City to Pay for Soil Contamination?

Mark Foster, writing for the Kane County Chronicle June 27, 2018, “Batavia works on soil cleanup plan to ready for Shodeen project,” writes:

The city staff of Batavia is formulating a plan to clean up the One Washington Place downtown redevelopment site, which is contaminated by lead….

“We’re still hoping for a groundbreaking this fall,” Batavia economic development consultant Chris Aiston said.

Soil borings conducted in April revealed that lead concentrations exceeding acceptable limits are present on the north side of the site along State Street under the existing city parking garage and up the hill to the east.

A subsequent report from Oak Brook-based environmental engineering firm Huff & Huff estimated that about 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil filling hundreds of dump trucks will need to be removed from the site.

Batavia Public Works Director Gary Holm said the city intends to combine into a single contract both the soil remediation and the remaining demolition work for the site, including razing the existing two-level parking garage.

The city expects to seek bids in mid-July before awarding the contract, with work anticipated to get underway the following month, Holm said….

Previous cost estimates for the soil removal, hauling and waste facility tipping fees have ranged from $350,000 to $1 million.

Aiston said all the demolition and soil remediation costs will be reimbursed from the tax-increment financing district that the city created specifically for the project.

How did the City, i.e., taxpayers, end up assuming the cost of cleaning up the soil contamination for the Shodeen project? There was no item on a City Council or COW agenda that addressed the issue.

And not only is there NO MONEY to pay for it in the TIF District that the project is in (TIF 5), because there are no buildings to generate revenue, but TIF 5 is already millions of dollars in debt to TIFs 1 & 3 that have loaned it money THAT THEY DON’T HAVE, going into debt for property purchases and other costs related to the Shodeen project. So if TIF 5 has no money, and TIFs 1 & 3 have no money, where is the money coming from to pay these costs?

Furthermore, TIF 5 will not begin to generate tax income until the apartments project is built. Even then, the taxes will go first to paying off the $16 million General Obligation bonds–for 20 years. Will there be enough to pay the bonds? We don’t know. No one knows. The aldermen won’t even guess at what the interest or payments might be. If it falls short, Shodeen is supposed to pay more taxes to meet the bond payments. But he has no obligation to pay the loans from the TIFs.

So who exactly is paying for the soil contamination remediation?

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Council Caves to Garbage, not to Citizens

The Council voted 7-7 on the massive Shodeen apartments project at 1 N. Washington, with Mayor Schielke breaking the tie again to approve the project.

On another topic, there was very interesting conversation at Council. Also on the agenda had been a waste hauling contract. It appeared a cut-and-dried vote from last week’s COW, with a contract being awarded to the lowest proposal. HOWEVER, some aldermen changed votes and awarded the garbage hauling contract to Advanced Disposal, BECAUSE OF THE HEAVY LOBBYING EFFORT BY ADVANCED DISPOSAL AND CITIZENS PUSHED TO LOBBY BY ADVANCED, despite that Lakeshore Recycling had a lower priced proposal. They said they heard overwhelmingly that citizens wanted to keep Advanced Disposal, never mind the cost.

One alderman pointed out it will be hypocritical to say citizen voices matter here, but will not matter when the Shodeen project comes up next.

Alderman Stark said that lobbying works when it’s what she already thinks. So because she already favored Advanced, people emailing her in support mattered, but those against Shodeen’s project don’t matter, because she doesn’t already agree with them. Her honesty is appreciated.

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Shodeen Apartments at Council Tonight

Tonight, Monday, 5/21, 7:30pm, the Batavia City Council is set to approve the zoning changes for the massive Shodeen apartment complex proposal. They approved it at the Committee of the Whole last Tuesday, by a vote of 7-6 (1 likely NO vote absent). In any case, the Mayor is for this, so in the event of a tie, he pushes it through.

You can still contact the Council or go to the meeting to voice your opinion, not because it will do any good (the 7 + Mayor in favor think they know what’s best and you don’t), but because you can say you made an effort to inform those who represent you how you want them to vote. If you’re silent, you give passive assent to however they wish to vote. You may use the contact button at right.

