Last February, the City of Naperville issued a Request For Qualifications (“RFQ”) for development ideas for multiple, publicly-owned (meaning taxpayer-owned, meaning you, your neighbors and us) property, mostly along 5th Ave:
the Kroehler Lot
the Water Tower West Site
the Lower Burlington Lot
the 190 E. 5th Avenue property
the Parkview Lot
the DuPage Children’s Museum property
the Upper Burlington Lot
A committee of ten "community leaders", including four residents, was hand-picked by the Mayor to review the RFQ's ("The Committee"). The public's first glimpse was to be at a workshop scheduled for August 28th to review the top RFQ’s. Notice of the meeting was on the City’s website and in Naperville Connected, the flier that accompanies utility bills from the City.
Abruptly, the workshop was cancelled. An item was added to agenda for the August 15th City Council meeting to “Approve the Award of RFQ 17-036, 5th Avenue Development Opportunities, to Ryan Companies US, Inc.”
The Committee made a decision to award the contract outright to Ryan Companies US, Inc. (“Ryan Co.”). The Committee met in private, and signed non-disclosure agreements. The only resident input was from the four on The Committee, all of whom have ties to local commercial real estate and/or are closely aligned with the mayor. The stated reason for the decision was that Ryan Co. was the only organization capable of handling a $300 million project.
Left unsaid was how it was decided that a project of that size was appropriate for the area, and why.
Worth noting is the fact that Jim McDonald, who works in the Naperville office for Ryan Co., is one of the Vice Chairmen and a member of the Executive Committee of the Naperville Development Partnership, (“NDP”).
The members of The Committee included:
-Christine Jefferies, President of NDP and a member of the NDP Executive Committee
The latter three are all on the* Board of Directors of the NDP.
Mayor Chirico is on the Executive Commitee of the NDP, as is Doug Krieger, Naperville City Manager. Approximately 90% of the NDP’s operating budget is money from the City of Naperville.
While it’s become customary for residents to get completely rolled over by Mayor Chirico on development proposals, some members of the City Council didn’t react well to suddenly seeing on the agenda and being asked to approve selecting a developer for publicly-owned property with no information. Council members Anderson, Krummen, Hinterlong, Obarski, and Gustin expressed disagreement with the process. Councilwoman Anderson:
Think about that. The 5th Avenue proposal is potentially the biggest development in Naperville history, on publicly-owned land no less. The RFQ’s were reviewed, behind closed doors and subject to non-disclosure agreements, by The Committee selected by Mayor Chirico. Four members of The Committee are affiliated with Jim McDonald of Ryan Co. through the NDP. City Council is then asked to approve Ryan Co. while receiving no information on the process, other developers, or the proposals.
The Mayor’s response to Councilwoman Anderson:
So The Committee picked by the Mayor chooses a developer behind closed doors with no input from elected officials in order to keep politics out of the process? The Committee has four of its members affiliated to the developer's representative through the NDP. The Committee chooses that developer. (Again, the Mayor and City Manager are also on the NDP Executive Committee.)
The Mayor didn't mention any politics on The Committee. No, the Mayor believes a resident passing fliers about concerns over the cancelled 28th meeting and the proposed project was political.
Do you see the politics Mayor Chirico references in those fliers? Or do you see a resident concerned about his home and neighborhood, how the proposed development could affect the future of him and his family, and concern about the process?
After it was clear the item lacked five votes, the agenda item deferred to the Sept 5th Council meeting and the workshop was again scheduled for Monday August 28th (6:00 PM, Council Chambers, City Hall). City manager Doug Krieger apologized for a "lack of sufficient communication" to Council and the Mayor also apologized,"to Council, predominately." So, just a communication issue.
Mayor Chirico is a noted proponent of property rights. We agree on the importance of property rights, particularly those of current residents potentially affected by this and other proposed developments.
Here’s an idea: Slow the 5th Avenue development process down. Have the owners of the property (us, the taxpayers) in on the initial discussions about how the (our) property should be developed. Then pick a developer consistent with the vision of the property owners, not have The Committee pick a developer with the local representative that four of them know from the NDP.
How about advocating for our property rights, Mayor Chirico? You know, the people who own the land, the residents you were elected to represent?