Update: The JRB passed all measures 6-2, with School District and Township (in support of the School District) voting NO. The City can now do what it wants.
The School District’s Tony Inglese made an excellent, thorough presentation as to why they were voting NO (long story short, they expect too many students from apartments with no compensation). For as much as I have criticized the School District, Mr. Inglese should be lauded for his efforts as Chief Finance Officer. There’s a long way to go toward reform, but he’s consistently taking steps in the right direction, shows a keen grasp of issues, and puts in a lot of effort. He was the bright spot in the JRB meeting.
Update: The JRB passed all measures 6-2, with School District and Township (in support of the School District) voting NO. The City can now do what it wants.
This week Tuesday are 3 meetings, City, Library, and School.
City Committee of the Whole, 7:00pm. From the City’s site:
“The meeting will be broadcast live on BATV’s YouTube channel which can be accessed from their website at myBATV.com or https://www.youtube.com/user/BATV1017. If you plan to attend in person, you must wear a mask and please note there is limited seating available for the public in the room so that social distancing can be maintained.
If you would like to make comment by phone during the meeting, please send a request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:00 pm the day of the meeting indicating your name, phone number, the date of the meeting and the topic on which you would like to make comment. You will be called at the number you provided during the meeting at the time for public comment.”
Agenda Item 6. Discussion: Update from the City Administrator and Mayor from their Discussions with Other Taxing Bodies. This is in regard to the creation of a new TIF District. A Joint Review Board will be convened Oct. 1, 10:30am, at City Hall (public welcome), made up of representatives from all the taxing bodies. They will review the grounds the City claims for creating a new TIF District and Redevelopment proposal for Shodeen. I had created a document that I sent to the various taxing bodies with my own arguments against the TIF (can be read here), which leads to the next meeting, the Library Board.
Library Board is having a special meeting at 6pm online, via Zoom, to discuss the TIF proposal and give direction to their representative. Information posted on the Library site: The Board of Library Trustees is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, September 22, at 6:00 p.m., via electronic means (the Zoom platform). Board meetings are open meetings and persons interested in attending this meeting should notify the Library via email at OpenMeetings@BataviaPublicLibrary.org to receive login information.
Another BRG member kindly did the write-up for this week’s School Board meeting (and if anyone likes to write and wouldn’t mind contributing write-ups once in a while, please send a note through the Contact Us page):
Tomorrow night (Tuesday September 22, 2020, 7:00pm), The School Board will be holding their regular monthly meeting. The meeting will be held at the Fine Arts Center next to the High School. Seating will be limited to 50 individuals (shouldn’t be a problem if you want to go). Otherwise the meeting will be streamed live for those who don’t want to attend.
Here is the link to the Agenda and all the documents for the meeting : https://go.boarddocs.com/il/bps101/Board.nsf/Public
Item 4 on the Agenda will be public comments – usually limited to three minutes and when you come into the building, sign up as a speaker with the Secretary.
Items of interest/concern are:
5.10 Approval of Administrator and Teacher Salary & Benefits Report Make sure to look at not only the salaries, but, also the benefits,
Very, very generous giving out our tax dollars when most of us won’t have benefits packages that large.
7.1 Adoption of the 2021 Budget – See 2021 Final Budget Summary
7.3 Approval of the Medical Insurance Rates for the 2021 Plan year. The insurance reserve has increased to 30%, above the 25% target, so the Board will not be required to make additional contributions over its share of premiums.
New Wellness Incentive
New this year, we are incentivizing participation in the annual wellness assessment with lower employee contributions for medical insurance. Single plan participants can save $25 per month on the medical insurance contributions and others $50 if both spouses participate in the screening before October 2. Despite the increases in premiums above, the net result for most employees will be a slight savings over the prior year if they participate in this new incentive.
The Batavia School Board will hold a public hearing Tuesday night (8/25/20), 7pm, in the BATAVIA FINE ARTS CENTER (note new meeting place). The budget and summary can be found here: budget (look at the summary).
As the School Board is responsible for over 2/3 of your property taxes, this budget is one you’ll want to pay attention to.
Finance Director, Tony Inglese, has made the budget summary very detailed (kudos to him!), with many useful graphics (especially at the end if you’re short on time or your eyes glaze over when you look at lots of numbers).
They’re looking at another tax increase, as usual, while enrollment declines. Please try to attend the public hearing and voice your comments.
City Council COW (8/11/20) passed all measures furthering the Shodeen apartments 8-6. The 8 aldermen voting yes, in favor of the project: Baerren, Beck, Cerone, Wolff, Chanzit, O’Brien, Russotto, McFadden
No votes: Callahan, Uher, Meitzler, Malay, Miller, Knopp
You can watch it here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rYNV_FWfVEA (watching it at playback speed 1.5 makes it go faster)
Notable discussion points:
The aldermen supporting the project (led by City Administrator Laura Newman) said the citizens who are against it “don’t understand it”, are listening to “misinformation” (Baerren, Wolff, O’Brien), and are the complainers, while the majority of Batavia wants it because they want a vibrant downtown (Russotto). Baerren doesn’t see a parking problem downtown (it’s a misinformation problem) and thinks “people just have to walk farther”. Chanzit and McFadden from the start have thought it will be a huge success.
