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Hi Bill,

My name is Gregg Bassett and I share your views on the teardown
fever that, in my opinion, is destroying Elmhurst for the purpose of
satisfying sheer greed. In fact, I see even more wrong with the current
trend here in addition to complaints you mentioned in your letter to The
Independent. To give you an idea of my views on the subject I've
included here a copy of something I sent to the City of Elmhurst two
years ago.

In the summer of 2004 the City of Elmhurst sent a survey to 1600
randomly selected residents of Elmhurst to find out what they liked and
didn't like about living in Elmhurst. I was one of the lucky recipients.
(Maybe you were, too. If so, you'll remember what I'm talking about.) It
was mostly a matter of checking boxes and circling numbers to give
ratings in various areas. I did the checking and circling to give my
views to the best of my ability. However, I also attached a three page
letter with which I was better able to express my true views than by
checking boxes and circling numbers. I include a copy of that letter
here. You will notice that I gave the Elmhurst Police some kudos, where
you seem to be disappointed in them. This difference may be because I
have never dealt with them on the issues of teardowns and builders. My
dealings with them were about other things and they were positive

My letter to the city is quoted below:

"Dear City of Elmhurst;

"I feel that with this attached sheet I can give a much better
picture of what I consider the positives and negatives of Elmhurst and
why I feel the way I do than I can by just circling numbers and checking
lines; and I feel that if you value my opinions enough to send me this
survey, then I should try to give you the most meaningful response I

"In my opinion, the two best things Elmhurst has going for it is its
school system and its police department.

"I didn't check 'quality of schools' as one of the three things I
like best about living in Elmhurst because, since I don't have any
children, it doesn't directly affect me. However, I do think it is one
of the great positives of Elmhurst. I am a Class of '61 graduate of York
and put in all four years there. It was a great school then and, from
all I've heard, it still is. In fact, when I was a student there, York
was the only high school in Illinois that the University of Illinois
would accept a C average from, because it considered a C average from
York to be the equivalent of a B average from anywhere else.

" I did, however, give 'safety' a number one rating of things I like
best about living in Elmhurst. The people most responsible for this are
the Elmhurst police. I can't say enough for the Elmhurst police. If
there is a finer police department out there I have yet to find it. They
are the reason our Elmhurst neighborhoods are safer than many
surrounding towns. When called upon, Elmhurst police officers are very
quick to respond. They are always courteous and never cocky or arrogant
like some officers in other police departments can sometimes be.

"I've lived in Elmhurst twice. First, at Fairfield and Madison with
my parents from 1955-1967, during which I attended 7th and 8th grades at
Elmhurst Jr. High School (before it was called Sandburg Middle School)
and put in my four years at York; and now at Fremont and Walnut since
1988. There has been a lot of turnover in the Elmhurst police Department
between 1955 and now; but, although the individuals have changed, the
quality of police officers has not.

"Those are the two big positives I see. Now for the one big
negative: teardowns and over building. I have several reasons for
finding this to be so negative.

"First, I first fell in love with Elmhurst when I lived here as a
teenager and young adult back in the fifties and sixties. What made me
fall in love with Elmhurst was the personality that it had that made it
different from anywhere else I've ever been. It was that personality
that made me move back here again sixteen years ago. However, since
then, the tearing down and replacing of many warm and friendly looking
homes with huge buildings displaying mostly garage doors and hiding the
doors people go in and out of is destroying the warm, friendly
personality that has always made Elmhurst so wonderful and turning it
into something very cold and impersonal. There are several blocks in
Elmhurst now that more closely resemble the rows of loading dock doors
of an industrial park than a residential neighborhood. I can't speak for
anybody else, but I've never had any desire to live in an industrial
park. In fact, I'm finding it very depressing and heartbreaking to watch
something I've loved for most of my life being destroyed, piece by
piece, before my very eyes.

"Second, many of these big new mansions are replacing much smaller
homes on small lots that weren't intended for such huge houses. This is
packing many of these houses much closer together than what they are
replacing. These houses are new now; but, in a couple of decades, when
they start getting older, Elmhurst will start looking more and more like
Chicago, Cicero and other similar places that, at one time, people moved
to Elmhurst to get away from.

