Mayoral candidate John Rabchuk late Wednesday called on St. Charles’ aldermen to reconsider their 7-2 vote on Dec. 10 to reject tax increment financing for the Lexington Club development.
The funding incentive has been considered crucial to financing the $45 million development that brought vocal opposition from neighboring residents and critics of the TIF.
Calling the vote by aldermen, meeting as the St. Charles City Council Planning and Development Committee, “both unfortunate and detrimental to the future of St. Charles,” Rabchuk said, “We had an opportunity to decontaminate a known hazardous waste site and to turn a blighted area into a neighborhood that would contribute to the economic vitality of our downtown and surrounding areas, and without financial risk to the city.”
Rabchuk presented photos of the Lexington Club site, which he said support his call on aldermen to reconsider their vote on the project.
But Raymond Rogina, stating clearly that he was speaking as a 3rd Ward alderman and St. Charles mayoral candidate, and not on behalf of the City Council, said the Lexington Club project is not dead, and that as long as negotiations continue, the project may advance.
“As I stated publicly, I want the property developed and that there is one chance to do the project right. Let’s embrace that opportunity and do it right — the first time,” he said. “Citizen input, particularly neighbor and survey input, is extremely important and should not be diminished.
“I do believe negotiations on finding the proper solution remain open; I am not aware of any deadline; democracy can be messy when the best solution is sought,” he continued. “It would be improper to make any further comment or make attempts to politicize the issue at this time.”
Mayoral candidate Jake “Wayne” Wyatt opposed Rabchuk’s call for the council to reconsider its vote. “Our City Council sent a clear message on Dec 11, 2012, by seven of 10 council member's voting no,” Wyatt said. “To push for a re-vote is a process of strong-arming the council and voters of St. Charles into once again accepting a TIF that adds additional debt (estimate $6.7 million).”
Rabchuk: TIF Can Be Done Safely
Some residents and city officials have questioned the wisdom of the TIF aspect to the Lexington Club proposal, pointing to other residential developments with TIF components — the old St. Charles Mall site and the city’s 1st Street project — which increased the city’s debt burden.
But Rabchuk, echoing comments by other city officials during the Dec. 11 vote, said that the potential debt obligation from a TIF can be avoided by adopting a “pay-as-you-go” policy.
The “pay-as-you-go TIF proposed for the Lexington development is specifically designed to eliminate any future financial obligation for the city,” Rabchuk said. “Currently, this site generates less than $100,000 annually in real estate taxes. Once fully developed, the estimated real estate taxes from this site will exceed $1.5 million annually.
“The proposed TIF financing would reimburse the developer for up to $6 million in site remediation from a TIF account solely funded by this increase in real estate taxes,” Rabchuk explained. “If the development fails at some point, the city has no financial obligations. Nor will the city have to sell any bonds to pre-fund this TIF as there are no upfront payment requirements by the city.”
“TIF as a no risk option? I challenge that comment,” Wyatt said. “The bill will come due in the future. Our 1st Street is an example of project that the city is not receiving any tax revenue with no development on the site. To impose another TIF without the voice of the voters saying they are willing to accept this debt is wrong. I believe the council members got the message from their constituents that voted no.”
He suggested the city put the TIF aspect on the April 9 ballot and let voters decide whether the city should assume the risk.
Neighbors feared the impact the project would have on their neighborhood and argued that he number of homes planned for the Lexington Club site was too great in comparison to the residential area surrounding it.
Rabchuk pointed out the plans included a mix of 130 townhomes, row houses and single-family homes near the city’s downtown.
“The type of housing proposed for this development would help us attract the young families and professionals that we need to support a healthy retail environment,” he said. “Following the recent relocation of the St. Patrick school program, the net incremental neighborhood traffic generated from this proposed development will be minimal.
“The city of St. Charles needs developments like Lexington to increase its tax base, lower the tax burden on existing residents and to make a clear statement to the retail business community that balanced growth is a priority for the vitality and health of our community,” he concluded.
Wyatt disagreed. “Lexington will add homes to an all ready oversupply of homes to the community and continue to drive values down.”
Mayoral candidate Jotham Stein had not responded yet to a request for comment when this story was posted.
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