The NO votes set the record straight against the real misinformation (start 1:44:50 with Callahan) and pointed out there will be NO revenue for the City and other taxing bodies for 23 years, and that the School District weighed the information and voted against it (Callahan). Malay noted the towns with big apartments that people hated at first but now love have one thing in common: a nearby train station, and not one constituent he’s talked to supports the project. Meitzler cited ever-changing parameters and ever-increasing costs for his NO. Callahan added he wants us to “be us” and not like every other city. Uher pointed out after the tenants park, we’ll have LESS parking downtown and wants smaller scale. Miller, as a project manager, sees the economic benefits during construction but doesn’t want to change the character of the town with a project that is too big and doesn’t fit Batavia. Knopp talked to many citizens (not listening to “social media”), said the project is just too big, and says “Shodeen”, not “Batavia”.
The most baffling: Beck acknowledged it doesn’t have public support, is out of character, doesn’t have enough parking, and construction can disrupt existing businesses, but voted YES anyway. Cerone had concerns too, but voted YES as well.
The changes Shodeen wanted—drawing up plans now at City expense and sales tax abatement—did not get put into the RDA.
It now goes to a Monday night City Council meeting for final approval of the COW’s recommendations.
It also has to go to the Joint Review Board, a board made up of representatives from all the taxing bodies. A negative recommendation from them requires a 2/3 vote (10/14) of Council to override. Council doesn’t currently have the votes to override. We know the School District will vote NO, but will have to see about the others.
Tuesday night, 8/11/20, 7pm, the Batavia City Council Committee of the Whole (COW) will be discussing approval of a new Redevelopment Agreement (RDA) and TIF District for the massive 6-story Shodeen apartment complex in the heart of downtown Batavia.
The Batavia City Council will be selling roughly 3/4 of a city block they have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on, to Shodeen for $10. Then they will give Shodeen $16 million in General Obligation bonds (plus interest), backed by your tax dollars, to build a 2-story “public” parking garage with 333 parking spaces that will supposedly provide parking for the tenants of the 186 luxury apartments, as well as tenants and customers of the 14,000 sq ft of new retail space, and 2400 sq ft of office space. Oh, and they’ll be tearing down the city’s parking deck, destroying over 200 current parking spaces between the deck and adjacent lots. Shodeen will pay for 0 —that’s ZERO— parking spaces for his tenants, who will have to pay $30/mo. for an overnight parking pass for the “public” garage that anyone living in the downtown area can also purchase.
Does this sound like a good deal for citizens? But wait! There’s more: Continue reading
Update: The Plan Commission did not approve point “5. The project design provides for safe and efficient provision of public services. Finding: The project would increase the amount of public parking in the downtown and reduce the deficit of all parking in the vicinity.” They voted 3-3, a tie when a majority was needed to pass, but everything else passed, as did the project overall. The Commission really had their hands tied because the Council had already changed the zoning requirements for this project, so of course the project would meet the new requirements. The Council did away with height and mass restrictions and parking requirements, rendering the Commission’s job pretty much one of picking colors and materials. The Commission is advisory only, and the Council can and has overridden the Plan Commission’s concerns. Frankly, it was surprising point 5 was even offered for the Plan Commission’s consideration.
Tonight, Wednesday, 7:00pm, is a public hearing before the Plan Commission for Shodeen’s 1 N Washington apartment complex. The meeting is virtual, so you can attend from the comfort of your own home. Agenda with documents and instructions on how to attend can be found here: https://www.cityofbatavia.net/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_07012020-1572?html=true
The Plan Commission voted against the project initially, but was overruled by the City Council. There’s not really anything they can do, because the City Council will push it through no matter what. But if you comment during the public hearing, the Council won’t be able to say later, “No citizens objected.”
To get the support of a majority of the aldermen (9 of the 14), Shodeen had to put the retail back on Wilson St. What Shodeen before claimed was not financially feasible, has suddenly become feasible again. The new plan calls for 14,180 sq ft of retail space on the ground floor portions of the development on Wilson and River Streets, 2,370 sq ft of office space above the retail along River, 91 2-br apartments, 95 1-br apartments, and just 333 parking spaces in the “public” parking garage the City will issue $16 million in bonds to build.
If you read the agenda document, you will see what the Plan Commission is to rule on.
One North Washington (Shodeen apartments) is on hold. The 13-year TIF extension was voted down by the School Board, killing the extension, effectively killing the project because Shodeen needs 20-year bonds. BUT the project refuses to die. Now the City Council is considering dismantling the TIF district they created for Shodeen, and creating a new TIF for Shodeen. But that may not be possible (they can hardly argue “blight” when all those “blighted” properties have been leveled). Staff has been instructed to investigate a new TIF’s feasibility. NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE ON A NEW TIF. So what’s puzzling is the rush to sign new contracts related to Shodeen.
