Naperville Residents Question 5th Avenue Development Process

More than 100 people came out to a public meeting to discuss concerns about the possible 5th Avenue Development project.

Several council members and some residents raised concerns about transparency in the process to choose a developer.

Suggestions for the project include a mixed-use development of 13 acres around the 5th Avenue train station.

Some residents even say they’re not sure they want to develop the area at all.

“My hope is that we can start, or restart, that conversation by asking if, not who and what,” said resident Scott Zmrhal.

But Councilwoman Judith Brodhead said that discussion took place in February.

“At almost every forum, every questionnaire, over and over and over again we were asked what we thought should be developed at 5th Avenue Station,” she said. “And actually I got absolutely no one who said nothing should be developed.”

Many people were concerned that a task force chosen to narrow a list of possible developers came back with only one choice.

But Mayor Steve Chirico said there is no downside to moving forward with Ryan Companies, the developer recommended by the task force, as they create a plan for development.

“Since there’s no commitment either way, we’re going to go through that process, and if people aren’t comfortable, we’re going to know,” said Chirico. “But I don’t see what we have to lose.”

The city would not spend any money on the development and is not committed to choosing the concept Ryan Companies creates if chosen as the developer.

Council plans to vote on the issue at its regularly scheduled September 5 meeting.

Also at the public workshop, council began discussing the budget process, including raising Naperville’s home rule sales tax.

The tax was implemented in 2015 but included a sunset clause to revisit the tax in 2017.

Council will consider keeping the tax at .5 percent or raising it as high as one percent.

Several council members said they prefer raising money through sales tax as opposed to other taxes such as real estate tax because it also comes from visitors through purchases made in town.

“Our real estate tax is a much more burdensome issue than sales tax,” said Councilman Kevin Coyne. “And for that reason I vote that we continue to do what we can to push it down.”

But some others expressed concern that the state might freeze real estate taxes, which are currently historically low in Naperville.

“If we are historically low, and we get frozen, then we will be frozen at a historical low and then the only bullet we would have in the chamber would then be to increase the sales tax,” said Councilman John Krummen.

The conversation will continue at several workshops in the coming months and the budget will be approved at the December 5 meeting.

Naperville News 17’s Beth Bria reports.

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