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Giving Residents a Voice


5th Avenue Baseline Proposal: What are the economics to the City of 'moving forward'?

On the Naperville City Council agenda for Tuesday, October 1 at 7:00 PM is a proposal to direct Ryan Companies (“Ryan”) to “…move forward with the baseline concept presented on September 19, 2019…” (You do have to give City staff credit for using a loaded, subliminal term on an official City Council vote, as a ‘no’ vote would ostensibly be against “moving forward.” The word proceed may have been more appropriate.)

We’ve written several times about the so-called process used in this proposed transfer of 13 acres of public land to a private developer, which included:

  • a committee of ten hand-picked by the Mayor which met behind closed doors, skipped an RFP process and picked the guy on the NDP, of which the mayor and four members of the committee are also members;

  • how the process of picking the developer before the concept seems to have been backward;

  • how there has not been a competitive process, and the fact that the value of the land will be determined by an appraisal, instead of an arms-length transaction. You wouldn’t sell your house that way, and the City doesn’t transfer other land in that manner, so why is that a good idea in what is believed to be the largest transfer of public land in the City’s history?

Last week, we had several observations and questions about the project.

The process, however, appears to be chugging along, ready to “move forward.”

The timeline on the baseline proposal is leaving little room for discussion:

· Tuesday, September 17th: The City introduced the baseline concept to the public online.

· Thursday, September 19th: Ryan held a meeting to introduce the baseline concept.

· Monday, September 23rd: Steering Committee met to review the baseline concept.

· Tuesday, October 1: City Council to vote whether to “move forward with the baseline concept.”

Why the rush? The project has received considerable input to this point (much of which has been ignored), but the concept is introduced to the public with a two week timeline to approval by City Council? The same project, involving a transfer of public land, in which a committee appointed by the mayor picked Ryan behind closed doors, was never subject to an RFP, is not being competitively bid, and the value of the land is being determined by an appraisal, is rushed from introduction to vote in a two week period?

Even if we could put aside for a moment the glaring issues with the process, and if we could put aside for a moment the legitimate concerns regarding height, density, location of certain buildings, parking, traffic, effect on the existing residents, a commuter parking deck across the street from a school, and others, we’re still left with this question: how can the Council vote to “move forward with the baseline concept” without knowing the proposed economics to the City?

There is an estimated cost of about $287.5 million. There is an estimated “20 Year Tax Revenue Model” of $58.9 million. (The detail assumptions and forecasted timing of that 20 Year Tax Revenue Model would be good to see.) Conspicuously absent is any mention of the financial impact to the City. It’s inconceivable that there is not an estimate of that amount. Disclose it, and present the estimated full picture to the Council before asking them to vote to “move forward.”

Somewhere in the process, the public and private interests on this project became blended together. (A cynic might suggest that was by design). We get that this proposal will enrich certain private interests, like the developer, contractors and sub-contractors. We hope our elected officials recognize that they are representing the interests of the City, the public interest. How can they make an informed decision on what’s in the best interests of the public by moving from concept to vote in two weeks, on a 'no-bid' project, without even knowing the economic impact on the City?

City officials like to talk about transparency. A large dose of that on this proposal right about now would be useful.

City Council, how about we learn what the estimated economic impact on this no-bid project is to the City, then consider whether or not “moving forward” in the proposed manner makes sense?

The vote to “move forward”/proceed on the baseline concept, two weeks after it was introduced, without knowing what the economic impact would be to the City, is scheduled for Tuesday, October 1 at the Municipal Center. If you have questions or concerns with the proposal or the process, please express them to Council via email or at the meeting.

Primarily written by Mike Marek, with assistance from one who wishes to remain anonymous.

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