"Third, when Elmhurst was originally built, big mansions were built
on big lots and smaller lots were reserved for smaller homes. This
insured that a certain minimum portion of each lot was lawn, garden,
etc. as opposed to building, garage, driveway, etc. There was a reason
for this. In addition to providing elbow room and breathing space that
people moving to Elmhurst were looking for, it also provided plenty of
ground for rain water to soak into, so that our storm sewers would have
less runoff to try to handle. Now, when we replace these original small
houses with big mansions and triple and quadruple wide driveways, we are
leaving less ground for water to soak into, forcing more to run off into
the street and down into the storm sewers. In addition to that, all of
these new mansions are required to have the downspouts from the gutters
feed directly into the storm sewer system. This means that 100% of the
rain that falls on all the new roofs will be sent to the storm sewers to
join what comes in from the street, instead of being diverted via old
fashioned downspout into the yard to soak into the grass or garden. I'm
not any kind of a water or drainage expert, but I don't think it takes
one to figure out that our storm sewers do not have infinite capacity
and that, if the present trend continues, we will be finding less and
less of Elmhurst staying above the flood plain as time goes on.

"Fourth, many times when a perfectly good house is torn down to make
room for a building that's frequently too big for the lot anyway, we not
only lose the original house; we also lose a lot of big beautiful trees.
Only the trees in the parkway are protected. Any trees in the backyard
or the front yard across the main sidewalk from the parkway are fair
game. Many of these trees are big, beautiful, perfectly healthy trees
that took decades to grow; but they are destroyed in a matter of a few
hours. I think this is a travesty. I actually believe that, over the
past several years, Elmhurst has lost at least as many good trees to the
builders as it has to Dutch elm disease.

"Last, but not least, is the impact this constant construction has
on the people who haven't moved yet and still live here. Every time
there is another teardown, everybody living near it has to put up with
the noise of the house being torn down plus months of bulldozers
roaring, dump trucks and cement trucks rumbling up and down the street
and all the other racket associated with construction. Along with the
noise comes the dirt in the form of mud all over the streets and dust
blowing in our open windows during the summer, our streets being blocked
by cement trucks, dump trucks and construction in front of the new
mansions and plenty of extra air pollution. In nice summer weather, I
like to sleep at night with the windows open. I have awakened numerous
times in the morning to the smell of diesel fumes coming in my bedroom
windows from the dump trucks lined up down the block with their engines
running while they each wait their turn to be filled up with debris from
the latest teardown. And, all the while, our property taxes keep going
up (mine jumped up $472 this year alone) which means we're paying more
for a poorer quality of life. Also, I'm sure some of our tax dollars are
being spent on street repairs more often than should be necessary
because of the beating our streets are constantly taking from all of the
heavy construction equipment being hauled on them every day for the

"The kind of taxes we pay to live in Elmhurst should get us a nice
quiet suburban lifestyle. Instead, it gets us the noise, dirt and
inconvenience of perpetual construction; and it is perpetual. As fast as
one teardown/mansion construction is finished, the next one nearby
starts, and we go through it all over again.

"When I moved to Elmhurst the first time, as a kid with my parents,
we moved into a newly developing area and, of course, we had
construction all around us for a couple of years, until all the houses
were built; and, then, it was over and we got the kind of quiet suburban
life we came here for. When I moved back to Elmhurst, sixteen years ago,
I knew I was moving into an already built and mature neighborhood and,
therefore, shouldn't have to put up with the construction scene again;
and that was the case for a while - until teardown fever set in. And,
unlike a newly developing area, this construction doesn't end in a
couple years. It goes on indefinitely with no end in sight!

"I realize that all this over building brings more tax dollars into
the city coffers; but is it really worth sacrificing the quality of life
of Elmhurst residents? Time will tell.

"One last thing: Why don't you include in the next issue of the
"Front Porch," which goes out to all Elmhurst households instead of just
1600, the question, "How do you feel about teardowns and everything that
goes along with them?" Then ask everybody to write, call or email you
with their answers. It might be interesting to find out how many people
share my feelings about teardowns and how many don't.

"Thank you for the opportunity to share my views with you.

Gregg Bassett

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