Village of South Barrington met Nov. 7.
Here is the minutes provided by the Board:
Call to Order
Mayor McCombie called the meeting to order at 7:32 p.m.
Deputy Clerk Moeller called roll, a quorum was noted present, and the Pledge of Allegiance followed.
Village Officials Present: Mayor: Paula McCombie
Trustees: Joseph Abbate, Bernard Kerman, Dr. Hina Patel, Dr. Anthony Stagno|
Village Officials Absent: Trustees: Edgar Alvarado, Stephen Guranovich
Clerk: Donna Wood
Village Staff Present: Administrator Robert Palmer, Director of Finance Michelle Bodie, Chief of Police Thomas Roman, Building Officer Mike Moreland, Village Engineer Natalie Karney, Executive Assistant/Deputy Clerk Melissa Moeller Illinois Senate and Congress Representatives Present Community Outreach Coordinator Karissa Suarez Del Real (Senator Durbin), Senate Aide Seth Jenkins (Senator Durbin), Director of Strategic Initiatives Dan McManus (Senator Duckworth), Suburban Community Outreach Coordinator Peter Danos (Senator Duckworth), District Director Sabey Abraham (Congressman Krishnamoorthi), Deputy District Director Leslie Reis (Congressman Krishnamoorthi)
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Representatives Present Director Quincy Whitehead (Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery)
Honored Veterans Present Major General James H. Mukoyama Jr., USA, Ret., First Lieutenant John Schwan, USA, Ret., Lance Corporal Marco Dabetic, USMC
Mayor's Welcome and Opening Remarks
Mayor McCombie welcomed and thanked the Veterans and their families on behalf of South Barrington and the Village Board for the sacrifices made for the freedoms of our country and recognized the very special upcoming Veterans Day created in our Veterans honor.
Mayor McCombie introduced the Village Board members, noting Trustee Kerman is a Veteran.
Mayor McCombie also introduced Illinois Senate and Congress Representatives present for tonight's meeting and thanked the offices of Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth, and Congressman Krishnamoorthi for their involvement and assisting the Village in communicating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Mayor McCombie introduced honored Veteran speakers MG Mukoyama, 1LT Schwan, and LCpl Dabetic and asked all the Veterans in Rose Hall to stand and be honored.
Mayor McCombie introduced VA representative, Ms. Whitehead.
Mayor McCombie informed attendees that the reason for the meeting tonight was so that attendees could assist the Village with formulating a response to the Revised Draft Environmental Assessment (Revised Draft EA) which was released by the VA on October 18, 2019 and currently has a 30-day comment period open and will end on November 18, 2019. Mayor McCombie went on to explain the difference between a columbarium cemetery, which is a final resting place for cremated remains which are placed in above ground walls in niches, and a more traditional burial ground cemetery. The proposed South Barrington Veterans Columbarium (Columbarium) will eventually be the final resting place of 50,000 cremated remains of Veterans and their families over the next 100 years, or 5,000 individual cremated remains each decade.
Mayor McCombie explained that the Village wishes to assist the VA with site selection in order to find an honorable and more respectful site for the Columbarium within South Barrington. Mayor McCombie stated that an additional site location will be submitted during the public comment period to the VA and hoped the VA would investigate the additional site before making a final decision on the current site location at 10 Freeman Road in South Barrington. Mayor McCombie felt the newest site location would be a site that the Veterans and South Barrington would be very proud of.
Mayor McCombie stated that tonight the Village will listen to the Veterans and others in attendance regarding the Revised Draft EA and that the comments would be memorialized and submitted to the VA from tonight's meeting. She reminded attendees that all comments to the VA must be made no later than November 18, 2019 as they will not be accepted after this date. She provided direction to the attendees to fill out forms provided by the Village to make a comment tonight or to send the comments to Marianne Marinucci's contact information provided on the form.
