Government is always a top news generator from year to year, and 2012 has been no different, from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill., to St. Charles, Ill.
Nationally, it was the presidential and congressional elections, and the economic. Statewide, pension reform and government finances were among the hot-button issues of the past year.
In St. Charles, city government activity also drew what was sometimes intense scrutiny during 2012.
Two issues revolved around developers, another revolves around future development. Construction zones — particularly for the city’s Red Gate Bridge and continuing work by the state on Main Street/Route 64 — dominated the landscape for motorists throughout the year. City officials kept a wary eye on downtown liquor establishments throughout much of 2012, as well. Another key event was Mayor Donald DeWitte’s announcement that after nearly 20 years in p[public office, he would not seek re-election.
The St. Charles City Council raised some eyebrows on Dec. 11 while meeting as its Planning and Development Committee. At that meeting, aldermen voted unanimously to recommend rejection of a developer’s request to add a residential component to the Corporate Reserve project. Neighbors had opposed the move, largely because of the proposal to add apartments to what originally had been approved as a business park. The developer ultimately withdrew its application, avoiding a formal City Council vote that would have prohibited the proposal’s reintroduction for at least a year.
- Dec. 11, 2012: Corporate Reserve Falls in Unanimous Vote
- Dec. 20, 2012: Corporate Reserve Developer Withdraws Application
At the same meeting, aldermen voted 7-2 to recommend against a tax-increment financing that would have offset about $6 million in costs for the proposed $40 million to $45 million project. In this case, neighbors objected to the number of homes in the development and the resulting, but there were some who also were outspoken against the use of a TIF, fearing that it would add to the city’s debt liability.
The developer has asked the city for additional time to explore its options rather than face a formal City Council vote that could bar it from being considered again for a full year.
Another nail-biter for some residents this year was work on the 2013 draft Comprehensive Plan, which has been the subject of the meetings and public hearings conducted over the past 18 months by a special task force appointed to draw up the document.
Considered a guide for future development, the process of crafting the plan appeared to draw much public attention, including scrutiny by opponents of the Corporate Reserve and Lexington Club developments — and for largely the same reasons.
The task force worked on drafting the plan for 18 months before handing it off to the city in December. The next phase of the process includes review by the St. Charles Plan Commission, which is scheduled to take up the issue in January.
- Dec. 13, 2012: Panel Ends Work on St. Charles Comprehensive Plan
DeWitte Won’t Seek Re-Election
After three terms as 3rd Ward alderman and two as mayor, Donald DeWitte announced that he would not seek re-election, citing the demands of a new professional position.
DeWitte presided over the ribbon-cutting for the Red Gate Bridge, a project which had been discussed for nearly a century before it became the largest public works infrastructure initiative in the city’s history. The bridge opening is among a list of accomplishments the mayor cites during his time on the council. His resignation sparked immediate speculation about who would succeed him. Four candidates have queued up on the ballot for the April 9 municipal election.
- Aug. 31, 2012: Mayor DeWitte Won’t Seek Third Term
Red Gate Bridge
Dec. 15 marked a milestone for the Red Gate Bridge project, which at mid-month opened its two lanes to vehicle traffic, offering a new north-end Fox River crossing that proponents say will provide quicker response times for emergency services, unite the community and offer residents greater convenience in getting across town, and eventually draw traffic from the already congested Main Street Bridge in downtown St. Charles.
- Dec. 16, 2012: Red Gate Bridge Opens on St. Charles’ North End
Main Street/Route 64: Road Work Ahead
The road reconstruction project on the city’s main east-west corridor is at a lull for now, with all lanes open except for periodic closures during the winter months. But, come spring, expect full-bore work to continue as the Illinois Department of Transportation begins the final phase of the $49 million project.
While the project is a state project, the city has head a substantive role in the endeavor, including keeping residents — and Main Street businesses — up to date on construction activities. Work is expected to resume in March and project completion is forecast in August 2013.
- Dec. 14, 2012: Route 64 Work Gears Up for Traffic Pattern Shift