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Top headlines: Looking back at Downers Grove's biggest stories in 2014

Look back at Downers Grove’s biggest stories

Published: Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 9:11 a.m. CST
Caption
(Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com)
Bob Peterson, owner of Leibundguth Moving and Storage, talks over the summer about some of the area that he does the upkeep for in front of the painted sign on the back of his building.
Caption
(Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com)
The property at 942 Maple Ave. in Downers Grove, known as the Edwards House, is an 1890s Queen Anne-style Victorian home and is listed in the village's historical property survey as architecturally significant.
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(Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com)
A canoe is one of the few practical ways to cross 2nd Street in Downers Grove, east of Florence Avenue, after floods hit the area in April 2013.

DOWNERS GROVE – As the new year nears, it’s time to revisit what made 2014 memorable. From stories regarding the local stormwater fee to renovations at the local library and hospital, this year’s top stories will live on long after the ball drops next week.

1. Out with the old

What happened:Plans for the Marquis on Maple five-story condominium to be built on Maple Avenue received the village’s stamp of approval Dec. 16. The developer has proposed to build a 136,000-square-foot, 55-unit building at 936-942 Maple Ave. Residents had spoken out strongly against the development, citing the inappropriate size for the neighborhood, traffic and safety concerns, in addition to the potential razing of a historic Queen-Anne style Victorian home known as the Edwards House. Currently, a plan is underway to try and move the house before construction on the development begins in the spring.

Quote of note:“I think there’s little disagreement amongst anybody in this room that the Edwards House, if at all possible, should be preserved.” Mayor Martin Tully

1890s The era in which the Edwards House was built

2. Moving on?

What happened: Two Town Hall meetings were hosted in December to provide information to residents on a proposed facilities project expected to cost $52 million. A leaking skylight and space constraints in the Downers Grove Police Station, as well as inefficient and outdated HVAC systems for both Village Hall and the police station, were issues pointed out to residents during a facilities tour. The Downers Grove for Responsible Government coalition has galvanized with a petition drive to place a referendum question on the April 7 ballot pertaining to this subject.

Quote of note: “We’ve been looking at this issue for a long time. That study came up with a set of plans with new police station new Village Hall, but then the Great Recession put everything on hold. We are now forced to look at the issue with a fresh set of eyes.” Mayor Martin Tully

40K Approximate square footage for the proposed new village hall

3. Water woes

What happened: Houses of worship and nonprofits in Downers Grove will not have to pay the village stormwater utility fee, effective Jan. 1. On Nov. 11, the village council voted 5-2 to pass an ordinance lifting the fee, which charges property owners a fee calculated by the amount of impervious surface area on a lot, from nonprofits. Churches had been protesting the utility fee, saying it cuts into the services they provide to residents of the community.

Quote of note: “These are dollars that would be coming in to help ameliorate stormwater problems here in Downers Grove. If we don’t act to replace that revenue, we are going to see a reduction in maintenance activity and a reduction in capital activity.” Commissioner Greg Hose on voting against lifting the fee

22 Number of houses of worship exempt from the stormwater utility fee

4. Fight on

What happened:The village is enforcing a new sign ordinance after a nine-year grace period. The ordinance only allows business signs to face driveable right-of-ways, like roads, and not train tracks, like the Metra/BNSF line. The ordinance also doesn’t allow painted wall signs outside downtown. Robert Peterson’s Leibundguth Moving and Storage’s building is not located in the downtown business district and the back of his building faces the Metra tracks. He also has a sign advertising his business painted on the back of his building. After losing his final appeal with the village to keep his sign, Peterson filed a complaint against the village Dec. 8 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Peterson said the sign ordinance violates his First Amendment right to free speech.

Quote of note: “I am here again to try and survive. They have the power to do something and they won’t do anything.” Leibundguth Moving and Storage owner Robert Patterson

1928 The year Leibundguth Moving and Storage opened its doors in Downers Grove

5. Doctor charged

What happened:A Downers Grove physician who had been practicing medicine in the village for about 30 years was charged with 17 felony counts of possession and dissemination of child pornography in June. Edward J. McMenamin, 67, 4221 Saratoga Ave., Downers Grove, faced five counts of dissemination of child pornography, each Class X felonies, and 12 Class 2 felony charges of possession of child pornography. The case is ongoing, according to Paul Darrah spokesman for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office. A status hearing is scheduled Jan. 8, 2015.

Quote of note: “To our knowledge, Dr. McMenamin has not been involved in any inappropriate acts with his patients. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.” Advocate Medical Group manager Gerry O’Keefe

30 Years in prison McMenamin could face if he is found guilty on all counts

6. Wild winter

What happened:January 2014 brought in an arctic blast that blew in from Alaska, keeping high temperatures well below zero. The snow, ice and freezing temps took a toll on everyone, from residents to public works staff who worked to clear the roads. The village spent $438,000 of the 2014 snow removal budget of $637,000 in January, according to Village Finance Director Judy Buttny. She said in a normal winter, it would have spent about $191,360 in January.

Quote of note: “Clearly like other towns, we have been expending a lot of resources in response to the weather and the road conditions.”Village Manager David Fieldman

69 Percentage of the village’s snow removal budget that was spent during the month of January alone

7. New library digs

What happened:The Downers Grove Public Library underwent a six-month renovation that cost $2.6 million and created several new small-group meeting and study spaces, a new teen center and a new space for science, technology, engineering and math. Light fixture replacement, new carpeting throughout the 67,000-square-foot building and new furnishings also were installed.

Quote of note: “We have been getting wonderful community response and we enjoy working in the fresh new space. It is a real credit to the people of Downers Grove that they have stuck right with us through six months of pretty active construction inside a building that never closed.” Library director Rick Ashton

$200K Amount provided for the renovation by the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation, a separate, charitable organization

8. Hospital expansion

What happened:Advocate Health Care announced plans to build a $78 million expansion of its Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Construction of the three-floor private patient room bed tower is proposed to be built above the existing critical care pavilion on the north end of the hospital campus on Highland Avenue. Upon completion in late 2016 or early 2017, all of Good Samaritan Hospital’s existing semiprivate rooms will be converted into private rooms, resulting in an all-private room campus.

Quote of note:“An all-private room hospital is really what the community … expects in DuPage County. So we’re excited about that.” Hospital president Dave Fox

96 Number of rooms planned in the new tower

9. Officer honored

What happened:The Downers Grove Village Council recognized the 40th anniversary of Downers Grove Police Officer Richard Barth’s killing with a moment of silence during a village council meeting in March. On March 18, 1974, Barth responded to what appeared to be a “routine call” of two suspicious youths in what is now known as Hoopers Hollow Park. He was questioning the youths when one of the subjects, Paul Fontani, fatally shot Barth.

Quote of note:“We remember him and celebrate his life and take lessons from his death and appreciate the service he has given us, as well as other first responders, both before and now and in the future here in Downers Grove and elsewhere.” Mayor Martin Tully

2 The number of suspects arrested and convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Barth

10. Chicken champions

What happened: After more than a year of discussion, the village council passed an ordinance allowing more residents to keep backyard chickens in May. The new ordinance reduces the mandatory property line setbacks for a chicken coop from 50 feet to 7 feet. Under the old ordinance, there were only about 500 parcels in the village that would be able to have the birds, according to village documents.

Quote of note:“We’ve been talking bout it for about a year and half. I think that it’s important that we come to a conclusion and give it a trial.” Commissioner Geoff Neustadt

$84 Cost of a permit to have chicken coops on property

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