- Editor’s Note: This summer, Kane County Connects interns Annabel Sengstock and Lizzy Kramer are putting the spotlight on 26 Kane County communities, from burgeoning Aurora to serene Sleepy Hollow, looking at each community through the eyes of a civic leader. This article, the 10th of the series, is written by Sengstock and profiles the village of Sleepy Hollow and Village President Stephen Pickett.
Sleepy Hollow is a community with about 3,300 residents, nestled between bustling suburban towns. But don’t mistake its miniature size for a tiny personality: this village has a charm that can’t be found anywhere else in Kane County.
Village President Stephen Pickett says that the rich history of Sleepy Hollow’s neighborhoods makes the community such a special place.
“The village was carved out of an old farm,” he said. “Our village hall used to be the chicken coop. The silo and two barns are still standing to this day … It feels like you’re in the country.”
When Sleepy Hollow was incorporated in the late 1950s, the Village Board held meetings in one of these barns, using bales of hay for seating.
Back then, the community was considered to be “the boondocks,” Pickett said.
Now, industrial parks and commercial strips rest where dairy farms used to lie.
“We’re swimming in concrete and asphalt,” Pickett laments.
But he also says it’s increasingly important that Sleepy Hollow looks to the future instead of reminiscing about the past.
The village president says sustainability is one of the most important items on his agenda.
“We need to keep the funds available to maintain the quality of life we have here,” he said. “We do a pretty good job satisfying our residents’ basic needs: roads, water and police. The village was established in 1958, and I’d like to see it go on until 2058.”
In order to survive in an increasingly modern world, though, Sleepy Hollow has had to add retail to bring in sales tax money. The community has a small commercial strip on the north end of the village along Route 72, including a car dealership coming to the area later this year.
After the redevelopment of Spring Hill Mall, the village will expect to see increased traffic along Route 72. In the near future, the state of Illinois will expand the road from two lanes to four lanes to improve traffic flow. This type of construction will likely impact residents living along the road, but the village will have to wait and see how that will play out.
Sleepy Hollow 2017
- Population: 3,329
- Year Founded: 1958
- Most people don’t know: Sleepy Hollow is based on the Washington Irving novel, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Even the streets are named after book characters: There’s Crane Drive, Van Tassel Road and even Beau Brummel Court!
- Famous residents: former Miss Teen USA Cherise Vonae Haugen, computer scientist John Platt
- Size: 2.02 square miles
‘Oasis in the Suburbs’
When Stephen Pickett moved to serene Sleepy Hollow 34 years ago, the village had less than 2,000 residents living in its quiet boroughs.
Today, it has added 1,300 new citizens, thanks to the additions of neighborhoods like Saddle Club and The Bluffs in the 1980s.
According to Pickett, it’s Sleepy Hollow’s unique atmosphere that seems to draw people to move to the village.
“There’s a sense that Sleepy Hollow is an oasis in the suburbs. It’s an escape from the cookie-cutter look of most other towns,” he said. “There are no fences, sidewalks or sheds here. Everything’s wide open.”
Although Pickett has been the village president of Sleepy Hollow for almost two decades now, he didn’t start out as the top dog. He began his political career as a trustee of the Village Board, before being asked to run for the presidency. In fact, one of the people who asked him to consider being village president ran against him, he said.
Pickett got the job, and for the past 17 years, he has taken on the responsibility of caring for Sleepy Hollow’s well-being.
“I look out for over 3,300 people,” Pickett said. “We’re a bedroom community, which means that we have almost no commercial or retail development in the village. That gives me a bit of a challenge.”
With West Dundee on the north and east and Elgin on the south and west, Sleepy Hollow is essentially boxed in and landlocked.
Sleepy Hollow was founded on the idea that it would be supported by “rooftops alone,” Picket said, which means the village gets almost all of its revenue from property taxes.
“For about 28 years, our budget has been as tight as two coats of paint. We watch our budget constantly, but we’re looking for coins wherever we can find them. Every nickel and every dime counts,” Pickett said.
Although it may seem as if Sleepy Hollow is frozen in time, it has had to make changes in recent years to remain fiscally stable.
A couple years ago, the village faced a particularly concerning financial struggle. All of its money in reserves had been used up, and if something wasn’t done, Sleepy Hollow would be forced to join another town or have its government dissolved, Picket said.
To fix the issue, Sleepy Hollow was forced to increase its property taxes.
“It’s not easy going out and asking residents to pay more in tax dollars, but we had to do it,” Pickett said.
Since then, the village is back on track, and is in good shape financially, Picket said. Even so, officials are trying to be cautious looking ahead.
“We won’t have any large-scale housing developments in the future,” Picket said. “We only have 24 vacant lots, that’s it.”
About Village President Stephen Pickett
- Profession: Retired bicycle shop owner
- How long have you been a resident: 34 years
- How long have you been village president? 17 years
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