Archive for the ‘ Growth ’ Category

Let’s start with a summary of events.

– The group now known as Preserve Our Neighborhoods (PON) was formed last spring in response to concerns that residents were not being included in DeKalb-NIU redevelopment plans that would directly affect them.

– Misty Haji-Sheikh of PON received unsigned documents from an anonymous sender regarding a corporation formed for the purpose of redeveloping the John Street neighborhood.

– The corporation, College Town Partners, was of public interest because NIU and City of DeKalb were named as partners in documents related to its purpose and operations.

– Haji-Sheikh asked NIU and City of DeKalb for documents related to College Town Partners under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). DeKalb denied her some of the information under an exemption to FOIA for preliminary drafts/proposals.

– Haji-Sheikh requested that the Attorney General’s Office of Public Access review DeKalb’s denial of information to ensure the city has used the FOIA exemption properly. The AG accepted this Request for Review.

– City of DeKalb responded to the AG’s request to provide the legal basis for using the FOIA exemption(s) but in an unusual move the city asked for — and received — blanket confidentiality of its response.

– Haji-Sheikh is allowed under the review process to respond to the city’s response and she did so even though she hasn’t been allowed to read it.

Michael Haji-Sheikh has provided Misty’s response to the AG via Twitter. Read the rest of this entry

I’ve read the College Town Partners documents that were leaked to the Preserve Our Neighborhoods (PON) group. (Want copies? Send an email to preserveourneighborhoods@gmail.com.)

The agreements, which were never signed, lay out a corporate partnership between City of DeKalb, NIU, a local developer and two banks.

They strike me as kind of nuts, actually, being fraught with conflicts of interest that government bodies could never ignore. Whoever developed them — at this point I’m envisioning somebody’s partially demented but clout-heavy uncle who must be humored — possesses no grasp of the “public” part of public projects.

For example, the agreements place the DeKalb city manager in the position of manager of a self-interested company operating in the same community. They also attempt to make rules for the participation of the government bodies (e.g.: confidentiality, non-compete clause, predetermined developer) but that’s the flip of what’s supposed to happen.

The plans as written didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in sunlight. Still, somebody thought enough of them to stuff 60 pages into an envelope to mail to the PON folks. Why? I think it must be a warning that an awful lot of planning has been going on behind closed doors, and that some of it may not represent the public interest.

Speaking of which, let’s look at the recent naughtiness of your mayor that ties in here. Read the rest of this entry

NIU president Baker and the mayor each spoke to the group, as did NIU vice-president Bill Nicklas and an architect who explained the process involved in the development of the Bold Futures Thesis.

In a nutshell, NIU wants to transform the thesis into a real plan for better use of the physical campus in nurturing a sense of place. It is one of several initiatives they hope will improve enrollment and retention of the hip, urban Millennial Generation.

When audience members expressed concern that the university is also pushing development plans for nearby historic neighborhoods without their input, the NIU representatives seemed genuinely surprised that they’d reached this conclusion. The NIU thesis isn’t a plan yet, they said; and besides, the focus is on the campus center.

Funny. I’d reached the same conclusion that the audience did when I attended the March 15 City of DeKalb strategic planning meeting. There, VP Nicklas shared his top budget priorities that involved the city and my notes show one of them is “Locust Street enhancements.”

So, I think maybe the NIU folks are back-pedaling a little.

However, I also believe the city has hitched its caboose to the NIU train with a little sleight-of-hand. Read the rest of this entry

The Manning Numbers

A request made by Brad Manning Ford came up in the last DeKalb council meeting agenda:

The dealership says it can get $400,000 from Ford to put towards the [$2.3 million expansion] project, but that it still can’t foot the rest of the bill. The $110,000 that it is requesting from the city represents about 4.7 percent of the total cost – below the city’s traditional maximum project cost-sharing percentage of 20 percent.

The requested rebate would come from new sales taxes generated over and above the existing taxes that the dealership generates now, according to city documents. The program would end after seven years, or whenever the $110,000 mark is met using a 50-50 split – whichever happens first.

According to documents that the dealership provided to the city, it expects to generate a total of $110,000 in sales taxes in 2014 and more than $170,000 per year by the year 2020.

I left a comment with the story:

I like Manning Ford a lot and have had great experiences with their sales, service and rental departments. However, I note that the City of DeKalb purchased a $29,350 Ford Explorer from them in June, and I wonder which dealer ended up supplying the new squad cars totaling $151,700? In other words, maybe Manning is already getting enough help from the city?

Read the rest of this entry

Of course I’m talking about the grand opening of the Nippon Sharyo railcar manufacturing plant and the potential birth of a supply chain cluster.

