PACE Bus Circulator Study

There are not direct links to this, but here’s the PACE BUS Circulator Study. Click on Project Reports, then scroll down to Service Specification Reports. Downers Grove has the full report. Chapter Three has the estimated costs, and estimated sources of revenue, such as they are. Read the rest of this entry »


2008 CIP – Scope and Design Open House

The Village has more projects than stormwater projects this year. On a Tuesday when the council did not meet, members of Public Works showed residents what else is coming for the 2008 construction season.

The weather turned pretty lousy by 7pm, but there was pretty good attendance anyway.

I hoped DG’s newest news man RonBurgandy would be there, or even say, a columnist from the Sun, but there was no press at all. I took these pictures on my phone, so the light is suspect and makes everyone look shiny.

I didn’t think to take down names, so this amiable guy in the dark shirt is Bike Path Guy. He talked about the first two phases of signage and stripage for designated bikeways, so he’s also Sign Guy.
It’s tough adding in bikeways in DG because our streets typically don’t have the width in the older parts of town, and there isn’t much off-street path opportunity. Signage is important to alert drivers that bikers are around. Most pathways will be marked with signs every 220 feet or so. The two guys in the sign department will be very busy this year.

As usual, there were several staffers on hand to answer any questions. Deputy Village Manager Dave Fieldman was in good spirits. Usually he’s the guy who answers a lot of questions at council meetings (although Tom Dabareiner, Director of Community Development, is giving him a run for his money lately).

There were several PW guys there handling questions, so he had a light load for a change.

Like I said, my phone cam makes everyone look shiney, although the focus is always perfect. Yeah, Dave looked a little, I don’t know, blurry.

I talked briefly with Ms. Weaver to continue lobbying for saving our mature, non-ash, non-invasive parkway trees from straight line sidewalks (seeTrees Winning New Friends at Public Works ), and the Sidewalk Guys have the message to save every tree possible from now moving forward. Just in a three block run we saved 18 trees. Have to say, if she keeps to her plan we’ll save several hundred trees before we finish sidewalks in DG and get back up to speed on infrastructure. That matters.

L-to-R Village Manager Cara Pavlicek, Plan Commissioner Greg Beggs, and Public Works Director Robin Weaver.

Like I said, I didn’t think to write down names of people, so I only know the well-known names, so I don’t know who this guy is . Said his name was Ron something…

I’m kidding. Mayor Sandack was all smiles too, and took time to talk with residents and thank them for coming out in such bad weather.

Trees Winning New Friends at Public Works

Mark Thoman

Sat, Dec 15, 2007 at 4:16 PM

To: Robin Weaver , Kerstin von der Heide

Cc: “Pavlicek, Cara”

Ms. Weaver, Ms. von der Heide, et all,

I live at the SE corner of 61st and Carpenter Streets, which will undergo a major multi-month construction project starting this spring. My reason for writing (I will follow up with you, Ms. Weaver, if possible prior to Council’s Tuesday meeting), is to see if it is possible to meet with yourself and our Village Forester Ms. von der Heide, and whomever else you feel would be an invested party, for the purpose of discussing modifications to sidewalk placement along Carpenter.

I am not protesting sidewalks, and do not seek to delay or prevent their installation. What I do seek is to keep intact as many non-ash trees along Carpenter as is possible, and to make this an ongoing objective for all future sidewalk projects. This will require rethinking the typical linear 5′ wide sidewalk placed 1′ off property lines. Ms. von der Heide is aware when the sidewalk was placed along 61st Street, that I was in favor of the sidewalk, and devastated by the lack of thinking that went into removal of a 40 year old healthy maple 16′ from the street. When the snow clears you will still be able to plainly see where the botched trunk grind/sodding has resulted in a dead depression in my front yard, and how unnecessary the removal really was.

Moving forward, we as a village must place a prime value to our remaining non-ash, non-invasive mature tree inventory, and be creative in replacing the ash population that we will lose as quickly and affordable as possible.

What I ask the village to consider, and this project can serve as the test bed, is to re-engineer the sidewalk component, to rethink the placement so as to avoid taking down trees.

I’ve looked at the plans- the sidewalks are the typical straight lines, and it looks like they will take out significant numbers of non–ash trees and shrubs. These trees contribute to minimizing the extensive storm water problems my neighbors have to the north on Carpenter, and help keep water from cascading down onto my neighbors to the south. Their loss would be a tragedy, but I believe it can be reduced to an absolute bare minimum by thinking it through starting now, several months ahead of the project. Simple judicious planning, open minded engineering, and sensitive project management can avoid the prospect of any street losing fully grown, mature non-ash tree stock, even with sidewalks being installed for children and pedestrian safety. Having a sidewalk meander slightly as it travels down a parkway is a small price to pay in order to skip 40 years spent growing a replacement tree canopy.

