Elburn poised for steady growth

By on April 4, 2014

The Elburn Herald’s three-part series detailing the
evolution of Elburn ends
this week with a look at the
village’s future plans

ELBURN—The village of Elburn is poised for a resurgence in growth, with requests for residential building permits picking up and a number of new businesses locating in town, as well as the build-out of a new mixed-use development in its future.

In the discussion stage for more than five years, the Village Board in 2013 approved the plan for the Shodeen, Inc. Elburn Station development.

The 484-acre development, situated around the Elburn Metra train station, will bring a mix of 2,215 single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and age-targeted housing, as well as a potential 200,000 square feet of commercial development to the village.

The build-out is expected to take place over the next 20 years, and will effectively double Elburn’s current population of 5,000.

According to Shodeen developer Dave Patzelt, the development will allow for a wide range of residential living for individuals, families, empty nesters and retirees.

Construction on the development will begin once the Anderson Road extension and bridge project is completed. The bridge project, which will extend Anderson Road from Route 38 to Keslinger Road and provide a bridge over the Union Pacific railroad tracks, began in earnest at the beginning of 2014 and is expected to be finished by spring 2015.

The bridge will provide an alternative to motorists, as well as for emergency vehicles that need to get through town.

The village, with input from a number of individuals and groups, revised the comprehensive land use plan in 2013, which provides guidelines for growth and development for the next 20 to 30 years.

A common theme of the input was current residents’ desire to keep what they consider to be valuable about the village as it currently exists. Its rural identity, small-town feel and friendly atmosphere were values that came up again and again.

One of the groups that provided feedback on the village’s plan consisted of eight Kaneland High School students.

“I’d like to keep the small-town feel, but to add more things to draw people—something that connects the people,” said Jeremy Faletto, one of the students.

Faletto and his classmates said they would like to see Elburn grow, but they would like to see it expand outward around the downtown area instead of being too spread out.

They said they would also like more green space and more trees, especially in the downtown area. They agreed that it would be great to have a place in town where they could hang out, such as a coffee shop or something similar.

The students also know what they don’t want, namely another Randall Road. And they also want to avoid “a lot of townhouses and suburban pop-ups,” and more disconnected subdivisions such as Blackberry Creek.

Village Administrator Erin Willrett said that Elburn’s Land Use Plan calls for growth to take place within the confines of the village’s current planning boundaries.

She said the guidelines of the village’s Land Use Plan, as well as the village’s zoning codes and ordinances, will help to make sure that new growth does not sprawl. It will stay within the designated corridor, as well as helping to preserve the small-town feel that residents want to maintain.

Willrett said she anticipates that Elburn will continue to be a thriving community, with the population growth taking place at a modest rate.

“It won’t be like the growth we saw between 2001 and 2008,” she said.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson said that future growth in Elburn will be dependent on a stable economy. He said that although villages don’t control growth, they can mold it into what will appeal to the lifestyles and desires of their residents.

Anderson said that Elburn should expect a good mix of land uses, with business and light manufacturing, as well as the increase in population.

Elburn in 2013 welcomed a number of businesses to the village, including the Lighthouse Academy child care facility, Accelerated Rehabilitation, Brianna’s Pancake House and Eddie Gaedel’s Grill and Pub, and the way was paved for a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant and drive-through to open in 2014.

Anderson said he sees the Chamber working to bring more ancillary businesses to town. The Village Board in 2013 also appointed a group of business owners and other stakeholders to form an Economic Development Commission for Elburn, with Willrett as the moderator.

Anderson said the goal of the group is to advance economic development for Elburn, whether that is working to enhance current businesses or to motivate new businesses to come to town.

“We’ve got some things that businesses would want, a good customer base and a per capita income,” Anderson said.

In the meantime, the village continues to invest in its current downtown area. Village trustee Ken Anderson said the village is fortunate to still have some of the old structures in the downtown area, and said it will be important to continue to invest in upgrading and modernizing the streetscape along Main Street.

The village’s Facade Improvement Program is a fund with money set aside to assist in paying for improvements made to the exterior of commercial establishments within the Old Town Elburn Business District. The village will provide up to a maximum of one-half of the cost of improvements up to $5,000 and up to 20 percent of the facade reimbursement or $1,000 for architectural services.

Eddie Gaedel’s, because the owners of the building and the business are the same, received a total of $10,000 to upgrade the front of its business in 2013.

