Police know who damaged an Elburn subdivision’s lightpole, but six months later it’s still not fixed

Village, Shodeen dispute who owns light pole property, so repairs go undone

The light pole at Elizabeth Street and Simpson Avenue in Elburn has been on tilt since Nov. 14, 2021, when it was hit by a car. The village won’t fix it, saying it belongs to Elburn Station developer Shodeen. Shodeen says it belongs to the village. Residents just want it fixed.

ELBURN – Chris Williams would like to know who’s responsible for fixing the street light at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Simpson Avenue in the Elburn Station subdivision. The light has been tilted since before Thanksgiving after being hit by a car.

Sean O’Neal, of the 200 block of East Kansas Street, Elburn, owns the 2017 Hyundai Elantra that struck the light pole, records show. He was teaching a young neighbor with a learning permit how to drive.

“While backing up, she drove onto the parkway and hit the pole,” O’Neal said. “Neither of us realized it was damaged. A couple of days later, the police came and showed me a photograph of the lamp post. It was knocked to an angle. I said, yes, absolutely, it was us. I didn’t realize. … It was a genuine accident.”

The driver did not respond to a voicemail message seeking comment.

Neither O’Neal nor the driver were ticketed. Village officials said it is the officer’s discretion not to issue citations for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident and damage to property.

“All insurance, vehicle and driver information was provided to Sgt. [Jeff] Herra and he chose not to issue a citation in this situation given the circumstances,” Police Chief Nick Sikora said in an email. “The Elburn Police Department does not intend to issue a citation to this driver.”

Robert Skidmore, vice president of land development for Shodeen Group, which is building Elburn Station, said he estimated the cost to replace the pole was about $5,000.

Williams, who lives in the 600 block of Elizabeth Street, sent an email to Village Administrator John Nevenhoven on Nov. 18, 2021, about the tilted light pole, stating, “It is leaning over and looks ready to fall.”

In his response the same day, Nevenhoven wrote, “We are aware of the street light and are taking corrective action to get it fixed.”

So far, it hasn’t been fixed.

“It’s still broken,” Williams said.

The village referred residents to Shodeen as the owner of the light pole, saying it’s the company’s responsibility to fix it, according to emails and other documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Shodeen, Elburn disagree

Shodeen is in dispute with Elburn over several other issues regarding the development of Elburn Station, records show.

Shodeen attorney Kate McCracken told officials at the May 2 Village Board meeting that the relationship between the two parties was “not working” as progress on the Elburn Station subdivision near the Elburn Metra train station has stalled.

McCracken attended the meeting and asked for more communication and direction from village officials regarding further development of Elburn Station, which began construction in 2017.

“Tell me what the issue is,” McCracken said during public comment. “Tell me what we need to do to fix it and tell me what we need to do to move forward in a positive and constructive way because this is simply not working.”

Village President Jeff Walter said he would take her comments and talk to the village attorney and Nevenhoven when he returned from his time off.

“I don’t know why she thinks we’re not responding,” Walter said after the meeting. “There’s letters going back and forth to her office and we meet with Bob Skidmore regularly. There’s plenty of communication.”

The damaged light pole

Neil Gordon, also a resident of the 600 block of Elizabeth Street in Elburn Station, wrote in an April 5 email to Shodeen that he called the village to report that the light pole was broken and was told to contact Shodeen because that property had not been given to the village.

In a letter of response to Gordon, Skidmore wrote the pole had been installed in 2018 on village property and Elburn pays its electric bill.

In an email, Nevenhoven challenged that Shodeen had dedicated the parkway to the village and cited village code regarding accepting public improvements in subdivisions, which includes that 90% of a punchlist has to be completed.

Skidmore said Shodeen disagrees with the village over how much of the punchlist is completed.

Neither Walter nor Skidmore could say what the exact percentage was; Nevenhoven did not respond to the question other than to email a copy of the punchlist. A representative from Engineering Enterprises Inc., the village’s engineering company, did not respond to a voice message, and Public Works Director Phil VanBogaert did not respond to a voicemail message.

Shodeen provided a copy of Elburn Station Unit 2, signed by Walter, as accepted and recorded at the Kane County Recorder’s Office on Dec. 13, 2017, but Skidmore and Nevenhoven also disagree on what that means.

In an email, Nevenhoven wrote, “A signed plat of subdivision is not acceptance of public improvements. A plat of subdivision shows how the land will be subdivided.”

Skidmore said the plat proves it was conveyed to the village “100%.”

“You don’t get any better than that. The land is conveyed, we did the improvements and somebody ran over it,” Skidmore said, referring to the light pole.

Police report

Skidmore’s letter to Gordon included an Elburn police report from Nov. 27, 2021, detailing that a car hit the pole and left the scene Nov. 14.

A Nov. 27, 2021, email from Herra to village officials said a neighbor provided video of the crash, which included the license plate of the car, leading police to the owner and the driver.

The three-page police report includes 15 video still photos and two photos of a State Farm insurance card.

“Driver was on an instructional permit while owner was in the passenger seat,” Herra’s email said. “No complaints signed, as all are willing to take responsibility for repairs.”

Shodeen Group President David Patzelt said in an email that “common sense says if someone damages property, regardless of whose property it is or if it was accidental or on purpose, the person who damaged the property should fix the damage.”

“In the case of the damaged pole, common sense tells me that the damaged light pole should be repaired by the village to their satisfaction and paid for by the person who damaged it,” Patzelt’s email said.

Gordon said he just wants to see the light pole fixed.

“I don’t care who fixes it,” Gordon said. “My concern is a safety issue because where the light is attached at the top, there are either three or four screws. It looks like it’s become loose because of the high winds on this corner and I’m afraid it might fall and hit somebody on the head. I take care of the grass that grows around that light pole.”