Open Village Hall


Making my opinion known at a recent Village meeting.

Making my opinion known at a recent Village meeting.

Long Grove is no different than any other municipality in our desire to make decisions that are in the best interests of the majority of our residents. And like other municipalities, we tend to see and hear from the same group of familiar faces at each and every Village Board meeting. While we sincerely appreciate the dedication and personal commitment of these individuals, it is not realistic to believe that the same handful of residents are consistently speaking for the other 8,000 members of our community.

Today, the Village launched a new online tool that we hope will make it easier for the majority of our residents to become more engaged with the Village Board. Peak Democracy is a non-partisan company with the mission of broadening civic engagement and building public trust in government. We have utilized their software to create an online forum in which all residents can weigh in on important current issues and post statements, which Village officials can read and consider as part of the decision making process. From time to time the Village will post topics for input over a specific period of time. Residents who participate can also have the ability to see what others are saying in the discussion. We are hopeful that this additional way of getting feedback from the residents will enable more community members to participate in the democratic process.

Please join in on our first topic, which is a short survey asking for your thoughts on our current Village of Long Grove communications and outreach efforts. Click here ( ) to go directly to the Open Town Hall site and complete the brief one-time registration. You will be asked to provide your name and address so that users and officials can know if statements are made from Long Grove residents. The current survey can be completed without your responses being publicly linked to your name. Peak Democracy has strict provisions in regards to confidentiality.

I hope many readers of this blog will join in the conversation. It would be a wonderful thing to see more of our residents making their opinions known about what is happening in our Village. I realize that in today’s world the demands on all of us are great. Many of the members of our community lack the time or ability to physically attend our Village Board meetings. Yet so many of you truly care about civic matters and the direction our elected officials take on important issues. We want to hear from you!


A Tale of Two Meetings

Long Grove Business and Community Partners Board Members (L to R) Marian Ward, John Kopecky and David Gayton.

Long Grove Business and Community Partners Board Members (L to R) Marian Ward, John Kopecky and David Gayton.

I attend many meetings each week serving as Village President, and last night I had two of them back to back. Early in the evening I attended the annual meeting of the Long Grove Business and Community Partners, best described as our historic downtown chamber of commerce. This group of dedicated volunteers is made up of merchants, residents, and property owners, who are responsible for organizing the major festivals held in Long Grove each year. In addition, they sponsor community events such as Irish Days, Do-it-Yourself Scarecrows, holiday carriage rides & carolers, and (new this year!) Craft Beer Days and Vintage Days. I don’t make it to their meetings every month but when I do, I am always amazed and appreciative of the time and energy these volunteers give to make our downtown something special–the “Long Grove” most visitors know and love.

2015 showed a positive upward trend for our downtown restaurants and many shops; proceeds for the organization are up as well. Nine new businesses opened last year including a new wine bar and two shops specializing in vintage decor. Currently we have 54 businesses in our historic downtown: (7) dining, (29) retail, and (18) service, including fine art and performing art schools. Opening soon is the highly anticipated Village Pizza & Ribs, and the Apple House will be making a comeback later this spring to the delight of many. My previous blog post on this went viral with over 4,500 shares and likes! See the link below for an article by Ronnie Wachter of the Chicago Tribune including an interview with the new tenant, John Bell:

Mary Ann Ullrich, owner of the Village Tavern, was excited to tell me of the recent upgrades she has been able to make to her business, made possible with the proceeds of their video gaming machines. I plan to stop by soon to check out the beautiful new carpeting. In addition to the board members pictured above, I want to give a shout-out to newly elected board members Paul Neumann of Viking Treasures and Matthew Potempa of Scout & Forge. They join President Ryan Messner, Treasurer Marsha Forsythe, Barbara Dibble, and Pam Sintetas. I know this team has great plans for 2016 and we heard a few preliminary details last night. Our recent community survey showed that Long Grove residents are in agreement by a large majority in their desire to see our downtown revitalized. My spirits were lifted with hopes for the future after leaving the LGBCP Annual meeting.

From there, I headed to Village Hall to preside over the twice-monthly Village Board meeting. An acrimonious discussion ensued over an agenda item. Luckily, despite what was predicted on the internet, I did not have to break a tie when the vote came around. But by all accounts it was ugly. A Tale of Two Meetings.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”–Charles Dickens

Keeping the Odds in Our Favor

Another tie was broken this week to determine the fate of video gaming in Long Grove restaurants such as the Village Tavern, pictured above.

