Crosby: Which neighborhood would you want to play in?
By Denise Crosby email@example.com August 16, 2012 6:56PM
Three families, along with dozens of neighborhood children, have enjoyed the use of this 20-year-old wooden swing set passed down from one friendly neighbor to the next on Ash Street in St. Charles. Some of those who enjoyed its use include, from left to right, Ben Kuzniar, son Ben Kuzinar, 5, Joan Budilovsky-Kuzniar, Emma Segobiano, 8, Abbygail Lewis, 8, Kim Lewis, Evelyn Lewis, 6, Lexi Crossen, 7, B.J. Crossen, 10, Cat Crossen, 14, Maureen Lewis and Ben Steele, 19.
Updated: September 18, 2012 6:21AM
We all know the gospels tell us to love our neighbors. But that takes the saintliness of Mother Teresa when the folks next door have surveillance cameras pointed in our direction. Or they’ve erected a barrier of junk between our property and theirs. Or police get summoned and civil suits get filed.
There’s plenty of outlandish stories in all our towns. One of the biggest head-scratchers is laid out in a lawsuit that crossed my desk recently pitting East Dundee residents Dan and Julie O’Leary against Patrick and Allison Clarke. I’ve written earlier about these former friends who’ve been feuding since 2007 over what started as dog poop in the yard and has now turned into a dispute about 16,000 square feet of village property O’Leary cares for and wants as his own.
The Clarkes say the land should remain public and threaten a lawsuit if the village gives O’Leary the land. A vote on the property will take place next Monday, but this week at a board meeting Village President Jerald Bartels announced he’s so fed up with the shenanigans going on, he’s ready to de-annex both families. What makes this story even more of a grabber is the fact Dan O’Leary is a former-village president; and nemesis Allison Clarke sits on the police commission, to which he appointed her while in office.
Another lawsuit winding its way through the courts involves a few feet of property on Aurora’s far West Side. I’m not naming the street to avoid antagonizing an already volatile situation. But like the O’Leary/Clarke feud, police squads have been involved and ugly barriers now separate the two yards that stick out like an eyesore on this otherwise peaceful street.
Then there’s the North Aurora woman who contacted me on Facebook about her dispute with a neighbor. He also happens to be her uncle who, she claims, calls the police every time her son’s basketball goes into his yard.
“My husband built a fence,” she says of this family feud, “and now he’s upset because his flowers are not getting sun.”
Here’s another Facebook favorite, this one from a Wheaton resident: “A neighbor across the street used to direct his dog to poop in our yard. One day after I hit my limit, I scooped up the steaming poop with a snow shovel and dumped it at his front door — right in front of him. He thought that I was unreasonable!”
At least cops weren’t called. Aurora Police Cmdr. Kristen Ziman says the Bureau of Neighborhood Policing has responded to 349 neighborhood disputes so far in 2012; slightly higher than the 344 during that same time last year.
She believes those large numbers reflect a society deteriorating in civility and familiarity. “We don’t know our neighbors any more,” Ziman says. “There is no human contact,” until something sets us off. Then, instead of trying to work things out, “people are quick to pick up the phone and call police.” Anonymously, of course.
More often than not, she added, by the time police get involved, the dispute has evolved from whatever the original issue is to a “tit for tat” that often involves “a whole lot of chest pumping.”
Officers, Ziman says, are required to respond to all calls; and rely on their training in mediation to help resolve disputes. That, of course, doesn’t always happen: It’s not unusual to get called out to the same addresses again and again.
Which is not the best way to use taxpayer money. Ziman recently had to leave the hospital bedside of a 4-year-old rape victim to respond to a neighbor angry about tree branches over a fence line.
“Yes, it can get most frustrating,” she said. “We’ve got real issues out there.”
The good news is, there are plenty of good neighbors. When the children of St. Charles residents Madonna and Gary Steele outgrew the wooden play set they purchased 20 years ago, they gave it to neighbors Phil and Maureen Lewis’ grandchildren to enjoy. When those grandkids outgrew it, the Lewises gave it to Joan Budilovsky-Kuzniar’s 5-year-old son Benny. And when it was time to move the heavy play set to their house a few weeks ago, Budilovsky-Kuzniar said neighbors from all around the block, of all ages, lent a hand.
“We are middle class, hard- working people here,” she says. “Many of us are struggling to make ends meet. Yet we have so many here helping each other out.”
Compare that to the mess in East Dundee, where O’Leary is not optimistic about his feud with the Clarkes getting resolved anytime soon. “So why not sell and move?” my inquiring mind wanted to know.
“Would you want to buy a house with all this?” he asked, referring to the junky barriers separating the two properties.
No, I wouldn’t. Which leads me to the moral of this little story: You made your neighborhood; now live in it.