The soil contamination may still kill the project, but the zoning is one of the last items for vote before construction can begin.

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Shodeen Apartments Tuesday

Update:  The COW passed the zoning changes 7-6 (1 previous NO vote absent). However, soil contamination has been found at the site. Lead and “odor of petroleum” were mentioned. The contamination is thought to be expensive to remediate. The City must sit down with Shodeen to discuss it. There is the potential it could kill the deal.

The massive Shodeen apartment complex is on Tuesday’s (5/15) City Council Committee of the Whole (COW) agenda, 7pm.

The Plan Commission approved the changes, so now it’s going to the Tuesday night COW for discussion and preliminary vote before it goes to a Monday night Council for final approval. Agenda here:

The Plan Commission was given very limited scope to consider. They could not talk about the size or the traffic or pretty much anything but colors and materials, because the Council said so. The Plan Commission recommended citizens take their comments and concerns to the Council.

So Tuesday will be your chance to speak up. What started out as a 13-1 vote of the Council in favor of the project, became a 7-7 vote with the Mayor’s YES vote breaking the tie to push the project forward when the plan was changed, with apartments instead of retail at ground level on Wilson. If you can convince 1 more Alderman or the Mayor that this is a bad idea, not suited for downtown, then maybe the door could be opened for other ideas from other developers.

An interesting additional item on the agenda is discussion of parking configuration on State Street for this project. Apparently, keeping parking similar to as it is could cause problems, so the recommendation is to remove the parallel parking on the south side of the street, leaving even less parking downtown.

If you can’t make the meeting, you can email the aldermen and Mayor using the Contact button at right.

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Shodeen Project at Plan Commission Wednesday

Update: Zoning Overlay amendments approved 5-1. On to the City Council.

Design Review approved unanimously, with some changes to allow Staff to determine final parking space configuration and to work on making the Wilson St. ground floor apartment entrances more attractive.

Public hearing this Wednesday, April 18, 7pm, before the Plan Commission in City Council Chambers, on changes to Shodeen’s massive, 6-story 1 N. Washington apartments proposed for downtown Batavia. Main issues Wednesday are replacing retail on Wilson with apartments and parking lot configuration.

Read the document here:

Interestingly, the numbers keep changing. The recent Redevelopment Agreement (RDA) that split the Council 7-7, with the Mayor’s tie-breaking vote in favor, called for 194 apartments, 335 parking spaces. It has changed again, to 190 units, 365 parking spaces. But Staff says 365 parking spaces is not functionally feasible, but rather 343. And the traffic study says, “about 376 parking spaces, of which 319 spaces are to be available for public use”!? The original RDA was for 186 apartments, 351 parking spaces.

Even more interestingly, Staff is now recommending against the project unless the commercial space is restored on Wilson St.  (Who is “Staff” and why weren’t they against it before when the RDA was up for vote?)

And Shodeen wants the City to heat the parking garage so they don’t have to build in extra insulation for the apartments. Staff is recommending against it.

Will the Plan Commission again deny the variations requested? Will the City Council and Mayor again overrule the Plan Commission? Will everyone just get tired of Shodeen’s games and look for new proposals? Or will Shodeen get everything he wants? Go to Wednesday’s meeting and find out!

Please attend the meeting and add your voice to the public hearing. If only a few citizens show up, it looks like no one cares. The Campana project drew a lot of people (a lot of Genevans too), as did the Wind Energy light industrial proposal (a lot of Aurorans too), and both failed, but not nearly as many Batavians have shown up to speak against this project, and this is in the heart of Batavia. Geneva and Aurora don’t care about this one, so it’s all up to you. If you absolutely cannot make it, please send them an email, or better than an email, phone calls:

This is one of the last hurdles before construction can begin. Let your voice be heard.

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Revised Shodeen RDA Approved

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, the new, revised Redevelopment Agreement between the City of Batavia and Shodeen’s LLC for the massive One Washington Place apartment complex was approved by a vote of 8-7, the City Council voting 7-7, with Mayor Schielke breaking the tie in favor of the project.