To that end, existing mature non-ash trees on public property and parkways must take priority over future planned sidewalks. This will take a different mindset than what has been normal in the past, but our tree future is not normal, and we cannot take out trees that take 40 years to replace, simply so a sidewalk can be laid in a straight line.

I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and whom you think appropriate at a mutually convenient time to discuss this matter in more detail, and I am willing to volunteer my time to assist in any way I am able, to effect a positive change in the sidewalk process that results in saving non-ash trees.

I don’t have Kerstin’s email. I guessed at her e-address, and would appreciate you forwarding this to her if I missed.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to meeting with you on this very important issue.

Best Regards,

Mark Thoman
1109 61st Street,
Downers Grove, IL 60516-1820
HP 630-852-7260 WP 630-515-1186
630-515-1189 M 630-750-5179

Mon, Dec 17, 2007 at 9:04 AM

To: Mark Thoman

Good luck on this one. I noticed at our old house, when they ran the sidewalk through, they whacked the beautiful 20’ Burr Oak that I had nurtured from a small sprig. And from your personal experience, there doesn’t seem to be much sensitivity on this issue at Village Hall.

From the 12/18/07 Village Council Meeting minutes:

“Mr. Thoman said he attended a meeting last week with the Village Forester who made a presentation regarding the potential Emerald Ash Borer infestation, saying that this will wipe out most of our ash trees. He said the Village needs an aggressive plan for tree replacement.

Trouble will come with the installation of sidewalks. He reviewed the process for installing sidewalks, saying that the retention of trees is a higher priority than ruler-straight sidewalks. His area is scheduled for sidewalk installation, which will mean removing a number of trees and shrubs. Installing a meandering sidewalk, rather than ruler-straight, would allow some trees to be saved.”

Weaver, Robin

Wed, Jan 2, 2008 at 4:49 PM

To: Mark Thoman

Cc: “Pavlicek, Cara” , “von der Heide, Kerstin” , “Millette, Mike”

Hello Mr. Thoman. I wanted to let you know that we haven’t forgotten your e-mail request for additional care and saving of trees along our projects, especially since we will be losing a substantial number of trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Between snow and ice control activities and vacation schedules we haven’t had a chance yet to review your specific area and the work scheduled there. Within the next two weeks we should be able to review the site and the plans and discuss them as they relate to tree preservation. I will get back to you at that time.

Robin Weaver
Interim Director of
Public Works
Village of Downers Grove

Mark Thoman

Thu, Jan 3, 2008 at 9:14 AM

To: “Weaver, Robin”

Cc: “Pavlicek, Cara” , “von der Heide, Kerstin” , “Millette, Mike”

Ms. Weaver:

Thank you for the update. At this point with the EAB, it should come as no surprise my very strong support for Ms. von der Heide and her tree ordinance. Other communities in the Chicago area (and elsewhere) have shown that a tight tree ordinance can be a very positive addition to the community. It is critical that, if as a village we are to regulate protection of non-ash, non-invasive tree species, we set the regulatory bar very high for the private sector by how we treat existing tree stock on public land, and that means top priority to keeping existing trees intact and unharmed.

Thanks again for keeping me informed.

Best Regards,

Mark Thoman
1109 61st Street,
Downers Grove, IL 60516-1820
630-852-7260 WP 630-515-1186
630-515-1189 M 630-750-5179

Weaver, Robin

Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 4:28 PM

To: Mark Thoman

Hello Mr. Thoman. In our internal joint review of the plans for work on
Carpenter Street we determined that the plans call for the removal of 20 trees. There is room to instead locate the sidewalk further into the Right-Of-Way (closer to the street) and avoid almost all of the trees.
It is likely that two trees will be removed. So, design changes are being made to the plans. We will also take precautions to protect the trees, just as we require private developers to protect public trees. Now that we’ve enacted an internal process to jointly review all the capital projects in advance of design, our work will be better planned, have fewer conflicts and be more efficient by incorporating capital and operating considerations.

Your interest in this project and interest generally in our parkway tree program is appreciated.

Robin Weaver
Interim Director of Public Works

Silver Lining to Economic Trouble

Interest rates are ratcheting down as the Fed tries to avoid a total economy meltdown.

That’s mixed news for us here in DG as staff and council wind their way along the stormwater issue. Bids will go out for a financial consultant to shepherd bringing $25 million in bond debt onto the books for stormwater projects.

