident members of the equestrian community.

The Observer believes a distinct, new ordinance should be enacted based on practical lessons learned from experience. But the fact remains the HOO “hole” provides an easy vehicle for Abboud and others in office to appease “those who brung them to the dance” in past Village elections.  Anyone can see it.  Few will speak out, though, and isn’t that really the shame of living in Barrington Hills nowadays?

– The Observer

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“Cops, trees and 4G topped a marathon six-hour Barrington Hills board meeting which started Monday night and went past midnight.

The board wrestled with legal proceedings surrounding its pending police contract, a proposed 4G connection on the campus and complaints about a resident on the west side of Bateman Road south of Lake Cook cutting down 14 walnut trees without a permit.”

Learn much more at:  http://barrington.suntimes.com/10210378-417/barrington-hills-deals-with-tree-removal-issue.html

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