These turbulent economic times challenge us to hold the line on the village’s share of property taxes while maintaining high-quality services.
There’s another challenge: In a recent Public Affairs Council survey, 75 percent of Americans think the level of ethics and honesty in government has gone down over the past decade, and over 50 percent feel the same way about ethics and honesty in business. For shared public/private investments, this is a perfect storm, and it’s blowing across the proposed Lake and Forest project.
How, then, do we decide about this project? Some citizens want us to act as delegates, basing our decision solely on their viewpoint. But we are trustees, not delegates. Our decision must be informed by facts and the viewpoints of all of our constituents and other stakeholders. The village held 35 various meetings to gather information and citizen comments. We also closely studied the projected financial returns benefiting village operations, schools, libraries, parks and the business community.
My conclusions are:
- An additional 270 higher-income households will financially benefit both our central business district and our community as a whole.
- A consolidated parking management plan for the area near the project will more fully utilize all 588 spaces in the new proposed garage.
The economics make sense:
- First, there is no direct cash subsidy from the village to the developer.
- Second, the developer is paying for 288 parking spaces in the proposed development.
- Third, we replace an aging, financially failing parking garage. The new garage will help generate a projected $1.4 million in annual revenues from property, retail and liquor taxes — not just parking fees — from this $81 million private investment.
This proposed project causes tension because it’s situated at the confluence of a world-class historic district, a neighborhood, a park, a commercial district and a major traffic artery through the village. The Downtown Master Plan illustrated these tensions, and we’ve worked hard to mitigate them as much as possible through site usage, height step-backs, building design and material selection, increased pedestrian traffic in the central business district and additional parking.
Regarding zoning concerns, we must explain clearly the rationale behind the Planned Development ordinance, and clarify that the existing zoning is not a ceiling for development proposals that seek variances.
After careful consideration of these issues, and a full review of the record, I support the $81 million Lake/Forest proposal. Thank you, members of the Plan Commission, for your time and commitment. Although your deliberations ended with an evenly split decision, the record created through the public hearing process was essential and helpful to me in reaching a sound decision for this proposal.