Mayor McCombie continued her remarks by discussing the EA process which began in 2017 when the VA realtor submitted a public notice for available properties for sale which could house a columbarium. In 2018, unbeknownst to the Village that this property was being considered, the VA contacted the Village by letter informing the Village the site location at 10 Freeman Road was selected for a columbarium. The Village responded informing the VA that this parcel was not zoned for a cemetery. The VA then released a Draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) a few months later and held a public hearing on November 8, 2018 in response to the release of the Draft EA in a conference room too small to house all attendees and in the adjoining town, Village of Hoffman Estates. A year later, the VA has released their Revised Draft EA and declined to hold a public hearing prompting the Village to hold a Town Hall meeting which has the adequate space for attendees and will provide more information on how to make a public comment.
Mayor McCombie stated that this has been a long and drawn out process with a lack communication and delays by the VA. In October 2019, the Village received the Revised Draft EA and concluded that the site location for the Veterans Columbarium is not an honorable or respectful site to house the cremated remains of our Veterans. Mayor McCombie stated that the Veterans remains being placed across from a landfill which emits a rotten egg smell of methane gas is not respectful. She stated that Veterans stuck in a remote corner of town is not respectful. She stated a two-lane country road without public transportation or sidewalks is not convenient for Veterans and their families.
Mayor McCombie stated that the current site location at 10 Freeman Road is not a site of recognition but a property stuck in the corner of town which another adjacent town leader stated in the Revised Draft EA, “this proposed site has been on the market for many years and has not found a viable buyer for residential or commercial use, and further it's preferable that this property be used for this type of use rather than looking for a different piece of property which could be viable commercial property for economic development purpose for communities looking to expand their tax”. Mayor McCombie found this comment insulting and further showed the undesirability of this property and suggests this response from a town leader means to sell this property to the VA for the Columbarium because no one else wants it.
Mayor McCombie went on to discuss the unresolved issues for the neighboring subdivision. Families whom practice Hinduism back up to this property and are strictly warned not to live next to any type of burial ground or columbarium. Additionally, rifle volleys will be held at this site, close to the neighboring homes, and will happen on conjunction with the funerals that may take place up to 3-5 times a day. The noise study performed by the VA indicates that the rifle volleys are liken to the noise of “moderate rainfall or conversation”. A Veteran whom lives in this neighboring subdivision suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has issues with fireworks on fourth of July and has to go into his basement to avoid the sounds. Another neighbor houses their parent, and a Veteran, for the summer each year however he suffers from PTSD as well and does not feel he could return to this community to stay with his family due to the scheduled rifle volleys. Other residents have addressed concerns with their children, which some have diagnosed auditory disorders, and are already exposed to active shooter drills at school causing a possible psychological detriment to their growth.
Mayor McCombie provided some insight to the traffic study, stating that traffic with funeral corteges will be significant and extend a lot farther from the site location affecting surrounding residential neighborhoods in this area. She added that cemeteries in South Barrington are zoned for 60 acre lots and not 15 acre lots, which is the lot size of the proposed location at 10 Freeman Road.
Mayor McCombie stated that going forward the Village is working on a response but does feel a lack of communication from the VA causing the Village to feel like it is working in the dark. She stated that the VA has not informed the Village why two other properties in South Barrington were dismissed and why the 10 Freeman Road location is the chosen site, making it very difficult for the Village to help the VA find suitable property for the Columbarium.
Mayor McCombie informed the attendees that the Village has spent two weeks working with consultants to review the noise and traffic study, as the noise being compared to "moderate rainfall” and the traffic study not showing a site layout plan with entry ways, parking, and sidewalks making the studies performed by the VA worrisome to the Village.
Mayor McCombie ended her remarks with introducing the first speaker of the evening, Major General Mukoyama. MG Mukoyama's bio includes over 30 years of decorated active service and two combat tours. MG Mukoyama stated he has been a member of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington since 1995 and has been involved with the VA for over two decades and was appointed at the national level by the VA to serve on an Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans. Part of his involvement was traveling across the country to metropolitan areas to view VA run hospitals, benefit centers, and national cemeteries. MG Mukoyama decided to attend and speak at the Town Hall meeting to express an objection to the current site location for the Columbarium. MG Mukoyama reminded everyone that South Barrington is a patriotic community but the VA proposal has many concerning problems one of which is the Veterans and their families going to a place of honor in which the smell of rotten egg from the nearby landfill is present. He also expressed that this place of honor should have available parking and easy accessibility to the area. He ended his remarks stating that he supports the Columbarium but strongly opposes the site location.
