By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
The Downers Grove Village Council continues to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to a series of redevelopment agreements set to assist them in improving the facilities for village hall and the police station.
In a 4-3 vote at their March 21 meeting, officials took action to authorize the start of negotiations regarding a proposed townhome development. Commissioners Marge Earl, Greg Hose and Bob Barnett cast the dissenting votes.
This measure, as is, does not bind the village to the townhouse proposal. Other developments to be considered include plans for an apartment complex and a medical office building.
The matter was last discussed during the village’s Coffee with the Council event on March 18.
Commissioner Greg Hose recognizes that officials may have four good proposals to consider and said still, he will not support a proposal that isn’t a good investment for the taxpayers and their dollars.
“The point of this process, I thought, was to come up with a creative way to solve our facilities problems without putting taxpayers on the hook for the cost,” he said. “Instead of that, now we’re looking at increasing taxes to pay for at least 20 years of bonds. While the feedback I’ve been getting is that at least a few residents are OK with this, even though it goes against what I thought was the primary goal of fixing the money pit problem without raising the taxes.”
Hose said he doesn’t think residents have been given the full context of the total impact of moving ahead.
“We already have a million dollar budget hole for 2017,” he said. “We’re three months into the year. That’s just to cover costs for current village operations.”
Commissioner William White recognizes the pros and cons to each proposal and said there’s one particular development that stands apart from the pact.
“The apartments are simply the best fiscal solution,” White said. “My own calculation shows that the present value of the apartment proposal would generate approximately $24 million in value for the taxpayers. I calculate that the townhome solution would generate about $10 million of value for taxpayers. DuPage Medical would generate about $7,500,000 for the taxpayers.”
White recognizes that he’s getting a lot of feedback from constituents saying the village should pursue the medical office building and said he sees a number of drawbacks to that proposal. The townhome proposal would serve as the next best solution, he said.
“There’s upfront risk that perhaps, [the townhomes] all won’t be built out straight away, but I’m less confident given the national state of healthcare that the healthcare industry won’t experience substantial changes in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. There’s members of U.S. Congress that want to repeal Medicare right now, and that would cause a significant change in the healthcare industry.”
Graham Mosey, of Downers Grove, chairman of the Downtown Downers Grove Management Corporation, expressed his concern for the redevelopment effort.
“It seems to me that we’ve got a lot high-density going on at the moment in the downtown, in particular,” Mosey said. “I think it’s time to kind of take our foot off the gas in terms of the downtown. The reason that downtown Downers Grove is vital is because of the businesses. The businesses are what bring people wanting to come to the downtown and what make people want to live in the village.”
Mosey said he supports the council if they choose to move forward with the proposed medical office building.
“Look at what Good [Samaritan Medical Center] has just done with the heart center,” Mosey said. “Those things aren’t getting smaller, they’re getting larger, and they’re getting larger because there’s more of a demand. So, a medical facility in our downtown would be an incredible opportunity long-term because it’s not going to go away. There’s going to be unfortunately, more customers as we age and we’re getting into those needs… the population is growing. They have to have somewhere to go.
“There’s no doubt we need a police station, we need a better facility for the village.
Sue Farley, also of Downers Grove, said what concerns her is the traffic in the downtown area.
“I have … lived in Downers [Grove] since 1983,“ she said. “[I’ve] seen a lot of changes—good, bad. My concern in reading this whole program is that one area that says, ‘Washington Avenue crossing: preliminary.’ I’ve not seen anything in the [village’s redevelopment proposals] to explain what any of the options would being doing with the pedestrian or traffic.”
Farley said she doesn’t think the village is looking into this concern as much as they should.
“I think the medical building would have better control—the lack of traffic on the weekends, off-hours would be better for the community,” Farley said. “Because if you want to do things in the downtown, like, on the weekends, you wouldn’t have all this condense people and cars.”
Rich Kulovany, of Downers Grove, said he supports the village’s effort if they look to pursue the development of new townhomes.
“Even though I support transit-oriented developments and adding residents to support downtown businesses, I feel it would be prudent to allow… the other four [existing] condos and apartments complexes to actually come on line to let us really experience what the results would be from traffic, density, parking and things of that nature,” he said.
Kulovany said he feels the village should take action sooner rather than later.
“The village council spent all of last spring discussing the options for this building and the building next door,” he said. “You’ve been talking about this approach since January [and] the public meetings since the end of February.”
Mayor Martin Tully recognized that village officials hold differing views on this matter and said the most fiscally irresponsible thing they could do is to do nothing.
“That’s been happening since 2005,” he said. “That would be the biggest colossal failure to this community is if we did nothing, and that I will not allow.”