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updated: 4/4/2019 6:02 PM

Longtime Sugar Grove trustee not surprised by loss

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  • Sugar Grove Trustee Mari Melson Johnson lost Tuesday night. She has been on the board 24 years.

    Sugar Grove Trustee Mari Melson Johnson lost Tuesday night. She has been on the board 24 years.


Sugar Grove Trustee Mari Melson Johnson said she is not surprised she lost her seat on the village board Tuesday to people who were against a proposed 760-acre business park development.

Disappointed, but not surprised.

"Because they (Independent Voters for Sugar Grove Trustee) had a plan and they stuck to it," Johnson said, especially its effort to get people to vote early and vote by mail. She stuck to what she has done in the past: citing her knowledge and experience in flyers and door-to-door campaigning.

"I really thought I would feel more sad," Johnson said of losing her spot after 24 years. "I've done a good job contributing to the betterment of my community."

She spoke of trustees over the years working together as the town grew from about 2,400 residents when she was first elected to nearly 10,000.

In that time, 15 subdivisions were built; stores and restaurants added along Route 47; and long-range plans were made for roads and the like. The village took a "really huge step" when it hired an administrator, rather than having trustees oversee departments.

Trustee David Paluch, who has been on the board eight years, also lost.

Trustee Heidi Lendi, who was appointed in 2017, was the top vote-getter. She was one of three candidates endorsed by the IVSGT. The other two were write-ins Ryan Walter and Jennifer Konen, who also won.

Lendi, Konen and Walter supported a four-point platform for "thoughtful progress," according to a news release from IVSGT.

It called for "rejecting any development proposal that does not adequately reflect the legitimate interests of Sugar Grove's current residents; opposition to the creation of any tax-increment financing districts that are not in the best interests of our taxpayers and governmental bodies;" a review of the village's comprehensive plan, particularly as it was updated in 2018; and asking "tough questions" and making "fact-based decisions for the long-term that are fair to all of the village's stakeholders."

The group formed as the village's plan commission was conducting hearings in January about Crown Community Development's proposal for land near I-88 and Route 47.

Hundreds of residents of Sugar Grove and nearby unincorporated areas attended the hearings to protest the plan.

Village officials have said they believe the development would not happen unless there was a tax-increment financing district for the land, in which any increase in property taxes could be used to pay for work done that raised the value of the land.

The developer has withdrawn the proposal. The village is still studying whether the site qualifies to be a TIF district.

Paluch and Johnson had voted in favor of an annexation agreement with Crown for much of the land in 2013, with the site being zoned for 1-acre-plus residential use. But in 2014 the area was designated largely for business use in the comprehensive land use plan.