Homer Glen Lessons for Campton Hills First Homer Glen, Now Campton Hills. What Is It like to Be a Suburban Community Fighting for Incorporation? and When It's Granted, What Happens Next?
Smith, Lisa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Lisa Smith Daily Herald Staff Writer
The suburban bedroom community was at a crossroads.
Neighboring towns were moving closer, building new homes on small lots near existing neighborhoods full of homes on large lots.
Retail stores and other commercial development was scarce, nor were many more planned as part of the development boom to help spread out the tax burden.
And residents couldn't do much about it because most of those development decisions were being made by elected officials in neighboring communities. Other decisions were made by the county board, which represents a much larger group of constituents.
Welcome to Homer Glen, circa 2000. Or the would-be village of Campton Hills today.
As residents of the 20 square-mile area west of St. Charles prepare to vote April 17 on whether to incorporate, they might consider the experiences of Southwest suburban Homer Glen. Exactly six years earlier, this Will County community - which then looked and felt a lot like Campton Hills - became a village.
Although some Homer Glen residents still wish the area was unincorporated, others say incorporation was the only way to preserve their way of life by managing population growth and protecting open land from development.
"I feel there's good and bad in both things. But I think controlling your destiny and putting restrictions on the development and the density is more important than letting it go. Leaving something alone is not going to fix it," said Homer Glen Village Trustee Brian Andrews, who opposed the incorporation effort before becoming a trustee.
If not a crystal ball, Homer Glen could serve as a sort of bellwether for Campton Hills residents wondering what their future might hold if residents vote to incorporate.
Homer Glen and Campton Hills each comprise an area of about 20 square miles in fast-growing areas of suburban Chicago. Homer Glen is denser, however; its population of 24,083 is more than double that of Campton Hills.
Both are largely white, upper-middle-class communities with many more residential subdivisions than strip malls. Just as Campton Hills residents must drive to neighboring St. Charles to find a full-service grocery store, Homer Glen residents several years ago had to drive to neighboring Lemont or Orland Park.
Median home prices hover near $300,000 in both Campton Hills and Homer Glen, but it's not uncommon to find sprawling four- and five- bedroom homes listing at or near the $1 million mark in either community.
These comfortable homes, typically built on half-acre and larger lots, crop up in a patchwork of subdivisions between farm fields. Although working farms exist in both communities, both Campton Hills and Homer Glen have lost farmland to residential development over the years as urban sprawl has crept westward.
That fear of urban sprawl is what pushed residents in both communities to pursue incorporation. Only by becoming a village with defined borders and proper zoning, the argument goes, can a community prevent the town next door from grabbing its land for high-density developments that deplete natural resources and burden local roads and schools.
Campton Hills' incorporation push officially began in August 2005, after the Elgin City Council approved plans to annex Campton Township land for the Stony Creek subdivision. Residents had talked for years about the possibility of incorporating, but it wasn't until Stony Creek surfaced that talk turned to action.
Campton Township resident Patsy Smith led the effort. She viewed the 900-home Stony Creek, one of several developments Elgin planned as part of its westward expansion, as a likely strain on an already-burdened school system. It also would increase traffic and impact the water tables.
She established the nonprofit group, Preserve Campton, to fight Stony Creek. …