DeKalb taps into water trends

First of a series.

The Better Government Association recently published an article about Joliet’s ambitious and controversial mayor, who plans to buy Lake Michigan water from Chicago.

[Water scarcity] tensions have arrived in northeastern Illinois, which, despite its proximity to the world’s fourth-largest source of fresh water, faces a coming water crisis.

Among the first battlegrounds are Chicago’s southwest suburbs, which have been reliably served for 150 years by underground sandstone aquifers that soon won’t be able to keep up with forecasted demand.

The loss of the aquifers — which comes as water bills are already rising and climate change accelerates — will leave many Chicago suburbs with the added expense of finding alternative sources to survive.

BGA: “Pipeline to Chicago could make Joliet mayor the new suburban water czar”

Joliet has about a decade to solve the problem. The idea is to find alternatives to pumping its aquifer dry and to conserve what’s left in the aquifer for emergencies. Its mayor wants to fund the infrastructure for piping surface water by reselling the lake water to neighboring communities and by recruiting new customers in the form of large industrial users of water — a scheme that has landed the city in court, so who knows how this will turn out.

Continue reading DeKalb taps into water trends

A look back: DeKalb and its radium water

25 years ago, residents of DeKalb organized to pressure the city to reduce the amount of radium in our drinking water. The city, which already had obtained a variance that allowed it to exceed EPA limits for radium, required a second variance in 1996 to obtain permits to extend water mains for new construction. This presented an opportunity to argue for a higher standard for the long-term health of the community. Upon discovering the Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations allowed for citizens to request public hearings, that’s what they did. Here’s the letter to the editor that Linda Lahey wrote to alert her neighbors of the upcoming public hearing:

linda-lahey-letter-7-1-1996

And here is the city’s rebuttal, two days later:

nicklas-letter-7-3-96

This was city government attacking an individual who disagreed with its policy, and the newspaper of record approving the hostilities. The double betrayal must have been devastating at the time. But the residents persisted. They filed suit against the city in December 2016 and, just shy of a year later, they won.

Continue reading A look back: DeKalb and its radium water

Let’s learn from Hammer before we incentivize Barb

Remember “Project Hammer,” the big food manufacturing and warehousing project that ended up unmasked as Ferrara Candy? We offered them a lot of incentives to come here.

The incentives are flowing because that was the only way Ferrara would choose DeKalb for its new facilities over a city in Wisconsin, city leaders told us.

From the backup material for the December 29, 2019 city council meeting, here’s the list of state incentives a qualified project in the enterprise zone is eligible for:

— An exemption on the state sales tax paid on building materials for new construction, expansion, or an interior buildout.

— An Investment Tax Credit of 0.5 percent for any qualified property.

— Assistance in road upgrades from IDOT’s Economic Development Program (EDP). This program provides 50% state funding for locally-owned roads and 100% funding for state-owned routes that serve new or expanding industrial developments. A maximum of $2 million ($30,000 per new job created) is available for a qualified project.

— Natural Gas Tax Exemption for “wheeled” or open market natural gas transactions.”

We’ve come a long way from the Illinois EDGE tax credit. The enterprise zone comes with a really nice package. So why did we have to up the ante on local incentives? Local governments signed a 50% property tax abatement agreement that stretches 15 years instead of the usual 10. And City of DeKalb additionally approved $500,000 to furnish a water main loop and an abatement of 50% of electrical utility taxes for 15 years.

The building is built and the ribbons are cut. Let’s have the list of incentives offered to Ferrara’s site selectors by the State of Wisconsin and the loser Wisconsin town, so we know exactly how DeKalb came out on top.

That way, when it’s time to incentivize the new warehouse build, Project Barb, we’ll have more information to evaluate whether the Hammer package was just right or overkill, and adjust offerings accordingly. We wouldn’t want to give away the farm if we don’t have to.

Task force a potential bright spot for Annie Glidden North revitalization

It’s no secret that my main concern for the Annie Glidden North revitalization effort is the possibility that City of DeKalb and NIU are preparing to push a secret agenda to the detriment of public input and outcomes.

As I exhaustively outlined for you earlier, email discussions of private planning, from the “DeKalb 2020 Prospectus” to the hiring of a neighborhood design consultant for “West Hillcrest” (a neighborhood designated as part of Annie Glidden North) suggest secret interference is a reasonable concern. They reveal that an actual redevelopment plan for this portion of AGN made it at least as far as a second draft, that it was enabled and supported by NIU staff from the beginning, and that City of DeKalb stated a willingness to “kick in” $18,000 to get it finished. Continue reading Task force a potential bright spot for Annie Glidden North revitalization

Fourth Warders on/near South Seventh Street: Cell phone tower application is back

In case this is new to you, we’ll start with a recap. From a post published April 2015:

[DeKalb Planning & Zoning Commission] has discussed a request made by Central States Tower (CST) for a permit to place a Verizon cell tower/antenna at 1300 South 7th Street even though CST did not follow procedures required by city code in the application process — and despite city staff’s recommendation to reject the application for that same reason.

