Save Buffalo Grove, a group of citizens opposed to the sale of the Buffalo Grove Golf Course for a downtown development, has started a petition for a community-wide referendum on the plan.
The group's online petition, which outlines the downtown development proposal, states that "citizens of Buffalo Grove are concerned about the fiscal cost to taxpayers, the environmental impact, and potential detrimental effects on the quality of life that such a project would pose on Buffalo Grove residents."
Residents and business owners who sign the petition are asking that the village "conduct a community-wide, binding referendum (a vote) prior to any project approval, sale of any property, or the expenditure of any taxpayer dollars on the downtown Buffalo Grove proposal by CRM Properties Group or any other developer."
“The downtown project, as proposed by [the developer], has tremendous implications for our taxes, environment, business climate, zoning, housing, education, roads and public safety,” Dan Petersen, organizer of Save Buffalo Grove, said in a statement released by the group Friday. “These issues, given the magnitude of this proposed plan, need to come before the community at large.”
Village President Jeff Braiman said Friday morning that he was not aware of the petition, but he called the action "premature."
"In order to take it to a referendum, I think you have to know what the question is," he said. Village officials have met with the developer to discuss topics such as financing, but no decisions have been made. It's possible that the proposal could change or that the parties won't come to an agreement at all, he said.
Even later, Braiman said, the village might not hold a referendum.
"You get into situations where I think you have to rely on the good faith of the people who are making the decisions. We spend money all the time," he said, referencing specific items such as ash tree replacement as well as the general ones such as the village's annual budget. "At what point do you start to ask for a referendum on everything? And that's a difficult question to answer."
Save Buffalo Grove held its first meetings in October and November, and plans additional meetings in early 2013. These will include discussions with the Village Board members, and public meetings with the citizens of the community. The group plans to bring in experts to advise them on the various issues, it said.
"Public resources shouldn't be used to prop up a risky private development," Brian Costin, a member of the group, said in the group's statement. "Buffalo Grove taxpayers spent millions to build the municipal campus and golf course, and it shouldn't cost taxpayers a single dime to demolish and replace these valuable assets. We are getting organized to make sure the village addresses these concerns, and we will be conducting our own independent research to inform the public of our findings."
“As a grassroots group, we want to be involved with the village leadership, working with them, not against them,” said Leon Gopon, another member of the group. “Our trustees are just in the early stages of considering the downtown plan, but things can sometimes ramp up quickly, leaving many citizens in the dark. We want to make sure there is community awareness and involvement in the process and decision-making.”
“The trustees may believe that only residents surrounding the golf course are concerned about the downtown plan, but I think this is an incorrect assumption,” Save Buffalo Grove member Marilyn Weisberg said. “This new downtown plan stirs up concerns among most residents about what happened to the BG Town Center, how it was planned, how it has evolved, and how the village lost control of it. People don’t want to see this happening all over again. Plus, anyone who drives along Lake-Cook Road will be affected — this is a huge number of commuters and residents."
Braiman emphasized that the development is not "a done deal."
"They'll have their chance to comment, those in favor and against," he said.
The next step is for the village and the developer to enter into an agreement that identifies tasks and timelines for establishing finance and marketing plans. That's expected to come before the Village Board in January, he said.
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