Sixty years ago, cornstalks and soybeans were the only living things that might have minded the industrial presence of Brady Brick in Plato Township.
But in recent decades, three subdivisions with hundreds of homes sprung up near the intersection of Highland Avenue and Coombs Road, just outside of Elgin. The trucking and commercial printing businesses that supplanted the brick operations at that site are now clashing with those new neighbors, creating a showdown over competing versions of the American dream.
Ioan Stanciu’s dream is to grow the small truck repair business – Team Prime – he founded at the property 18 months ago and to be a successful entrepreneur. It’s a dream shared by Stanciu’s neighboring business owner, Vladimir Pakhnyuk, who founded Custom Color printing at the site for 13 years.
Both business owners are immigrants to the U.S. who have found early success in chasing those dreams. And now they want to expand their business operations with what, in their minds, are new and improved buildings and better organization to the dozens of trucks, parts and industrial equipment and supplies cluttering the property.
“We’re not going to kill anybody,” Stanciu said to Kane County’s zoning board of appeals. “I’m going to answer all the questions. We have families, kids. This is a lifestyle for us.; it’s not a job. We’re not deliberately, nor will we allow for, any sort of spills to go into the ground. We have absolutely nothing to hide.”
Stanciu’s comments are at the heart of the concerns neighbors have both for this project and whenever people’s homes have industrial property closer to their backyards than they’d like. What sort of contaminants might these businesses be putting into the air and water? How much noise will I have to endure from heavy machines and truck engines? Do I really have to look at warehouses instead of the natural setting I moved out to the suburbs or semi-rural area to enjoy?
Rick Gilmore lives just south of the business site in Elgin’s Highland Woods subdivision. To him and his neighbors, the industrial property has been a longtime bad neighbor akin to looking at a junkyard. The last thing he wants is for an expansion of any of the activities he grudgingly accepts right now.
“This type of business will obviously produce unwanted noise, diesel exhaust, light pollution in addition to increased traffic,” Gilmore told the zoning board. “You can make it better or you can make it worse. I don’t believe it’s good land planning to allow such an obnoxious business near all of the residents. This is not an area of industrial use. This is a residential area. It’s nice to see they cleaned up the property for your inspection. It has not been that way the whole time I’ve been living there.”
About 200 neighbors of the property signed a petition expressing similar concerns and urging a rejection of the project.
Nonetheless, the county’s zoning board, with only two “no” votes, passed along a favorable recommendation for the business expansion to the County Board’s development committee.
When it arrived at the committee, the business owners responded to several of the concerns by agreeing to the construction of a berm, fencing and shield of evergreen trees to act as buffers between the businesses and the residents.
Carl Kubiuk, a representative for the business owners, reminded committee members the business uses in the area predate the residential subdivisions.
“Team Prime and Custom Color is willing to do whatever it can, in reason, to shelter the view,” Kubiuk said. “It’s two businesses there trying to expand. Existing businesses. We’re not trying to do anything different than what has existed for the last 13 years.”
For residents such as Margaret Avampato, those changes just aren’t enough to make her feel comfortable with an expansion project. Avampato’s backyard abuts the business property. And her daughter recently used her life savings to purchase a home in the same neighborhood.
“Her property value will decline severely,” Avampato said of the repercussions of the plan moving ahead. “Put the residents first. If you don’t, it’s going to be absolutely devastating to our livelihoods.”
With the reasoning that moving the project forward will allow county officials at least more oversight into the conditions at the industrial property, the committee voted 4-2 (including two “reluctant” “yes” votes) in favor of the project. The full county board will take a final vote Sept. 12.