Threats aside, voters back East Dundee trustees who supported Elgin Mall’s relocation

All four incumbents leading in unofficial election results

Members of the East Dundee planning, zoning and historic commission recommended approval for a special-use permit and zoning that would allow the Elgin Mall to move into a shuttered Dominick's store in East Dundee. East Dundee Village President Jeff Lynam, however, says the proposal would not enhance the village's appeal.

During a contentious village board meeting two weeks before Election Day, residents warned East Dundee trustees up for election that they would remember how they voted on the Elgin Mall.

“To the people who voted for this, yeah, there’s an election coming up,” one resident said before three of the four trustees up for election voted to override the village president’s veto on the Elgin Mall.

“You’re making your choices and decisions,” another resident said to the trustees who supported the mall. “On April 4, we’ll have to make ours.”

Despite the threats, however, a majority of voters supported all four incumbents – including the three who backed the mall and voted to override Village President Jeff Lynam’s veto of the mall.

Voters turned out in big numbers in East Dundee. According to the Kane County Clerk’s website, 28.9% of registered voters in East Dundee cast their ballot for the contested Village Board race that saw six candidates vying for three 4-year terms on the board and two candidates running for an unexpired 2-year term. A look at voter turnout for consolidated elections in East Dundee showed Tuesday’s turnout was the highest in more than a decade.

Unofficial vote totals show incumbents Kathleen Mahony and Scott Kunze with 396 and 372 votes, respectively, in their bids for the three 4-year terms. Andrew Sauder had 332 votes in a two-way race to fill the unexpired 2-year term.

All three voted to approve the mall and then voted on March 20 to override Lynam’s veto of their initial mall approval.

Incumbent Rich Treiber, who also was appointed to the board, had 337 votes for the third 4-year seat.

Challengers Daniel Pearson and Ryan Gumma each received 310 and 296 votes, respectively, in their bid for one of the full terms. Shanna McKee received 295 votes in her bid for the unexpired 2-year term.

Treiber, who voted against approving the mall and voted “present” on March 20 to override Lynam’s veto of the mall approval, ran as part of a slate that included Pearson, Gumma and McKee for village board.

“It did seem like it was a major issue,” Sauder said of the mall. “A lot of people [in the community] were talking about how they felt it should go in. And then, at the board meeting, we saw people who did not want the mall.”

The Elgin Mall’s plans to relocate to East Dundee became a hot-button issue in recent months. Owners of the mall, currently located on McLean Boulevard in Elgin, proposed turning a shuttered Dominick’s store into their new home.

It did seem like it was a major issue. A lot of people [in the community] were talking about how they felt it should go in. And then, at the board meeting, we saw people who did not want the mall.

—  Andrew Sauder, trustee

The mall owners began looking for a new home after learning last summer that the lease was being terminated. The mall, which has a loyal following, features more than 80 vendors selling everything from traditional Western wear and formal gowns to furniture and electronics. The majority of the vendors in the mall are Latino.

Though it became a hot-button issue, some candidates said they weren’t sure how much of a difference it made at the voting booth.

“I don’t think ... it was enough to drive people to the polls,” Treiber said, noting the matter already had been decided by Election Day.

Whether or not it affected people’s decisions, some are hopeful the results send an encouraging message to mall owners. During the March 20 meeting, some residents made veiled racist comments. One resident reminded trustees the village was not a “sanctuary city” and described the Elgin Mall as a “three-ring circus.”

After the meeting, the mall owners said they were uncertain if they would follow through on plans to relocate to East Dundee. When reached Friday, a representative for the Elgin Mall said they had not yet made a decision but expected to have an announcement late next week.

Mahony on Friday said she hoped Tuesday’s election results show mall owners that the meeting was not reflective of the village.

“There is much greater support in the community for the mall than what they heard on March 20,” Mahony said.