Items of concern on tonight’s agenda:
A summary: This is a contract for $20,500 for 3rd party review of the proposed parking garage design–understandable IF the project were going through. There is a 10% retainer ($2050) for what could be nothing. 4 aldermen recognized it was putting the cart before the horse and voted NO. The other 9 voted YES (Meitzler absent) to bring it for final approval tonight at 7:30pm.
Aldermen voting NO: Callahan, Uher, Cerone, Knopp
A summary: This is a $3,000/month contract with no hours of service outlined (as was brought up by an alderman). The contract says, “The specific consulting services to be performed by the Consultant shall be related to establishment of a new TIF that includes the One Washington Place redevelopment project (the “Project”) unless additional services are requested by the City Administrator or Director of Community and Economic Development and agreed to by the Consultant.” The argument being made is the coronavirus crisis has curtailed the hiring of a Business Development Manager to take the place of an Economic Development Consultant, in which capacity Chris Aiston has been working for a number of years. Aiston, along with former City Administrator Bill McGrath, brought Shodeen to Batavia, and at every appearance before the City Council, Aiston, at least to some, seemed to argue more for Shodeen than for the citizens’ interests. Aiston was supposed to have retired Memorial Day, but this will keep him on, primarily to create a new TIF for Shodeen, per contract. It was approved at COW unanimously, with aldermen arguing Aiston can be consulted on other projects that may come up until a Business Development Manager is hired. City Administrator Laura Newman made it clear that there will be a team of 3 (including herself) to work on new projects, and that Aiston will primarily be concerned with the TIF.
From the BPS101 website:
…the District has determined that the March 24th meeting will be held virtually. The decision was made based on current guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health to take social distancing measures.
The public is welcome to participate in this meeting. Options for the public include:
- Joining the video conference by visiting meet.google.com/jcx-gpoa-dxq
- Watching the recorded meeting once it is posted online.
Public comment is allowed at the beginning of our Board meetings. Comments are limited to three minutes per person. If you would like to participate:
- Email the superintendent at email@example.com your comments. They will be read at the meeting OR
- The Board President will also ask for public comments during the virtual meeting, but to ensure that you are heard, it is recommended that you email firstname.lastname@example.org with your intent to comment.
Update: The School Board voted down the TIF extension, effectively killing any chance to extend the TIF.
The School Board is not taking a break for the coronavirus and has on its 7:00pm, Tuesday night (3/24) Agenda the Shodeeen TIF extension. If the School Board votes against extending the TIF district an extra 12 years (35 years total), the TIF extension option dies and the City Council will have to do something else to keep their pet project going (like undoing the TIF and redoing it for 23 years, which is more complicated).
The School Board voted against the original TIF formation, but TIF district creation does not require their consent, only extension does. The School Board had thought the City underestimated the number of students the apartments would produce, and the school district would be burdened with educating the students without Shodeen paying his fair share for them.
Usually about 2/3 (67%) of our property taxes go to the school district. In a TIF district, tax dollars get diverted from all the many taxing bodies and go to the City alone, which the City then uses to redevelop a “blighted” area, often giving public tax dollars to private developers (like Shodeen). There are some exceptions for the school district: under law, Shodeen’s taxes would have to pay the cost per student (around $12,500 when last mentioned), up to 40% of the apartments’ property tax (excluding the retail space property tax). So BPS101 would receive 0-<40% of the tax dollars from Shodeen instead of 67%, and the other non-City taxing bodies get nothing…for 23 years, or if extended, 35 years.
We all pay taxes to the school district, whether we have children in it or not; it’s part of our societal obligation. Shodeen is being given a pass on his obligation with this TIF district. His taxes will go to pay the bonds that will build his parking garage, a “public” garage that his tenants will use, that doesn’t even have enough parking spaces to meet code for his tenants. Is it fair wealthy Shodeen gets his property taxes reinvested in his property, while the rest of us poorer folks cannot do the same, all the while shortchanging the institutions that rely on our taxes?
Please contact the School Board (button at right) and let them know how you would like them, as your elected representatives, to vote on this. Should they again vote NO to the TIF?
The City Council COW passed the Shodeen TIF extension 9-4 on 3/3/20. They’re sticking with the project. The apartments will be built if all the taxing bodies agree to the extension, if the legislature passes the extension, and Shodeen gets a bank to finance his portion:
—Yes: O’Brien, Wolff, McFadden, Chanzit, Knopp, Miller, Russotto, Beck, Baerren
—No: Callahan, Cerone, Uher, Malay
The full City Council passed it 9-5 on 3/16/20:
—Yes: Miller, Russotto, Beck, Chanzit, Wolff, Baerren, O’Brien, Cerone, McFadden
—No: Knopp, Callahan, Meitzler, Malay, Uher