Lakewood killed its Tax Increment Financing District Tuesday night by a 5-1 vote.
The only opposition came from the longest-service Trustee, Carl Davis.
(If anyone can remember any TIF district being abolished after this short a time, please let readers know in the comment section.)
Voting against continuation of the TIF District were newly-elected Trustees Amy Fues Odom, Richard Ritchie, Phil Stephan and newly-appointed Trustee Patrick Rexroat.
Trustee Jason McMahon, appointed by outgoing Village President Erin Smith to replace Ken Santowski, who resigned, would have voted against abolition, if statements sent to McHenry County Blog were predictive.
Public comment was focused on the subject.
Pete Olson, an opponent of continuing the TIF District, led off getting answers to questions that previous Boards would not have given.
Santowski, who ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Paul Serwatka for Village President, tried to pin Serwatka with having said that he would reduce property tax bills 10%.
Serwatka referred him to written positions on his campaign web site, in which he said he said that he was talking about cutting only the village tax levy.
Sharon Lockwood of the Georgetown Subdivision, said she was “delighted that you are addressing the TIF.”
She pointed out the failed Huntley Outlet Store and McHenry Riverwalk TIFs.
John Craig, one of the owners of Crystal Woods Golf Club complained of not having received notice of the meeting, even though his property was in the TIF District and that Serwatka had not returned eight phone calls.
He contended that when approached to annex to Lakewood that there was a verbal commitment that the intersection would be commercially developed
“As it turns out, it hasn’t worked out very well for us,” he said.
Serwatka opined that the “direction in which Lakewood was being steered is the very reson Illinois is the worst (or second worst) in the nation.
“Economic development is a euphemism for corporate welfare.”
I pointed out that every TIF district in McHenry County had raised taxes for me and every other property owner outside the TIF district.
George Mueller, a member of Lakewood’s economic development committee pointed out that some TIF districts, like the one in Downtown Crystal Lake, work, while others don’t.
He stressed that it took a long time to bring a TIF district into being.
Lakewood’s “first meeting was when Bill Clinton was President,” he said.
Howard Frank said a TIF might make sense for a larger community, but “this TIF is a total waste of our money.”
Walt Kolumba said the people in the crowded room were attending the wrong meeting, that they should be at Crystal Lake High School District 155’s to “see where our money is going.”
Matt Norton, attorney for Craig Woods and Crystal Woods Golf Courses, urged the Board not to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
He said there were ways to “limit the debt to ‘pay as you go’ notes on the backs of the developer.”
He also said his clients’ zoning indicated that they would access to sewer and water.
Al Stenstrom, a leader in the fight against the McHenry County SportsPlex, the development that seems to have spurred creation of the TIF district, said that more TIFs have failed than succeeded.”
He contended the people who would benefit “have put very little into the pot.”
Joe Tirio, who fought TIFs in Woodstock prior to being elected McHenry County Recorder of Deeds stated that TIFs “take our money and give it to developers.
“Developers have no requirement to provide anything.
“If the market needed a SportsPlex, [one would be built].”
“I applaud your resolve.
“Release the money back to the taxpayers.”
And that was just the Public Comment part of the meeting.
In the debate on TIF repeal, Stephan explained, “We know the consensus of the residents.”
He mentioned opposition to the $1 million (of $66 million) allocated for “residential development.”
Stephan contended that “all the risk is on the taxpayers,” that village taxpayers can’t service a debt of $7 million to run sewer and water to Route 47.
He also debunked Jason McHahon’s contention that village taxes would increase 12%, if the TIF district were abolished, noting that the money had already been paid by taxpayers.
Ritchie observed that “maybe in five years, ten years, twenty-five years” the location at Routes 47 and 176 “may be a hot bed.”
He wasn’t willing to bet on the come.
Davis, the only one remaining of the Board who approved the TIF district, argued that the details previously passed could be modified.
“If we dissolve the TIF today, we’ll be giving that $200,000 to other tax districts.
“Its $200,000 that could be paid back to Lakewood taxpayers and [if we dissolve it]…it won’t.”
“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Serwatka interjected, “and both live in Lakewood.”
“I agree with you that $66 million is scary,” Davis continued.
“We can eliminate the residential housing portion.
“Why don’t we make this a tool, rather than just throw it out?”
Having seen number run using various assumptions, Serwatka concluded, “[It] just got riskier and riskier.
“There wasn’t a single scenario where Lakewood came out in the black.”
As the discussion ended, Davis moved to table the motion.
No one seconded that.
Davis complained that he was not included in the financial projection discussions.
“I feel left out.”
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After the meeting three people in the back complained to me about not being able to hear the discussion, that a sound system was needed.