The East Dundee village president’s veto of plans for the Elgin Mall to relocate to the village was overridden by the Village Board Monday night, but the negative comments voiced by some residents has a company official wondering if they should seek another location.
“Honestly, there is a concern, even though we are approved, that we are not welcomed,” said Elgin Mall Inc. President Rosa Leal, who questioned the racist overtones of some of the comments made.
Village President Jeff Lynam has been vocal in his opinion that the mall, made up of 87 vendor businesses, was not right for East Dundee when speaking to the East Dundee Planning and Zoning Commission last month and vetoing the board’s original approval earlier this month.
He also said it should be rejected there was insufficient parking available, a point also brought up by some residents who oppose the mall opening in the former Dominick’s grocery store at 535 Dundee Ave.
One man presented a petition that he said showed 78% of neighbors near the building were concerned about parking, which needed a variance because the spaces available are fewer than allowed by village ordinance.
Other comments focused on whether the mall might increase crime in the area, despite the police chief saying his research showed the business generated limited crime in Elgin, and if undocumented immigrants might be working there.
Despite the opinions voiced, the board voted 5-0 to approve the business and the variances needed. Trustee Rich Treiber voted present.
Mall vendors, who formed a corporation after learning last August that their Elgin lease would be ending, have been seeking a new location for months.
They won board approval to move into the East Dundee strip mall in February, only to have the decision put on hold buy Lynam’s veto.
Dan Shapiro, the lawyer representing the mall owners, said he believed Lynam’s parking lot complaint was meant to divert attention from other unspoken reasons he has for opposing the mall.
“I think the claim there’s not enough parking is a red herring,” Shapiro said.
Leal said she’s now uncertain about whether to proceed with relocation plans, fearing the mall could be unfairly blamed if a robbery or some other crime occurs in town.
“We don’t want to take those risks,” she said.
She will speak with vendors this week about whether they should start looking for another location, Leal said.
“We want to be here for the long term. We want to be part of the community, and not (have people) see us as a threat,” she said.
Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.
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