Public hearing proceedings revealed that CST did not arrange a pre-application conference with city staff, nor did it pursue a feasibility investigation into co-locating its tower on an existing site, such as the parcel hosting the AT&T tower a couple blocks north of the proposed site. The pre-application conference and co-location due diligence are required by DeKalb’s Unified Development Ordinance.

CST withdrew its application in May 2015 just before city council was to vote on it, presumably because the company anticipated a negative vote. But now they’re back with what looks to be the same plan as before, and will come before Planning & Zoning on Wednesday, August 23 at 6pm. Continue reading Fourth Warders on/near South Seventh Street: Cell phone tower application is back

Where the city’s interest in Annie Glidden North comes from

***Update 8/12*** Added city manager Anne Marie Gaura and fixed clarity issues.

As our city council prepares to discuss a revitalization plan proposal for the Annie Glidden North (AGN) section of DeKalb, we should be aware of the possibility of a “done deal” already worked out by NIU and private interests, promoted by city staff who are ready to sell it hard. As I’ve already explained:

Emails obtained from NIU via Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that in spring of 2014, then-NIU vice president Bill Nicklas met at Campus Cinema with Chuck Hanlon, principal urban planner with Wills Burke Kelsey Associates, and arranged for Hanlon to create “a proposal for us that looks at the commercial strip along Hillcrest and Blackhawk, as well as a wider area in all directions to envision a different neighborhood.”

A hypothesis that the city has already secretly bought into a plan certainly fits with its top-down approach in the matter so far, and would help explain the exclusion of DeKalb Park District and other interested public bodies from discussions of the proposal.

Anyway, there are a lot more of these emails. Coming mostly from the account of then-NIU vice president Bill Nicklas, they trace growing involvement of Nicklas and other public officials in private redevelopment and city rezoning issues from late 2012 through much of 2014.

This business involved “Neighborhood 3” of the three neighborhoods identified collectively as Annie Glidden North (AGN), so our purpose is to look not only at how city players have operated generally, but also at how events in the past might be driving today’s behavior.

Heads up: This post is longer than most, and I’ve placed an album on Facebook containing about two dozen of the emails in a timeline that contains even more details. It’s kind of a project to read all of it, is what I’m saying. Continue reading Where the city’s interest in Annie Glidden North comes from

DeKalb Park District did not endorse the Annie Glidden North plan proposal. Here’s why

The DeKalb Park District (DPD) did not endorse City of DeKalb’s Annie Glidden North proposal.

The resolution on the issue, unanimously passed during a special meeting Tuesday night, reads as follows:

NOW BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners of the DeKalb Park District, County of DeKalb, and State of Illinois, as follows:

That the DeKalb Park District does in good faith and through its cooperative nature support the City of DeKalb in its deveopment of a plan for the revitalization of the Annie Glidden North neighborhood and will actively participate in the development of the plan for the benefit of the residents of the Park District.

The commissioners support “a” plan that they “will actively participate in.”

DPD had the special meeting to hear the city’s presentation on the plan proposal. It was the only chance they had to hear the proposal before the DeKalb city council considers it next week.

That’s right, City of DeKalb plans to push through the proposal without ever consulting DPD, even though DPD operates four parks within the area designated as Annie Glidden North. Apparently, the city thought DPD would just rubberstamp the proposal.

I honestly can’t wait to read the minutes of this meeting. According to attendees, commissioners did not exactly mince words.

Council members: We love the new you, and we want you to succeed. Please remove Annie Glidden North from the agenda for the time being, and take steps to mend fences with the park district.

And please, take a good hard look at the unforced errors of your city manager.

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?
Continue reading Letter to the Editor: “Cornerstone” Project

Citizen Action & a Cell Tower Project in the 4th Ward

***DeKalb city council will consider the special use permit during its regular meeting Monday, April 27.***

While the University Village Planned Development proposal seems to have grabbed the headlines today, last night’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting was also notable for neighborhood pushback against approval of a special use permit for a new 140-foot cell tower on the southeast side of DeKalb.

Since last November, P&Z has discussed a request made by Central States Tower (CST) for a permit to place a Verizon cell tower/antenna at 1300 South 7th Street even though CST did not follow procedures required by city code in the application process — and despite city staff’s recommendation to reject the application for that same reason. Continue reading Citizen Action & a Cell Tower Project in the 4th Ward

Documents: College Town Partners NFP

For all of NIU’s having publicly “backed away” from a partnership for redevelopment with City of DeKalb et al last spring, it seems the institution had already secretly created a “charity” with a local developer and a banker in December 2013 for similar purposes.

The documents were Tweeted to me.

Continue reading Documents: College Town Partners NFP