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Elmhurst City Council postpones Hot Dog Lady vote

Pamela Uslander, the self-proclaimed Hot Dog Lady of Elmhurst, asked the council not to eliminate her current spot from the city's approved pushcart vendor locations. (Mari Grigaliunas -
Pamela Uslander, the self-proclaimed Hot Dog Lady of Elmhurst, asked the council not to eliminate her current spot from the city's approved pushcart vendor locations. (Mari Grigaliunas -

ELMHURST – Pamela Uslander, The Hot Dog Lady of Elmhurst, left Monday's Elmhurst City Council meeting without an answer to her petition to keep her spot downtown.

"The impact of what we are doing is being greatly exaggerated by some people," said Norman Leader, Public Affairs and Safety Committee vice chairman and Second Ward alderman.

The council voted 7 to 5 to delay voting on the committee report that eliminates two of the four existing push cart food vendor locations, including the spot at York Street and the Schiller Passage where Uslander said she's sold hot dogs for 23 years.

The two remaining spots would be the east side of Spring Road at the Illinois Prairie Path and the northeast corner of York and Schiller streets near the City Centre fountain. City Manager Jim Grabowski explained that the 2004 ordinance states the spot near the fountain is to be no less than 55 feet from York Street and no less than 4 feet from Schiller Street. That would put a vendor in the walkway on the south side of the fountain.

"I don't see how if it's between the fountain and the sidewalk, it's a better location because now you're blocking access on a fairly narrow area between the south end of the fountain and 4 feet off of Schiller Street," Fifth Ward alderman Scott Levin said.

Levin motioned for the council to delay a vote with the hopes that the committee would pull the report back to further explore the location at northeast corner of York and Schiller streets.

Mayor Steve Morley asked Leader if he would like to bring the report back to committee.

"I'm at a disadvantage because I have neither of my compatriots here," said Leader, who declined to take it back to committee.

Chairman Patrick Wagner and committee member Michael Honquest were both absent at Monday's meeting.

Third Ward alderman Michael Bram opposed postponing a vote on the report, asking if Uslander would be issued a permit in the mean time since she's already submitted an application and check to the city.

City Attorney Donald Storino told the council he would need to review the matter further to determine what would happen if the city issued the permit and then changed the ordinance.

"I want to remind everyone on the dais and in the audience that we're discussing someone's livelihood," Bram said.

Armed with a petition of 1,000 signatures, Pamela Uslander made her case for keeping her spot during the public comment portion of Monday's meeting.

"Relocation on the east side of York Road, I believe, will cause new grievances that might arise from some of the brick and mortar businesses, especially the restaurants," Uslander said about moving near the fountain surrounded by Buffalo Wild Wings, Meatheads and Chipotle.

Since late February, Uslander has been at odds with the Public Affairs and Safety Committee. The committee's report cited congestion and potential construction as reasons for eliminating the position at Schiller Passage and York Street as well as the southeast corner of Addison Avenue and Second Street from the list of approved locations.

"We're asking her to move from a congested alley entrance to an open site by the festive fountain plaza," Leader said.

Bram insisted he did not see safety concerns surrounding Uslander's current location, but did worry that A-frame sidewalk signs put out by other businesses in and around the location do threaten public safety.

Third Ward alderman Dannee Polomsky thought it important that the council look at the locations only and not at a particular vendor. Still, she did not see the safety concern with Uslander's current position.

"I don't see having a vendor operate in this position to pose any more of a hazard than a sidewalk sale," Polomsky said.

Elmhurst resident Tamara Brenner criticized the report's concern with potential construction in the area.

"What this city council does … is create permanent solutions for temporary problems," Brenner said.

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Next meeting

The Elmhurst City Council will reconsider the report at the April 21 meeting.

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