Interest rates, but not bond rates, are at significant lows.

On-Line CRC Now Off-Line

“The Community Response Center (CRC) was created to improve communication between the Mayor, Village Council, Village staff and residents. The goal of the CRC is to enhance the Village’s effectiveness in dealing with concerns and requests. Maintaining an open line of communication with residents and businesses is a top priority of the Village Council.”

“The Community Response Center (CRC) uses a database that allows the Village to document concerns and complaints received from residents and track the follow-up and actions associated with them.”

Through November 2007 there have been 3,319 contact records for the village via the CRC.

The on-line CRC is a pretty cool tool. Using the Trackwise CAPA software , any contact to the center receives a number that allows for the record to be tracked as it winds it’s way to resolution. Several residents used the CRC to report multiple building violations at 4929 Forest, along with dozens of other inquiries monthly. Other high volume times are after storms, reporting flooding and tree damage.

The “Residents Guidebook to Residential Construction”, written by residents John Scofield and Charlie Smart, provides detailed instructions how to use the on-line CRC to the residents benefit. They also give hands on directions how to call in and email the CRC.

The on-line CRC is down. I don’t know when it happened, but you call in, or email the village.

With the CRC going off-line, that process just got less transparent.

I emailed the CRC and asked when it would be back up. I also email Liangfu Wu, Director of DG’s Information Systems Department, with the same question. I’ll post whatever response I get.

Trending the Future of Code Enforcement

A lot of people thought 4929 Forest unapproved building alterations were no big deal; not worth pursuing. No health hazard or safety issues were involved, and had builder Michael Prince come before village council (as he had twice already) asking permission in advance of changes (as required), they would have been granted.

Commissioner Waldack had reservations and made a motion that the walls be changed back to the original brick masonry. It died quietly for lack of a second, with no discussion about issuing 4929 Forest an occupancy permit with the condition Mike Prince not start another building until he finished changing back to the approved and spec’d masonry walls on this building.

Read the rest of this entry »

C&D Wrap-Up

Tuesday should be a wrap: council should unanimously approve staff’s definition of a “recycling collection center” that specifically excludes C&D facilities and transfer stations. It effectively mirrors state statute.

I tried to personally thank those who helped along the way; it was a very wide group. Whether they spoke, actively helped me, passively helped, just expressed an opinion for or against what I was doing, or let me sit down and explain why state statutes in this case should be observed and adhered to, they all became part of steering the village back on track in a somewhat open and transparent process. I liken it to steering the Titanic safely away from the icebergs.

Seniors at Cameo, led by Larraine Tresnak and Barbara McLellan
Downers Grove Coalition for Managed Redevelopment
Downers Grove Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Downers Grove Watch
Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation
Pierce Downer Heritage Alliance
Village of Downers Grove Office of the Village Manager
Morton Arboretum

Downers Grove Village Council

DuPage County Forest Preserve District
Village of Downers Grove Community Development Department

In particular:
Andy Clark. He pushed me to get into it rather than simply complain about it.
Gordon Goodman. He reminded me to keep an open ear to divergent opinion, and keep it civil. I did, even when others baited me, and that helped both broaden and sharpen my research and presentation materials.
Brian Krajewski. His opposition to the project site when mayor stalled it long enough for me to begin getting a handle on where staff went wrong, and to build a case for protecting residents and businesses by getting it right.
Ron Sandack. As mayor he allowed most of my meeting comments to go way past 5 minutes, and allowed considerable latitude in my comments.
John Schofield. He acted the ‘devil’s advocate’ to keep me on task, and he punched holes in weak parts of what I was doing, so what remained was logical, rational, and robust.

Tom Sisal. He told me to
learn the pertinent zoning and environmental law, i.e., know what I’m talking about and why.
Marilyn Hannapel. I’m not 100% sure: she was the little grandma who came up to me after a Plan Commission meeting (that didn’t have a good outcome for residents), and asked me, “When do we count?” It took persistence, but you count.

1/17/08 Council Vote Update:
5-1 it passed. The sole Nay vote, Commissioner Neustadt, I spoke with after the meeting, and I understand the reasoning behind the Nay vote as he explained it to me. From Elaine Johnson’s DG Report:

“My concern is that by amending the definition of the “recycling collection facilities” we will exclude the construction and demolition debris facility from the zoning ordinance. I feel that with the new buffers in place that limit the location of recycling facilities as well as the special use process the village has the ability to review each potential application for a special use. By excluding a specific facility or business the village may be open for a law suit.”

I don’t agree, but I understand.