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Elmhurst City Council votes to move Hot Dog Lady

ELMHURST – After a two-week delay, the Elmhurst City Council voted 10 to 4 Monday night to eliminate the self-proclaimed Hot Dog Lady of Elmhurst's current location at York Street and the Schiller Passage from the list of approved pushcart food vendor locations.

"There is no defensible reason that would disallow me to be on the west side of York Road at Schiller," Pamela Uslander said.

Uslander, of Bensenville, has called Elmhurst's downtown home to her hot dog cart for the last 23 years.

Norman Leader, Second Ward Alderman and committee vice chairman, said Uslander has been in her current spot for 10 years according to city records, but Uslander maintained the position was her original location.

Uslander has been at odds with the Public Affairs and Safety Committee since late February. The committee's report cited congestion and potential construction as reasons for eliminating the positions.

"I continue to ask what is the safety issue," said Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram, who considered A-frame signs on the York Street sidewalk to be more of a hazard.

As a member of the council ten years ago when the pushcart food vendor was initially put in place, Bram said the four locations were chosen because they were deemed safe.

He showed the council photos of a Nu Crepes sandwich board in place of Uslander's cart and patrons using the walking passage. Bram asked why tables could be set up in the passage for patron to sit at, but the hot dog cart was an issue.

Leader said the photos didn't show other items surrounding the debated spot including six planters, two trees, a tall sign, two benches and a trash can.

Not convinced, Bram, motioned to amend the report to keep the spot until adjacent construction commences and the location is deemed a safety hazard, but the motion failed with a 2 to 12 vote.

"It is the building of that garage that is the justification for ongoing congestion that will be at Schiller," Leader said.

He saw no reason to delay the change since the city had already committed to the project although the height had not yet been decided.

After the council approved the report, it suspended the rules later in the meeting amended the city ordinance to be effective immediately.

The ordinance eliminates Uslander's previous location as well as the southeast corner of Addison Avenue and Second Street from the list of approved locations.

The two remaining spots are 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. 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.

"She's in the full flush of popularity. She's in the full flush of publicity. All we are asking her to do is move across the street, nothing more, nothing less," Leader said.

City Manger Jim Grabowski said after the meeting the city offered Uslander two opportunities to occupy that position in the mean time while her current spot was under discussion, but Uslander didn't want it.

First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf surmized the reason the Hot Dog Lady is the only pushcart food vendor in Elmhurst is because her spot is the only attractive location.

Despite Uslander's petition of 1,060 signatures and public coments calling her long-time position in town a tradition, the council approved the ordinance changes.

"I'm a fixture in the city, and I believe the people enjoy having me in the downtown area," Uslander said.

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Business concerns

Others saw the ordinance change as more than moving Uslander across the street. During public comment, Elmhurst resident Mike Baker, suggested the city's approval of a City Centre sponsored Rock the Block Party that would close part of York and Schiller Streets in September didn't show concern for possible construction in the downtown.

"It made me wonder if it's not so much what the permit is applied for in Elmhurst, but who is actually requesting it," Baker said.

In additon to approving a report to allow the block party, the council also voted in favor of a report granting a $250,000 sales tax incentive for iMotorSports, Inc., an upscale used motorcycle store that opened in Elmhurst in last month after spending more that the total incentive in renovations to its 334 West Grand Avenue location.

First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf drew a comparison between the businesses the city supports with sales tax incentives and the Hot Dog Lady who wouldn't qualifiy for many of the city's business incentives like a grant for facade improvements.

"We – the City Council – make a big show talking about how friendly Elmhurst is for business...It's clear to me that we're only friendly to businesses we love or that we have some personal relationship with," Gutenkfauf said.

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How they voted

on the ordinance change (Bram, who voted against the report, later voted in favor of the ordinance after the report was approved.)

Ayes: Deuter, Dunn, Leader, Hipskind, York, Levin, Healy, Honquest, Kennedy, Mulliner, Wagner

Nays: Gutenkauf, Polomsky, Bram, Levin

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