By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

Village of Darien resident and business owner Robert Fettig said he believes the village has an issue with private utilities on his properties and wants the concerns made known to him so he can resolve the issues. But the Village Administrator claims the village does not have enough information to know what Fettig is referring to.

Fettig, owner of Fettig Industries, appeared at the Nov. 16 village board meeting and asked the board to place the issue on its December regular board meeting agenda for discussion. Instead, the village moved to place the issue on an agenda at the committee level. That response was not good enough for Fettig or his attorney.

Lisle Blackbourn, Fettig’s attorney, addressed the board on Dec. 21 and asked to have the issue placed on the agenda of the regular board meeting in January.

Blackbourn said Fettig desires a direct dialog with the board because of a concern that if the issue is assigned to a committee the board members will hear only an editorialized, one-sided version from village officials who have demonstrated animosity toward Fettig. Blackbourn said Fettig prefers an open discussion of the issues with his elected officials.

The issue, according to Blackbourn, involves rumors in the community Fettig has heard regarding the village being unhappy about private utilities on some of his properties in the village. Blackbourn said Fettig wants to be a good corporate citizen and if there is an issue he would like to take care of it, however, Fettig is not certain what the issue is since no one from the village has approached him with concerns.

Village Administrator Rebecca LeMire said the village is working to identify if there are any concerns about private utilities but said it’s very early in the process. She said nothing seems eminent for discussion at an open board meeting.

LeMire also said village residents do not set meeting agendas, village officials do. She said the village reached out to Fettig after he made the request to be placed on the December agenda and worked out a date for his issue to be placed on a Public Works Committee agenda on Feb. 2. LeMire said at the time she thought everyone was happy with that result.

She said the village needs more information from Fettig to know what exactly the issues are and she’s not sure why Fettig is in a rush to discuss it. She said there has not been anything concerning enough that anyone has sought to place it on an agenda for action.

“It is a confusing situation,” LeMire said.

According to LeMire, the issue has nothing to do with a stop work order issued to Fettig Industries the board has been discussing in closed session. On June 19, the village issued a stop work order at the company because it had begun grading work in preparation for the construction of a new building project that had not yet been approved by the village.

LeMire said Fettig’s properties do seem to have some unique utility set-ups that were developed quite a while ago and the village, she said, has not looked at them. She also said there is a strained relationship over several years between the village and Fettig over various issues, but the village has not been in a position to set up a meeting over the most recent issue as of yet.

“It is not our issue,” she said.

Blackbourn said that’s interesting as comments in emails he filed an open records request to obtain indicate the village has specific issues with Fettig. The emails date back to October of 2019 and involve a proposed rezone of land Fettig owns in the village. The emails were provided to the Enterprise by Blackbourn.

In one email, LeMire is quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, there is a precedent of Fettig having private utilities for some of his other developments. It is my understanding that he promised to provide easements over the water mains for these projects, but never did. He enjoys operating without oversight and his buildings are hidden from view of the public rights-of-way.”

Blackbourn said LeMire also referred to Fettig as a “bully” and expressed a desire to have answers to the requested rezone formulated in advance of any public discussion.

In one email, Village President Jane Stiles proposed making approval of the rezone request conditional on Fettig agreeing to provide the village with right-of-way agreements across other properties. LeMire replied that she was not comfortable tying the project together with other “botched Fettig projects” because the plan commission and village board needed to be able to make their decisions independently from other issues in case there was any litigation by aggrieved parties.

“The Plan Commission has to be able to defend their actions based on the criteria set forth in the zoning code (meaning the decision needs to be based on the project, not a quid pro quo for other items desired),” LeMire said in her response.

Stiles could not be reached for comment.

LeMire answered several questions about the issue in general but did not respond to the specific comments Blackbourn attributed to her.

Blackbourn said all of this came as a surprise to Fettig as no one from the village ever approached him about any of it. He said the tenor of the emails clearly shows that certain village officials have great animosity toward Fettig.

LeMire said to her knowledge the issue will still be on the Feb. 2 Public Works agenda for discussion.

 
 

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