Another tie was broken this week to determine the fate of video gaming in Long Grove restaurants such as the Village Tavern, pictured above.

Nothing like a controversial issue to stir up the community! Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting featured a robust two-hour discussion on the future of video gambling in Long Grove, as the Trustees needed to make a decision on permanently allowing it or letting the 18 month trial period expire. Village Hall was packed with passionate supporters on both sides of the issue.

I was not in favor of this idea when it was first brought forth almost two years ago by the merchants. The Plan Commission ruled against allowing it, and residents who had spoken to me were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of bringing video gambling into Long Grove. In February of 2014 the Board had a split vote on allowing it and I broke the tie to deny it. Subsequently, the Board supported an initiative to allow video gambling on a temporary trial basis, so I kept an open mind to see just how this issue would be handled by the businesses and the community. In the past year and a half, we have seen no ill effects, no increase in crime or complaints to the Lake County Sheriff, no inappropriate advertising. What we have seen is almost $20,000. of extra income into the Village revenues, and the four businesses who have gaming are reporting a material boost to the bottom line. The Village Tavern is profiting $8,000. per month as this form of entertainment has proven to be a good fit. By and large, residents that I have queried over the last couple of months seem ambivalent if not accepting of the practice in our Village. The sentiment that I have heard again and again is some sort of version of “I wouldn’t be upset if you take the machines away, but I also don’t mind if they stay. If it is helping our downtown businesses to survive, then it should be allowed.”

That is why I voted in favor of video gaming remaining this week, when I was called to (once again!) break a tie between a Board of Trustees split on this decision.  My thinking has evolved on this issue, along with many in our community, from the idea of video gaming two years ago, now taking into account the experience of having this form of entertainment available in Long Grove.  Is video gaming the savior of our historic downtown? No, but it is also not the devil leading it into the dark side of depravity. Our “Long Grove” brand is still alive and hanging strong through tough economic times. Anything our government can do to help the local, independent merchants survive the current retail climate is a help, as indicated by the majority of residents on a recent survey who identified “revitalize the downtown” as the most significant issue facing the Village in the next two years. Residents want to see our downtown business district thrive, and are becoming more open to new ideas on how to make this happen.

I have learned something through dealing with this particular issue. Preconceived notions are not always correct. Sometimes it is wise to put aside personal bias in order to be more receptive to the opinions and needs of others. It can lead to a better decision. I still have never wagered a bet on any of the video terminals here in town, and I really don’t plan on doing so in the months ahead. But for those who choose to take a chance on Long Grove’s future, I wish the best of luck for us all.

And The Survey Says…

Richard Dawson, host of TV's "Family Feud"

Richard Dawson, host of TV’s “Family Feud”

In my younger days, staying home from school on a sick day meant catching up on the daytime game shows that I never had a chance to watch. Wow, I’m really dating myself here, because this was even before we could record shows on the Betamax! Well anyway, my favorite game show was “Family Feud,” hosted by TV star Richard Dawson (who remembers “Hogan’s Heroes”?) I loved the idea that they could survey groups of people on various questions, and make a game about guessing the most popular answers. Anyone who uses social media today knows that surveys are still popular, and we’ve probably all had our email inbox invaded by a “survey monkey” at one time or another. The Village hopes that your enthusiasm for participating in surveys is not a thing of the past, because we are getting ready to mail out an important set of questions in the next week. As much fun as it was on the show to watch contestants guess the answers, the Village Board would prefer to KNOW your opinions on current issues in Long Grove.

This summer, the Trustees will be making some very significant decisions and I hope that you will add your voice to the process. We have just finalized a resident survey that will be sent to all Long Grove households. The goal of this survey is to help inform the Board of the feelings of the residents regarding various aspects of community character and values that will be reflected in the update of our Long Grove Comprehensive Plan. This plan is similar to a “blueprint” and helps guide staff and elected officials in the ongoing shaping of our Village, especially in regards to zoning, open space, commercial development, infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements. The Village Board would like to know your thoughts on these important topics, so please take the time to fill out and return the survey when you receive it.  While we won’t have the excitement of a TV host dramatically revealing the answers to us…”And the Survey Says….”we will have a valuable prize instead–community participation.