Willrett plans to apply for $100,000 in Kane County Riverboat Funds in 2014 to finance a central business streetscape project, which would be used for new street lamps, benches, planters and trash receptacles for the downtown Main Street area.

Willrett said that this remodeling effort, together with new sidewalks planned for both Main and First streets, would go a long way to create a renewed and welcoming look to the downtown business district.

According to Willrett, the village is committed to its central business district on Main Street. Although there will be pockets of commercial development within Elburn Station, there is not a Main Street within the Shodeen development, and Elburn’s central business district will always remain on Main Street, she said.

Village trustee Ken Anderson said that trees and green infrastructure are critical parts of what continues to make Elburn a desirable place to live. Best management practices, including narrower roads and more permeable surfaces, as well as streetscapes lined with trees, will be long-lasting assets to the village.

According to Patzelt, 160 trees were planted this past fall within the Elburn Station development, which contains over 110 acres of parks and green open space with miles of recreational paths.

Village President Anderson said he recognizes that transit is an issue, and he is looking to bring a pedestrian bridge to town that will connect the train station and the surrounding development with the village’s downtown area. Shodeen developer Patzelt has agreed to a financial contribution for the pedestrian-only overpass over the railroad tracks along the westerly edge of the Elburn Station Development.

Patzelt said that the proposed pedway would be a vital link between the old and the new of Elburn Station to Elburn’s downtown, as well as Village Hall, the Town and Country Public Library in Elburn and Public Works.

Dave said that Elburn will also benefit from the planned full interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 88, which should bring commerce and people to the village. East-west roads such as Route 38, 64 and Keslinger provide viable transportation to and from the village.

In addition, he said, Elburn has a great opportunity with the Metra station locating within the village. The Union Pacific has also petitioned for a third rail that would go through Elburn, from Chicago to Omaha.

The wild card may be Route 47, a state highway over which the village doesn’t have any control. IDOT has begun widening Route 47 south of town, as well as north of town, around Huntley, Ill.

Dave said he doesn’t see how IDOT would be able to widen Route 47 through Elburn, especially with the at-grade railroad crossing.

“I’m not as clear on that as I’d like to be,” Dave said. “IDOT will have to make that decision. They are tearing half the town down in Yorkville.”

Business owners along Main Street would be impacted should Route 47 (Main Street) be widened through town.

Ream’s Elburn Market owner Randy Ream, who purchased the parking lot across the street from his store with the possibility that the market could expand on that property, said he is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Route 47.

“Will they take away the parking like they did in Huntley?” he said. “That’s way out of my control. At least now I have parking.”

The Elburn and Countryside Fire District has plans for a new fire station on the north side of Route 38, providing better access to Route 38, 47 and Anderson Road, as well as more room in which to grow.

Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan hopes to break ground on the new station in the spring of 2014. It will replace the current building, which the district has outgrown.

Callaghan said that the district, which not only covers Elburn, but also Campton Hills, parts of Virgil, Lily Lake and Wasco, will do its best to stay ahead of growth, and provide the best service for its constituents.

“We’ve got some challenges, mostly financial issues and needs that have to be met,” Village President Anderson said. “We’ve got to pay for them.”

The current big-ticket item, not related to future growth, is the upgrade to the village’s wastewater treatment plant. The village will pay off the cost of the project, $7.5 million, over the next 20 years.

Anderson said that the new people moving in to the village seem to be pretty nice, and they are working hard to fit in. The new residents he has met through the Elburn Lions Club are anxious and willing to help out.

In addition to the very active Lions Club, which contributes greatly to the village and beyond, Dave said that the biggest thing that Elburn has going for it is the parental involvement with their children’s activities.

“That’s what makes Elburn Elburn,” he said. “In other towns, mom and dad drop their kids off at activities and drive away; in Elburn, the parents coach, they teach, they’re involved. We’ve got tremendous baseball, football and soccer programs. In the Elburn Days Parade, there’s as many parents as there are kids.”

Anderson said that the excellent school system is another plus for the village.

“Our kids do well at college and beyond,” he said. “Also, the number of kids that graduate and come back to live here—that says a lot about the community. I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else.”

“We’ll still be a viable community 20 to 30 years from now,” he said.

PART ONE: Memories of Elburn past

PART TWO: Elburn grows up