There will now be 194 apartments and only 335 parking spaces. There will be no retail along Wilson, but apartments at ground level, as well as on State St. The only retail space will be on River St where the current parking deck is.


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Shodeen Apartments on Council’s Agenda Tuesday Night

Update: The Batavia City Council/Committee of the Whole voted 7-6 to kill the project, BUT, one alderman, Susan Stark, was missing. She’s a likely YES vote, meaning Mayor Schielke would be the tie-breaker, and he fully supports it. Of course it depends on which aldermen show up for the official Council vote…. Also, it would have to go back through the whole application process, including the Plan Commission that denied approval before.  

The Batavia City Council will take up the proposed changes to the massive, 6-story, Shodeen/1 N Washington apartments project planned for downtown Batavia at Tuesday night’s COW meeting, 7:30pm.

You can read Chris Aiston (the City’s Economic Development Consultant) urge the Council to accept the changes here:

He says removing most of the retail space, adding more apartments (total 194), removing more parking spaces (total 335), and the City (i.e., taxpayers) spending 2 million more dollars (total $16 mil) will be a good thing, even better than the original proposal. Do you agree? Will the City Council?

If the City Council doesn’t agree to the changes, the project is dead and the doors will be opened for a new project and new developers at the corner of Wilson and Washington in downtown Batavia.

And as it turns out, Shodeen’s project is nothing unique to Batavia. Look what Oswego just approved, with the same look, the same $16 million city bonds contribution, much more parking, AND the commercial space Aiston and Shodeen say is not economically feasible for Batavia: . It’s even on the same street (Washington) in Oswego.

If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to share your thoughts with the City Council, you can (respectfully) email the Council using the Contact button at right.

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City Budget Hearing Tonight

The City of Batavia will have their budget hearing tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 7:30pm. It was first unveiled last Thursday at a meeting not recorded by BATV.

Highlights: more tax increases

  • $300,000 in property taxes for sewers (tax impact <$15 for $350k house)
  • gasoline tax increase of $.01/gal (total $.04/gal)
  • water rate 3% (~$1/month)
  • sewer rate 6% (~$2.30/month)

Budget presentation here.
Detailed budget here.

The (home rule) gasoline tax appears to be their go-to tax to fill budget gaps. It has increased annually in recent years and is one of those hidden taxes that you pay but don’t see directly, as you would on your property or utility bills. But if you buy gas in Batavia, you pay it. If you put 15 gallons of gas into your car at a Batavia station, you will pay 60 cents in tax this coming year…each time you fill up. It adds up.

Meanwhile, last year they spent over $3 million in TIF District projects, most of that for property purchases and parking lot construction for the 1 N. Washington project. The TIFs are in debt, with money borrowed from the General Fund.

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Shodeen Project Special Meeting Wednesday

Update: Discussion will continue Tuesday night, 10/17, 7:30pm at the next COW meeting. It appeared several aldermen were swayed by the sales pitch of Shodeen’s Representative, while a few remained unhappy with the loss of commercial space on Wilson and seemed willing to let Shodeen walk away.

There is a special Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11, 7:30pm, for the Batavia City Council to discuss proposals by Shodeen to make changes to the One North Washington project. The agenda document can be found here.

Because construction estimates are coming in $6-8 million above initial estimates, Shodeen is proposing changes. The proposed changes include:

Adding 8 new residential units (new total 194) to the ground level on Wilson and State Streets, thereby eliminating all the proposed new retail/commercial space on Wilson and narrowing the sidewalk on State. New business storefronts would go only on River St where the garage now is, eliminating over 60% of the proposed retail that was supposed to make this a “mixed use” development. AND it would eliminate 15 parking spaces, reducing the total to 335, to supply parking for 194 apartments and all the businesses downtown. AND Shodeen now wants $16 million instead of $14 million in taxpayer-backed General Obligation bonds.

Shodeen’s representative “has informed staff that his company cannot and will not build the approved project”. Continue reading

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