In Libertyville we are looking up every few moments to see what else has happened.
Last summer, without much ado, a sign was posted on an old playing field on the north side. A little time later, a huge scraping of topsoil appeared, mounded like a two-story pyramid of dark chocolate. It was soon iced with a frosty mantle of green weeds. Five condo buildings are soon to follow.
On the west side, a sign went up announcing a hearing about a corn field bordered by a tangled, but mature stand of 60-year-old trees. By October, the trees had come down. The plan calls for 148 homes.
Further south, another sign announced a hearing for a modest development of 19 houses over a small parcel of land and wetland.
Meanwhile there is a sign in front of the train station. It’s the site for a multi-residential complex that will make rail commuting an adventure in the future. Some 150 units will be in place to hear that lonesome whistle blow, as some 46 trains roll by every day.
All of these signs are caused by the popularity of a Village which has every reason to be proud. Founded in 1882, it was a remote outpost for Chicago travelers heading to Milwaukee.
Today it is a thriving, pretty town of 20,000 souls in the country, home to the #1 school district in Illinois, and #2 nationwide. It has a bustling main street that sees 23,000 cars daily, but still offers free two-hour parking on both sides, to visit the big-windowed, filigreed stores selling everything from $30,000 motor cycles to $10 hair cuts.
In the Village Center, residents lounge in a treed park hosting a vibrant, manicured rose garden, summer band concerts, lunches on the lawn, Thursday market and the view of a picturesque antiquity, the city father’s mansion now restored as a public museum. Hungry for knowledge? The library is right there. Just plain hungry? The Village lists over 70 restaurants and bars.
We are at the center of a giant societal magnet: everyone wants to live here. And that is the challenge. How do you keep that small town feel that brought you here 5, 25, or 75 years ago?
Fortunately, we have considerable oversight. The Village has a Plan which is the blueprint for planned growth. It has a commission that executes the Plan, and that includes sub commissions that monitor appearance and zone codes. Hardly a tree goes down or a roof goes up that doesn’t get a committee say-so first.
Still, none of these measures and controls work if we, the residents, don’t read those pesky little signs. Like fine print, they often signal bad news.
The trouble is, the signs keep popping up, like Village-sponsored graffiti, and our only choice is to pay attention. Which can be a full time job.
The Village Hall posts a schedule of committee meetings. There is at least one meeting every night, virtually all year. If one is diligent, the meetings could be met, except that the school boards have their monthly meetings too, so it’s difficult.
Meanwhile, the developers move in, longstanding property holders look to reap their reward, and the borders of our Village are eroded and pushed, like impacted molars, causing pain with every new sign.
We can’t stop progress. But we need to trust our Planners and Trustees to watch out for us. In return, we do need to show up when those signs pop up.
As the saying goes, “if you don’t go to the meeting, the meeting doesn’t go your way.”
The next Public Hearing for the Butterfield proposal is February 27th, at the high school, 7pm.
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