And they don’t even have Home Rule!

Let’s treat this as an open thread.

Traffic Studies

A new police station on Route 38 is in the works, and a proposed expansion of the DeKalb Public Library would involve closing a portion of North Third Street.

Clearly, each of these projects/proposals if built would impact traffic patterns at their respective locations.

Mac McIntyre brought up the need for a traffic study at the police station site a few months ago so I’ve been doing some research into the requirements as time allows.

Communications with the state Department of Transportation have convinced me that it would likely not be possible for the City of DeKalb to obtain a permit for the police station construction without a traffic study. Indeed, ComEd will have to obtain a permit to dig a hole for a pole before it begins utility work at the site.

Additionally, I just found out that the city approved “administratively” a traffic study, now in progress, for the police station site.

All’s well then, right? NO. My reading of the Municipal Code does not allow for an “administrative” decision on traffic studies. The procedure is for the director of Public Works to make a recommendation and for the city council to vote on the recommendation.

I’ve put the applicable section of Chapter 23, Article 7 after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

Redistricting Clock is Ticking

Recently while doing some lookups in Chapter 3 of the Municipal Code, I came across this:

3.02-5 REDISTRICTING THE CITY.

The wards of the City of DeKalb as heretofore established and as may hereafter be established shall be reapportioned according to population. In the formation of the reapportioned wards the population of each shall be as nearly equal as possible, and the wards shall be of as compact and contiguous territory, as possible.

The method for reapportionment shall be as follows:

That whenever pursuant to Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, there shall be taken an actual Enumeration within every ten years in such manner as the Congress of the United States shall by law direct, the City Council shall, by using the census tracts derived from said Enumeration, apportion the population among the wards accordingly. Said reapportionment of population shall be completed within two years following the Federal decennial year and no later than October 1 of the current year (1972) and by that day and month every subsequent ten years hereafter.

Yesterday John Acardo, DeKalb County Clerk, confirmed that the city must have its redistricting done by October 2012. The Clerk’s office has a redistricting manual for municipalities available.

Let’s make this an open thread. Feel free to comment on yesterday’s elections, anything.

Survey for DeKalb Residents

Have fun with this . . .

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/kayshelton_survey

Rochelle to Get 250+ New Jobs

[Update 10/21: Groundbreaking ceremony & more info on Nippon Sharyo.]

I haven’t seen this anywhere else but the Rockford Register Star so far.

Gov. Pat Quinn comes to Rochelle at 11 a.m. today to announce that a $35 million to $40 million railcar factory, expected to employ 250 to 350 people, will be built in the city.

…Nippon Sharyo, which will build and operate the plant, is the railcar building partner of Sumitomo Corp. of America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Corp., a Japanese trading company.

According to a Sept. 22 news release on the Sumitomo website, a $560 million contract has been awarded to Nippon Sharyo to build 160 electric bi-level commuter cars for Metra, the commuter railroad that serves Chicago’s suburbs…

The Rochelle plant will consist of a car shell assembly shop, a final assembly shop, a test track and offices.

There must be some mistake! Rochelle doesn’t even have Home Rule! /snark

Seriously, though, what Rochelle does have is the infrastructure; i.e. the rail port. So the real mistake being made is giving a multi-national company that doesn’t need it $12 million in EDGE and other tax credits that the state doesn’t have. When do we stop playing the game?

Also, anybody remember why DeKalb turned down the rail port? The hindsight view doesn’t look very pretty right now.

Overextended in Hampshire Via SSA

[Update 9/3: SSA bond owners have agreed to the buy-back plan.]

Courier News item, my emphasis:

HAMPSHIRE — Whether Crown Community Development will continue with plans to build 2,833 homes in three Hampshire developments, potentially tripling the village’s population, may depend on what six Wall Street firms decide between now and 5 p.m. Wednesday.

That’s the new deadline set for a bond sale that would reduce Crown’s yearly financing costs by millions of dollars per year, but would leave the bond holders with only about a third as much money as the face value of their bonds. The $75 million worth of bonds were sold in 2007 to raise money to build roads, expand wastewater and water treatment plants, and other infrastructure improvements to serve the planned Prairie Ridge, Oakstead and Tamms Farm subdivisions.

The bonds are being paid off over 30 to 40 years with money collected by a Special Service Area tax against each piece of land in the subdivisions. But so far, Crown has sold only 46 lots, and only three of those have had houses built on them. So Crown itself, rather than homeowners, has been paying the yearly SSA taxes.

Here we have, imo, yet another example of a financing mechanism that started out as a good idea but got warped by Illinois’ penchant for “work-arounds.” Read the rest of this entry