Mayor McCombie introduced First Lieutenant John Schwan, a resident of South Barrington who served in the Vietnam War and has been an active member in veteran's services and currently serves on the Board at the Pritzker Military Memorial and Library. ILT Schwan expressed how the families of the Veterans should have a proper place to visit their loved one and to see their loved one honored in a respectful manner. He exclaimed that this is about the Veterans and their families. He also stated that he had looked at a few of the site locations and expressed his unhappiness with the VA's process in selecting this site. ILT Schwan stated that this area has a lot of Veterans and that this facility becomes more and more important as it will be used. 1LT Schwan stated he wants to be involved in this process and finding an acceptable site to honor our Veterans.
Mayor McCombie introduced Lance Corporal Marco Dabetic, a Purple Heart recipient and ser Commander for over 16 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Posts. LCpl Dabetic stated this is a Veterans issue and the Veterans should have the right to say what they want as to what South Barrington means to them and the location of Columbarium.
Mayor McCombie asked for a show of hands of those wishing to speak tonight. She reminded speakers to keep their comments under 3 minutes to allow for everyone to speak.
Resident of South Barrington spoke about his career in psychiatry and working with Veterans through the VA. He stated that he has worked with Veterans whom suffer from PTSD and explained the type of trauma that can be experienced with loud noises. He also works with children who have been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and how the auditory disorders can be traumatic for these children. Additionally, he stated that it turned his stomach to think that the Veterans families would have to smell the landfill while they visit their love one. He stated that the community desires to be patriotic but in a respectful way.
Resident of South Barrington, and Veteran, read a letter being submitted to the VA for public comment. He stated he served his country and many of his family members currently serve. He stated he cannot believe where the VA wants to put the Veterans. In 2018, his subdivision was informed of the proposed site location with a 2-day notice. He was in attendance at the VA's public hearing and listened to lies from VA representatives about this location. He stated other Veterans, from Elgin, were at this public hearing to speak in support of the Columbarium, however they had never seen the location and didn't have any knowledge to support their views. He continued to express more concerns with proximity to subdivision, sounds from adjacent subdivision during ceremonies, location being near a landfill, and being an unrestful place for Veterans and their families.
Ms. Anne Richard, resident of West Dundee, stated this topic was close to her heart and explained that her father was a Veteran and served during the Korean War. She explained he would have wanted to be here tonight but she brought him with and presented his urn. He died on October 22, 2019 and wanted to be buried at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Joliet. The last year and half of his life he spent at the VA hospital in Quincy and hated every moment of it. Up until that time he was very independent and lived to be 93. Quincy is 5 hours away and Joliet feels just as far. When she found out a national cemetery was being proposed 3 days ago, she became excited. She stated she is sure her father would want to be close and the reason he chose the Abraham Lincoln Cemetery was because it was the closest. He considered Lake Zurich his home as he spent most of his life there. She stated that he would have preferred to have his ashes in a columbarium taking up less space than a cemetery plot. Her was an immigrant from the Ukraine and lived to serve this country. She stated it is obvious that residents do want a facility like this in this area and that it is necessary, however she felt that Veterans would not want to be buried in a place that does not honor them, or be buried in a place where loved ones would smell rotten eggs, o residents next door to experience trauma due to PTSD, or animals to have a reaction to loud sounds. She stated that residents purchased expensive homes in this area never considered a cemetery would be built next door and one that would have rifle volleys going off daily or very often. She understands that other sites have been given to the VA and understands that price may be a factor in this site location. She implores the VA to consider alternative sites that have been presented and do not have these objections such as Veterans with PTSD next door, or children with auditory disorders, pets, or anyone who may be frightened by the sounds and something meant to honor the Veterans.
Jon Anderson, South Barrington resident for 30 years, and a Veteran, stated he is a commercial real estate broker and mortgage broker and performs analysis of site locations. He expressed that a good site location would be one that is prominent and near major roads or the expressway. The site chosen is tucked into a residential neighborhood and he does not feel this site should be located in a residential neighborhood. It should be near a quiet area where rifle volleys will not be heard. He does not feel it should be near retail or business office space or any similar uses, and certainly not near a landfill. He took some time to look at this location and stated that he thinks there are many sites on the market that were overlooked and he felt the VA could easily cut out a 20-acre portion of other available sites for this use located in South Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Elgin.
