Letter to the Editor: “Cornerstone” Project

To the Editor:

Regarding the Cornerstone DeKalb Project: This project is being considered as a downtown development. Tax increment financing funding is being requested, and the project seems to meet the TIF criteria. I have concerns, which include the following:

• Why a 40 percent request for project costs vs. the 25 percent guidelines?

• How carefully has the financial and population data been reviewed?

• Why is there a rush to approve a major project in fewer than 15 days?

• Has the city done a thorough cost/benefit analysis of past TIF projects to better understand where TIF has been used wisely and where it has not?

Projects usually are presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission, discussed, then the commission would hold a public hearing and discuss further offering input, then it would be brought before the City Council for either discussion at a meeting or action for first reading, then later for second reading.

This lessens proper public vetting as the whole process is taking place in 15 days. So what does this do to the ability of the zoning commission to perform its primary duty in providing objective input to the council?

For a project of this magnitude, resident committees such as the Finance Advisory Committee and Economic Development Commission should be playing an active role for detailed vetting by the residents who volunteer their time and talent and who know what questions to ask.

Add to this that my council member, Kate Noreiko, told me she was briefed privately before the council meeting, as others probably were, which certainly curtails the dynamics of the normal question-and-answer process. This is not what can be described as best practice.

It is obvious that discussions about this project have been going on for some time…since at least early fall of 2016, if not earlier. The council is allowing this to fast-track, having been told that the deal would be off if the project is not passed by early March. Really? If this type of development will provide a needed economic engine for our downtown, then why not adhere to the 25 percent guideline, which would free up TIF dollars for assisting other buildings that could be improved to accommodate additional apartments?

Is it possible to scale down this proposal? What considerations are being made for parking? How closely has the zoning commission looked at the details?

Slow down, question, think.

Bessie Chronopoulos
DeKalb