One Lesson at a Time

Sharing a glass of wine with Past Village President Maria Rodriguez

Sharing a glass of wine with Past Village President Maria Rodriguez

I have often made the comment that I “learn something new every day” in this job as Village President.  Almost two years into it, and this observation still rings true.  It continues to amaze me that I have so much yet to understand about our Village, and about government, and about myself.  The lesson for today was about inner strength.  Last night’s Village Board meeting was a challenging one for a variety of reasons.  A controversial topic, Video Gaming, was back on the agenda, and I had to break not one, but two ties relating to this.  We have extended the trial period for another 120 days, but are holding off for now on sending it back to the Plan Commission and Zoning Board until we get more resident feedback.  A Village-wide survey is coming out in April, which will have questions related to the update of the Comprehensive Plan, and a few relating to video gaming.  Add a difficult conversation with a Trustee and campaign-related drama to the mix, and it made for a high-tension evening.  What got me through it was the advice I was wisely given the day before from two former Board members.  It centered around attitude and confidence, and came from a place of experience.  I am extremely lucky to have mentors to step in and support me when times get tough.  The lessons are still there every day waiting for me.  And so far, I am still eager to learn.

State of the Village of Long Grove


Happy New Year!  I hope that your 2015 is off to a great start.  I’d like to take a moment of your time to recap some of the significant things that happened on the Village Board in the past 12 months, and give you a peek ahead to what is on the agenda for Long Grove in the coming year.


Every two years, as new Village officials are elected, the new Board spends a workshop day identifying goals for the months ahead.  2014 saw the realization of several of those goals, and significant work was achieved on many goals that are ongoing.  Goals that were achieved include:  the replacement of street signs throughout the Village, update and expansion of the permitted uses in the downtown historic district, lease of the Village soccer fields, and determining the specifics of a road maintenance funding referendum, which was held this past March.  One goal that is ongoing is to “identify sustainable long-term funding sources for needed infrastructure repair and replacement.”  Following the failure of the referendum, this goal became a high priority.  A series of infrastructure workshops was held over the summer and fall months, with the 4th and final workshop planned for January 20th.  Members of the community were invited to work with the Board of Trustees in exploring funding options aided by the guidance and advice of consultants in the fields of strategic planning, engineering, economic development, and finance.  As an outcome of these workshops, the Board expects to have a consensus on direction with regard to funding our current and future infrastructure needs.  The completion of a long-range Capital Improvement Plan that provides a comprehensive view of the Village’s capital needs is another goal that is ongoing, and has been a topic of this workshop series.


Several new issues were brought before the Board this year, two of which resulted in large attendance at public hearings and Village Board meetings.  Video Gambling was approved by the Board on a six month temporary basis, and is currently available at four locations in the historic downtown.  The decision on establishing this on a permanent basis will come before the Board this coming April.  Two new Senior Living & Memory Care developments have been approved in the Village, one near the intersection of Routes 53 and 83, another near the intersection of Rt. 53 and Long Grove Road.  Construction is expected to start on both of these projects in the coming months.


On April 7th, you will be asked to participate in the future direction of our Village as three of the Trustee positions will be up for election.  Six candidates are running in the race, and your vote will be important.  Our Village Clerk position is uncontested.

One of the first goals that the Board will be addressing in 2015 is an update of the Comprehensive Plan.  It has been many years since the previous update, and the time has come to take the pulse of the current residents to make sure that our policies and guiding principles accurately reflect those of the majority.  To assist with this, the Village is hiring a professional survey organization to conduct a Village-wide survey this winter.  If you are called to participate, please let us know your opinion.

In the coming year we expect to make progress on the extension of our Village pathway system, finalizing a connection between the south Schaeffer Road path and the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.  A decision on the renovation or replacement of our covered bridge will be made, and steps will be taken to get this work underway.  Our Village water system will be extended from the municipal well at Sunset Plaza into the downtown crossroads.  This will bring higher quality water into the shops and restaurants in our historic business district and be an important factor in attracting new development and encouraging improvements to existing properties.  Speaking of new development, many of the properties in the historic downtown have recently come under new ownership, with several more expected in the next few months.  The Board is looking forward to working with these new owners in 2015, as new shops and restaurants are opened.  We will be assisting with efforts to attract new businesses by forming an Economic Development Commission, and will be taking a more active role in outreach.

Many goals are yet to be achieved.  But your Village Board has the willingness to work hard, and with your support much can be accomplished in the year ahead.