Dr. Sharon Kissane, South Barrington resident since 1976, expressed her concerns with the attitude from the VA regarding procedures. She stated that after reading a response letter from the VA to the Village and stated in that letter that the Federal Government does not have conform to local laws, she performed some research at the local college and was assisted in finding some key cases where there was a conflict of local authority and imminent domain. This property is being purchased and not acquired through imminent domain. She stated that through her research she found that home rule municipalities, such as South Barrington, can adopt a charter to add legal weight to Village Code of Ordinances.
Magdalena Stec, South Barrington resident, stated she is the mother of two children and lives next to the proposed site. She stated the Revised Draft EA does not mention children. Her husband held up a poster showing the location of 16 children living next to the proposed site, ages 5 months to 15-year Additionally, the grandparents in this subdivision have visits from their grandchildren. She stated this area is not quiet and that children make noise and play outdoors. That this site would not be a solemn place to pay respects and that children will make noise while Veterans and their families conduct funerals or are there to pay their respects. According to the NCA, there will be 3-5 rifle volleys 5 days a week. She stated kids should not be exposed to the sounds of gunshots in their homes or their backyards. The noise study submitted in the Revised Draft EA studied the sound of the rifle volleys from 120 meters from the western property line and on another page it states the rifle volleys will be performed at 50 meters from the western property line. She asked which was it, 50 or 120 meters? She also asked how can we trust that this noise study is accurate if they cannot be consistent with where the rifle volley ceremonies will be performed She stated that children should never be exposed to any gunshot sound at any level in their homes. She ended stating that the VA should be ashamed that this is the best site the VA could find for the Veterans. She stated this was not done with transparency or with consulting the community, especially residential community in the backyard, and shows disrespect to the Veterans and their families.
Anil Saigal, South Barrington resident of 29 years, expressed his concerns regarding the Revised Draft EA. He first expressed his delight that the VA has chosen his community of South Barrington as a location for the Columbarium and it is an honor to be the chosen city. Mr. Saigal stated he and his family are practicing Hindus and that one of the tenants of Hinduism is to avoid living in the vicinity of a crematorium, graveyard, burial site, cemetery, or columbarium. These sites are considered inauspicious and a detriment to one's spiritual well-being. Construction of the Columbarium at the proposed site, which is adjacent to his property, will infringe on his rights to exercise his religion under the first amendment. He also stated that the Revised Draft EA does not support the analysis of the other available sites submitted to the VA and does not create a compelling case for this site versus the other 26 sites submitted for consideration in the area. He urged the VA and NCA to work with the Village in finding a suitable and honorable site for the nation's heroes. Mr. Saigal stated regarding the noise study that he felt this study was not performed with accurate measurements regarding the sounds or distances measured.
Janet Agnoletti, Executive Director of Barrington Area Council of Governments (BACOG), stated BACOG is comprised of 9 local governments including South Barrington. BACOG works together collaboratively on the issues of development, environment, and densities, etc. She wanted to revisit the conversation she participated in a year ago at the VA public hearing regarding land use. She explained that BACOG has a Regional Comprehensive Plan that covers 80 square miles and all 9 villages. The plan has been defended and implemented for 50 years. The proposed Columbarium site is zoned for 1 acre residential as most of the areas in the surrounding communities. The Revised Draft EA notes that the Columbarium would not be consistent with existing zoning and would essentially create a long term adverse impact. This would also be inconsistent with BACOG's planning by fact that South Barrington is an integral piece of the Regional Comprehensive Plan of BACOG for almost 50 years. She stated the federal government is not held to local zoning laws. The VA was supposed to work with the local government on developments and conflicts like this. That this would be an indication of respect and cooperation with the community. Additionally, the VA is supposed to be transparent but the VA did not directly inform the Village until the site was selected. The VA did not try to inform the residents, especially the immediate neighbors. The VA did not inform BACOG although it pulled information from the BACOG website from the online comprehensive plan and used it for the Draft EA, so they knew about the Regional Comprehensive Plan, but BACOG was never notified. The VA has not been transparent or shown respect for the community or the organization by dismissing the long term planning and zone uses. She stated she is personally very concerned about the VA's response to dismiss religious beliefs. The Hindu community expressed numerous times in the Revised Draft EA that it is against their religion to live near a cemetery. The Hindu community is not moving into this neighborhood, where this would have been their choice, these families are already here and they may be compelled to move away from their homes. She stated that BACOG does consider this a heavy and unreasonable burden on the cor when it is not a choice and their input is completely dismissed within the Revised Draft EA as "some people will always have an objection to a cemetery in their community”. She further stated in considering all the research in the EA regarding archeological and endangered species, it is dismaying that a federal government, in relation to the religion, dismisses a human population. She went on to comment about groundwater and has researched this area for 2 decades. She stated that the activities related to the development of this area could deteriorate the shallow aquifer which is the only source of water in this area. She implored the VA to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of possible effects on groundwater. She also added that neither the Village or BACOG are opposed to the Columbarium, but are opposed to this site and reminded everyone that Veterans deserve more, as her own father is a Veteran, and they deserve an inspiring tribute and the VA needs to consider other sites.
