by David Maas
ELBURN—With the impending closure of the Community Congregational Church parking lot on the corner of Shannon Street and Route 47 in Elburn, local businesses are looking to the village to help them out. While the church’s asking price for the lot is $250,000, the village doesn’t have the money to take on the burden themselves.
During the week, Village Administrator Erin Willrett invited business owners from downtown Elburn to meet with her regarding the issue, and then reported to the trustees at Monday’s meeting.
“The business owners are really invested and care about what’s going on,” Willrett said. “The majority want something to be done; some of them want the village to purchase it.”
The village, however, can’t outright buy it, so they discussed other ways.
“The only bond we could go for with this would be a General Obligation bond,” Village President David Anderson said.
Going with a General Obligation bond would also prove to have its problems, such as the need to go to a referendum.
“My concerns with a G.O. bond is the timing,” trustee Jeffrey Walter said. “It’s a long and drawn-out process to put something out to vote, which could still be voted down. We could essentially be waiting eight months for a ‘no.’”
Another option is a Special Service Area (SSA), wherein the business would get taxed.
“Every business has a different profit margin. Some can’t afford to take that risk,” Willrett said
Additionally, if the lot is paid off, the village would own it and have the right to sell it for a profit.
“If the SSA were just on us, I’m not sure we would go for that,” said Kevin Schmidt, owner of Schmidt’s Towne Tap. “If it was a joint project with the village, I think the businesses would go for that.”
There was some talk that a joint SSA, or something similar, could be a step in the right direction.
“If we start an SSA agreement, we could say something like we couldn’t sell the lot without offering a replacement,” Walter said. “I think being creative on the agreement would be a good thing to look into.”
While the village will still be looking at various options, the board was in agreement that the process needs to be started.
“We need to start somewhere,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said. “We should get the lot appraised, and work from there.”
While some trustees didn’t think the appraisal bill should fall to them—a $500-$700 bill—individuals stated they would pay for it, including Kevin, and trustee Ethan Hastert.
“It’s a starting point,” Kevin said. “We will try to work with the church after that. If it doesn’t work out, at least we tried.”
“We want to have a bond with our downtown area,” Walter said. “We can’t sit here and do nothing, but we have to do this smartly.”
In the meantime, it is important to remember there are other parking areas near downtown, village officials said.
“There are other lots; they just aren’t as convenient,” Anderson said.
The village also stated they are looking toward the future for new parking lots that could one day be established, which could happen if someone were to buy the lot from the village in the future.
“It’s just important in a situation like this to remember that no one is the good guy, and no one is the bad guy,” Anderson said. “It’s just no one has any money.”