Major development proposals tops year’s news in Buffalo Grove
Buffalo Grove Village President Jeff Braiman walks past the intersection of Raupp Boulevard and Church Road in Buffalo Grove, where a new proposed downtown area would be located. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Top web stories
The five most-viewed stories in 2012 on the BUFFALO GROVE COUNTRYSIDE website:
1. Buffalo Grove considers grand downtown redesign
2. Woman dies of injuries from Lincolnshire crash
3. Illness prompted Buffalo Grove woman to action
4. Next week never arrives for customer at Buffalo Grove car dealership
5. Lincolnshire teen charged with starting Long Grove brush fire
- Deerfield endorses Buffalo Grove’s proposed downtown developer
- Residents move against downtown proposal, suggest recall effort
- Sente bests Mathias
- Electricity aggregation gains wide support
- Environmental concerns raised over Route 53/Route 120 plan
- Buffalo Grove’s Beth Am to observe bittersweet High Holidays
Updated: December 27, 2012 7:33AM
While everyone prepares for 2013 and a fresh start, Pioneer Press offers Buffalo Grove Countryside readers the top five stories from 2012. From new development proposals to leadership changes and electric aggregation, here are the highlights.
1. New downtown discussed, development cleared for Milwaukee Ave.
In August, a local developer appeared before the Village Board to pitch a complete, from-scratch downtown in the heart of Buffalo Grove.
The proposed site consists of the existing village campus, around Village Hall, the police and public works departments, and nine holes of the 18-hole Buffalo Grove Golf Course. St. Mary Church’s property would remain untouched.
The goal is to create a new economic engine that also proves a town center that represents the village’s identity.
Officials from Deerfield development firm CRM Properties Group, Ltd., proposed plans for condominium towers, restaurant, retail and office space, an entertainment venue, a large green space, parking and new municipal facilities.
Village trustees spoke highly of the idea during its only appearance on their agenda this year.
The announcement, however, also led to the formation of a citizens’ group that opposes CRM’s plans. The neighbors group lodged concerns about traffic, nearby property values, height, density and the strength of the residential and retail markets.
The plans are currently under review in village committees, and likely still months away from votes.
More development news: The new year was not even two weeks old when on Jan. 13, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approved the site of the former Land and Lakes Landfill for new development.
The 32-acre dump, located at 1300 Milwaukee Ave., has been filled with commercial and industrial waste since it closed in 1995 and the state began its mandatory 15-year observation period. In 2010, Land and Lakes filed for the site to be freed for sale to developers, but a group of neighbors protested, saying the site was leaking contaminants into their drinking water.
A year and a half of further tests followed. At the start of 2012, however, the IEPA declared the water safe and the property eligible for sale.
Buffalo Grove annexed the site in 2008, but with the economy stalled, no developers came forward in 2012.
2. Sente ends Mathias run in the state House
November’s election brought the end of an era in Buffalo Grove as the vote signaled the end of Sid Mathias’ 30-year run in public service.
Vernon Hills Democrat Carol Sente defeated Mathias, a Buffalo Grove Republican, in the only race in the state that pitted two incumbents against each other.
The 59th district of the state House became an interesting election when the General Assembly redrew state House and Senate boundaries. Mathias, who had represented the area’s 53rd District since 1999, found himself living in what is now the 59th District. That area was already represented by Sente, who won her first election in 2010, and won reelection in 2012.
Two well-organized and well-funded campaigns resulted in a close result: 21,733 votes for Sente, 16,974 for Mathias. He has not announced any plans for a next move.
“When one door closes, another one opens,” Mathias said after results came in on Election night. “I haven’t looked behind door number two yet. What I can say is that I have enjoyed my 30 years of public service.”
3. Voters opt for electric aggregation
As the recession lumbered forward, residents voted themselves a new option for saving money on their monthly bills.
Citizens of Buffalo Grove and six neighboring suburbs approved a referendum on March 20 that bundled them together as a single customer for the purpose of buying electricity. The seven suburbs’ residents approved the measure by nearly 2-to-1, a move that combined 263,233 residential and small-business customers into one purchasing block.
On April 30, the group — also including Arlington Heights, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Palatine, Vernon Hills and Wheeling — announced a contract with Integrys Energy Services, which was said to result in savings of 42 percent on customers’ electric bill. ComEd remains in charge of delivery and local infrastructure, and the referendum had no effect on its portion of the bill.
The referendum also provided residents an opt-out clause. At any time, customers dissatisfied with Integrys or the practice of aggregation can leave the group and sign their own contract with a desired supplier.
Electric aggregation was wildly popular on March 20 ballots, as 269 other municipalities posted similar referenda. Ghida Neukirch, Buffalo Grove’s deputy village manager at the time, spearheaded the village effort. Her resignation in July to take the same post in Highland Park was another of the year’s most significant events in Buffalo Grove.
The one-year contract with Integrys expires at the end of June.
4. Debate continues on Route 53 extension
Another top story of 2012 could have much larger implications in the future, depending on how a variety of economic, environmental and population factors shake out.
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority approved this summer a thorough plan for the long-debated extension of Illinois Route 53 into Lake County. But, just like the handful of proposals that came before it, the funding isn’t in place.
In the summer of 2011, the tollway brought together 29 individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds — some vocally in favor of the extension and others adamantly against it — and gave them a year to work out a plan to which they could all agree. On June 28, that committee presented an outline with near-unanimous agreement: A tolled highway from Lake-Cook Road north to Route 120 with a 45 mph speed limit.
Some groups argue that the highway is crucial to Lake County sustaining its population. Others, however, say any plan would harm local wetlands and the economy of Long Grove.
The Route 53 extension debate ended 2012 without a plan for funding it.
5. Beth Am sells building to Park District
Buffalo Grove’s Congregation Beth Am announced that it’s selling its building, located in a shopping center at 225 McHenry Road, to the Buffalo Grove Park District, which plans to convert the large facility into a performing arts center in 2013.
Congregation leaders explained that membership at the synagogue decreased with the economic downturn, causing them to begin a search for a new location in the area.
Meanwhile, park district officials have long sought a building with enough space to house theater and live-music programs and performances. With the Beth Am facility in the fold, the district is now planning a 400- to 500-seat auditorium with dance studios, classrooms and multipurpose rooms as well.
Beth Am’s last day as the building’s full-time occupant is scheduled for June 30. Congregation leaders have not announced where their next home will be.