Assault rifle sales ban, Westlake’s Everest climb, downtown construction work among Naperville’s top stories in 2022

Getting back to normal in Naperville meant 2022 was a time to celebrate major accomplishments, such as the Islamic Center of Naperville’s mosque groundbreaking or Lucy Westlake climbing Mount Everest. It also was the year to bid farewell to a piece of Naperville history in the razing of the Kroehler YMCA.

Just as people began putting the pandemic in their rear view mirror, January saw a COVID-19 relapse during which record numbers of people became ill and mask debates and protests became heated. Later in the year, one of the most vocal mask opponents, Shannon Adcock, found herself in the spotlight and her emerging activist group on the frontlines of the gubernatorial race.

After reviewing all the stories that made headlines in 2022, these are the ones the Naperville Sun staff determined to be the biggest of the last year.

Record COVID numbers in January

Edward Hospital reported its highest COVID-19 hospitalization count since the start of the pandemic on Jan. 13, when 123 people were admitted to the Naperville facility for treatment.

The number of infected patients started climbing after Christmas 2021 and topped 100 daily for the first three weeks of 2022 before finally trending downward.

Numbers for the most part have remained below 25 since mid-February, though people continue to die from the virus. In its most recent update, Edward reported 266 patients with COVID-19 have died since March 2020 — 78 of them after Jan. 4, 2022.

In addition to people still battling the virus, Edward also saw more cases of RSV this year than in any previous year and more cases of influenza than in the past 10 years.

Masks finally come off at schools

Naperville School District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204 faced strong pushback from parents and students over mask-wearing policies at the start of the spring semester.

Social media posts in early February showed some students at District 204′s Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville holding a walk-in to protest the district’s mask policy two days after about 30 students protested at District 203′s Naperville Central High School.

On Feb. 4, a temporary restraining order in a Sangamon County lawsuit over Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mask mandate and other COVID-19 protocol stopped the requirement from being enforced, prompting District 203 to drop its mask rules Feb. 15 and District 204 to do the same Feb. 22. Both districts were included as defendants in the Sangamon case.

Kroehler YMCA meets wrecking ball

The 112-year-old Kroehler YMCA building at 34 S. Washington St. was razed in late July after efforts by Naperville Preservation Inc. to make it a Naperville landmark failed and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago cleared the site to sell it to a developer.

The Naperville Historical Preservation Commission determined the building didn’t merit landmark designation. Some Naperville City Council members said they did not want to tie the hands of a property owner by giving the building an unwanted designation that would limit its uses and prevent its removal.

Lucy Westlake climbs Everest

Naperville’s Lucy Westlake joined the record books May 12 as the youngest U.S. woman to climb Mount Everest.

Westlake reached the summit at 5:36 a.m. at age 18 years, 6 months and 8 days, breaking a 15-year record previously held by Samantha Larson, of Long Beach, California, who was 18 years, 7 months and 9 days old.

The Naperville North High School graduate described the 20 minutes she stood on a precipice at the top of the world as “surreal.”

Mudslinging spurs changes

The Naperville City Council in June adopted a code of conduct that updated how elected officials and mayoral appointees behave at meetings as well as in the public and on social media in response to leaked information and subsequent mudslinging.

The names of Special Events and Cultural Amenities Commission nominee Shannon Adcock and Naperville Public Library Board nominee Kevin Coyne were released prematurely in April, which raised the ire of residents who did not want to see either appointed to city bodies. Letter- and email-writing campaigns and online petitions both for and against the nominees were launched ad social media attacks occurred.

Ultimately, Coyne was appointed and Adcock’s name was withdrawn from consideration.

Those opposing Adcock’s appointment questioned her views on diversity, equity and inclusion and those of Awake Illinois, the advocacy group she founded. Awake has fought against pro-LGBTQ sex education and critical race theory in public school curricula and emerged this fall in support of gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey and conservative school board candidates.

Assault rifle sales ban challenged

The Naperville City Council voted 8-1 in August to prohibit the sale of weapons similar to those used in mass shootings in 2022 in Highland Park; Uvalde, Texas; and Buffalo, New York.

The ban on assault rifle sales would apply to Naperville’s two gun stores, Law Weapons & Supply on North Aurora Road and Range USA Naperville on Frontenac Court, and to any licensed firearms dealers in the city. Private transfers and private sales are not affected.

The National Association for Gun Rights filed a federal lawsuit in September challenging the law on behalf of the owner of Law Weapons & Supply. Earlier this month, the city agreed it would not put enforce the ban, which was to go into effect Jan. 1, until a judge rules on a preliminary injunction.

Downtown street improvements

After months of detours, closed sidewalks and other impediments, the first phase of the downtown streetscape construction project, which included improvements on Jefferson Avenue between Main and Webster streets and Main Street between Jackson and Jefferson avenues, wrapped up this fall.

The second phase of work on Washington Street between Chicago and Benton avenues and the east side of Main Street south of Van Buren Avenue, is tentatively scheduled to begin in the summer.

Also in the works is a complete replacement of the crumbling Washington Street bridge, which is scheduled to begin this spring and will take two years to complete.

Silence of the tornado sirens

Tornado sirens failed to sound July 23 despite there being a touchdown on the city’s far south side because new software installed in April to manage the system wasn’t set up properly.

City officials began an investigation after a confirmed EF-0 tornado first hit at the Aurora-Naperville border near the northwest corner of the White Eagle Golf Club at 5:40 a.m. and traveled 4.5 miles southeast until 5:46 a.m., where it lifted near 119th Street and Book Road.

Meanwhile, some residents are still cleaning up a year after an EF-3 tornado tore sections of Naperville on June 20, 2021. Neighbors joined with a nonprofit to create Naperville Tornado Relief, which is raising $1.5 million to fund projects insurance aren’t covering, such as removing soil in which dangerous debris was embedded.

Affordable housing moves forward

While the council continues to explore incentives it might offer to encourage developers to add affordable housing to residential projects, it did make progress by signing off on two deals in which affordable housing will be provided.

Six acres of city-owned land will be leased to Wisconsin-based Gorman Co. to build apartments for seniors and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, contingent on the developer acquiring financing before proceeding through the planning and zoning process.

Additionally, Pulte Homes plans to annex 110 acres into Naperville for the construction of 252 single-family homes and 149 town houses along 119th Street between Route 59 and Book Road.

Pulte has committed to selling 20% of the Townes series town homes and Springs series single-family homes at an affordability level to target buyers at 80% to 100% of Naperville’s area median income.

Community mental health boards

Community mental health boards are being established in Will County and Naperville and Lisle townships in DuPage County after voters agreed to allocate property tax levies to fund services for mental health, developmental disabilities and addiction.

Townships can have tax rates up to 0.15% of equalized assessed value, and Will County up to .05%.

Township and county officials are expected to appoint the boards in January.