East Dundee trustees override veto, but Elgin Mall owners now unsure about move

Offensive, ‘veiled comments’ lead to second thoughts

Rosa Leal, one of the Elgin Mall's co-owners, said Monday, March 20, 2023, that public comments made at Monday's East Dundee board meeting about immigrants and crime "really bothered me."

Even after East Dundee trustees overrode the village president’s veto of Elgin Mall’s plans to relocate to a shuttered Dominick’s store at routes 25 and 72, mall owners Monday said they were unsure what they will do next.

Two weeks after Village President Jeff Lynam vetoed zoning and a special use permit for the mall, a standing-room-only crowd attended Monday’s meeting, where trustees voted 5-0 to override the veto and allow the mall to move ahead with its relocation. Trustee Rich Treiber, who previously cast the lone “no” vote on the plans, voted “present” on the roll call vote Monday.

After a contentious meeting, with at least one resident raising concerns about illegal immigrants and calling the mall a “three-ring circus,” mall owners, who have not yet signed a lease for the East Dundee site, said they would be meeting with vendors to discuss the mall’s future and whether it should locate in East Dundee as originally planned.

“It’s something to really think about,” said Rosa Leal, one of the mall’s co-owners whose shop, Leal’s La Moda Western, has a loyal following. “We want to be received. ... We feel like we don’t have that.

Dan Shapiro, an attorney for owners of the Elgin Mall, criticized "veiled comments" at the East Dundee board meeting on Monday, March 20, 2023, for being offensive to Hispanics.

“I am ready to give everything we have and just the fact that the comments that were being made ... that we’re a circus, that we’re bringing a bunch of illegals, that we’re bringing crime, that really bothered me today.”

The Elgin Mall, which features dozens of independent Latino-owned shops, is a popular weekend destination that attracts shoppers from throughout the region looking for traditional religious items, Western wear, boots, furniture and other items. Last year, vendors learned the building owner in Elgin was ending the lease. Vendors formed a new ownership group and focused on the former Dominick’s store in East Dundee for their new home.

In December, the new mall ownership group presented plans and promised to bring an improved mall to East Dundee. At their current location in Elgin, cloth partitions are often used to create walls for each shop. Mall owners said the East Dundee location would have permanent walls between shops and well-defined entrances for each shop. Mall owners also said they would have on-site security.

The comments that were being made ... that we’re a circus, that we’re bringing a bunch of illegals, that we’re bringing crime, that really bothered me today.

—  Rosa Leal, one of the mall's co-owners

Although public hearings about the mall’s proposal did not attract many residents, Monday’s meeting drew more than 30, many spilling out into the hallway outside village board chambers. Several residents also signed a petition opposing the development.

Noting that East Dundee was not a sanctuary city, one woman, who refused to identify herself, asked village board members how they would deal with illegal activity and illegal immigrants and told trustees they were going to put a “three-ring circus” in one of the village’s most populated areas. She also expressed concern about traffic and parking.

Referring to “veiled comments” that he said were offensive to Hispanics, Dan Shapiro, an attorney for the mall owners, noted that the village staff had vetted the proposal.

He said nothing had changed in the proposal since the public hearings or the village board’s initial approval in February.