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Sugar Grove village officials promise to make changes after Crown Development debacle

Village administrators address the issue during press conference

Village of Sugar Grove
Village of Sugar Grove

SUGAR GROVE – The next time a company comes into Sugar Grove looking to present a development to the community, the approach the village takes will have to be much different than it was for Heartland Recycling and Crown Community Development.
“I think we’re learning that there has to be a different approach to presenting a development to the community, whether it’s a web page, a presentation beforehand, we’re still tying to sort that out,” said Village President Sean Michels. “It’s just the change in times and I think back in the day when we were really busy and had a lot of developments coming in and we got all the taxing bodies together and did a big presentation. Maybe that’s what we have to go back to.”
Michels and Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger chose to open up about the project during a press conference on March 21 and admitted that the number of people who were against the development shocked them.
“We anticipated (public) opposition clearly,” Eichelberger said. “But the number of people that showed up was clearly a surprise. You figure that people have some concerns, we could address them, but to the public’s credit they rallied and got a lot of people involved. I think we’ve learned in the future we need to have a more complete analysis, like the traffic study.”
The conference was held in the hopes of addressing some of the misinformation that remains in the community, especially now with a contested election for three trustees to serve 4-year terms quickly approaching on April 2. There are six candidates vying for the three open spots.
“One of the things that seemed to be a big concern was that if the property were rezoned, that Crown would have complete flexibility to essentially any of those categories of uses to do whatever they want,” Eichelberger said. “That’s something we’ve repeatedly heard which is not accurate.”
Eichelberger explained that a lot was learned from this and that he understands the confusion on the part of the general public because they do not know something that they don’t get involved in on a regular basis.
“Rezoning is just one piece really of what would’ve been three main pieces,” he said. “And the annexation agreement amendment is really probably the most key of all of them, and the third one, for this project anyway, would’ve been a TIF incentive agreement, and we’re looking at the process of what we did and how we can improve in the future to try to get that message our there and get people to understand in that.”
Apparently there also remains a lot of confusion regarding potential TIF districts.
“There’s misinformation out there that if a TIF district was approved that Crown would automatically get 100 percent of the increment for 23 years, which is not accurate,” Eichelberger said. “The key there is the establishment of a TIF district is completely separate from a TIF agreement with Crown or any other developer, property owner… There’s nothing automatic of getting any increment, let alone 100 percent for 23 years.”
Said Michels, “What good is commercial development if it doesn’t help out the taxing base? Everybody wants commercial development, but if it’s not paying out the taxing bodies for 23 years it’s not providing much service.”
Some residents alleged that the Crown development would bring crime to the area, including sex trafficking. Michels said none of that was substantiated.
“We talked to a lot of municipalities with these big warehouse distribution centers and can’t remember one active crime where the police have been called to something like that,” Michels said. “Social media has made it difficult to stop some of that and we’ve been reluctant to get into the fray because you don’t know if what you say is going to be misconstrued and turned into something else. That’s where we’ve been sort of quiet.”
Questions still remain about what will happen with the property that Crown owns.  
“The answer might be they wait and see if the economy changes and if there is some other use that makes sense out there,” Eichelberger said. “Because we’re not hearing or seeing any significant-size developments anywhere else other than some residential.”
As far as farmland is concerned, Eichelberger said it’s probably unrealistic to think that it will remain farmland forever.
“It could stay that way, but I don’t think that is realistic,” he said. “And if you go to the east, this is the type of development you see. That’s what’s happening and it’s been happening for a number of years. These are being built along the corridor and to my knowledge, really without issues.”

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