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Downers Grove council continues to discuss village hall, police station

The Downers Grove Village Council continued to weigh their options for developing a new village hall and police station at their March 7 meeting.

The matter was last discussed by village officials during a Feb. 28 special meeting, at which time it became know there are five potential options, with two of them not relying on taxpayer support and another requesting a delay in village action.

Commissioner Bob Barnett said knowing the village has options to choose from puts Downers Grove in a unique position.

“This is a decade-long or more problem with 2 to 3 [or] 4 studies in the interim,” he said. “We’ve got a ton of input. We’ve got all the input we need. What we have now that we haven’t ever had before is four real offers in front of us. That’s a new thing.”

Barnett said when it comes to the downtown area, the village has a sense of character they’re hoping to achieve and keep in mind. That’s nothing new, he said.

“It involves higher density residential downtown,” he said. “The character of the site we’re talking about is bordered primarily by railroad tracks and multi-tenant dwellings. There are a couple of properties—there’s half a dozen, maybe—individual residential lots that would be faced by or immediately adjacent to the private portion of the development. That’s the part, if you will, that is changing because the village hall is the village hall.”

There are a number of benefits to hosting a lower density development in the area, one being the added ability to open up space for parking.

There are a host of disadvantages to allowing a higher density development, one being cost.

Mayor Martin Tully suggested that village officials review the matter and continue to look into it as they move forward with one path or another.

“My concern is that we do move mindfully and deliberately because if we don’t make a choice, I’m pretty confident some of these choices will be made for us because things will drop off,” he said. “Right now, we’re looking at options. Those will not remain. As time goes on, options will drop off and then we won’t be able to go back to them and then our choices will be limited. I don’t want to do that. I want to make a decision with the full range of options available. I think that’s what we owe to the community.”

Commissioner William Waldack said years ago the village felt pushed to take action right away. The residents raised concern about cost, but by waiting officials saved over $20 million and took some land that was vacant for decades, he said.

“We have our known knowns and we have our unknown knowns,” he said. “There are things out there that could very much adversely affect us by the time we go for the [larger] density.”

Waldack said there’s a lot of variables and a lingering possibility there will be a lot of apartments going on line at the same time. The village should try to listen to the constituents, he said.

“I’m not hearing at least on the public’s side that there’s a call for what we really need is more apartments,” he said. “But then again, people are also calling saying, ‘why don’t you get a Wal-Mart in there. Why don’t you get the grocery store?’ We don’t have control over all that stuff, either.”

Waldack suggested that the village look into designating the property and sale taxes going toward a village hall and police hall, rather than taking the funds from other sources.

Commissioner Greg Hose said he doesn’t think turning down the options they have is a good idea.

“I think the ultimate takeaway isn’t don’t build anything, don’t build a [new] village hall,” he said. “I think the ultimate takeaway is don’t raise my taxes in order to build something. We have a couple of options that wouldn’t involve raising taxes and solve not just the police station challenge but our village hall challenges, as well. The opportunity to solve $20 million in identified problems… and we can do it with less money than we had initially set aside for just the police station, I think that’s a pretty [good deal].”

Barnett shared that sentiment.

“There are two awesome plans, and I really do hope that we collectively are all prepared to vote on one of them and start pushing forward by the end of the month because I don’t think we’re going to learn anything new about details, new about risk, or new about long-term exposure in the next three weeks that we don’t know and haven’t known for some time,” Barnett said.

Tully agreed.

“I think we really need to move forward with one of these options,” he said.

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