Trustee Kerman, South Barrington resident, Trustee and a Veteran, expressed his own concerns about this site and how this site does not honor the veterans and posed a question to MG Mukoyama. Trustee Kerman asked MG Mukoyama if he has ever seen a national cemetery butted up against a residential area or landfill of any kind. MG Mukoyama responded with no and stated that other locations are easy to get to and are respectful to the Veterans and their families, and that is the kind of cemetery we should have here.
Joseph Helsing, South Barrington resident and a Veteran, spoke regarding rifle volleys and the sounds, stating the volleys use blanks and are nowhere near the sound of gunfire. He stated the volleys represent freedom and that while we should be concerned about children and their reaction to the sound, he wants to make sure that this issue is kept in balance.
Ray Sulakowski, South Barrington resident for 16 years and a Veteran, stated that it makes no sense why the VA has chosen this site but stated he was impressed with the turnout tonight.
South Barrington resident and mother of 3 boys serving in the military, stated she is concerned and that we are supposed to take of the Veterans and this location is bad. She stated she would want their kids to have a nice final resting place and this this is not a good place.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Schlom, Ret., served under MG Mukoyama, stated he heard genuine responses tonight and that this is a democracy in action. He stated in a world when there seems to be a lack of civility, everyone's response tonight has been heartfelt. He posed a question to Mayor McCombie and asked her what is the answer. Mayor McCombie stated the answer is that the VA has to work with the Village on finding a new location that would be respectful to the Veterans and their families as there is a better spot. He asked if the alternative site is available to see. Mayor McCombie informed him that she was told by the VA to stay out of the procurement process and does not represent the VA. She informed him that she does not want to ruin the VA's procurement process and the possibility of them looking at the new site. Mayor McCombie also stated that there has been a lack communication with the Village giving example with the traffic study being performed by their consultant without a permit from Cook County. Cook County informed the Village that Stantec Consultants informed them that Village gave them permission to conduct a traffic study, however the Village cannot give permission since these are county roads. Mayor McCombie asked the VA to look for a new site and said the Village will work with them in finding a new site, however the VA informed the Village to write a letter and that they could not discuss this over the phone. Also, the Village was notified 6 days before the public hearing, the same night of a board meeting, in regards to the VA's intention of this site location. The VA has chosen not to communicate with the Village in regards to these matter.
Lt. Col. Schlom stated the VA is the largest bureaucracy in the governments, but stated that our representatives from Washington are here tonight and he knew Tammy Duckworth when she was an army aviator. He asked those representatives what they could do for us. Senator Duckworth's office responded by saying they were working with the VA and NCA, and the Village to facility communication and make sure conversations continue to go back forth. Senator Durbin's office stated they were there to listen and learn, and report back on some misconceptions they heard in their office while trying to facilitate the conversation between the VA and Village.
Mayor McCombie thanked Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth and Congressman Krishnamoorthi for getting involved as it has resulted in a slightly better communication with the VA since their involvement began.
There being no further business, Trustee Kerman moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:48 p.m. Trustee Patel seconded. Motion carried by unanimous voice vote.