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posted: 8/22/2012 6:13 PM

Lake Zurich officials can't decide on downtown developer, elect to sell land instead

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  • Richard Sustich

      Richard Sustich

  • Suzanne Branding

      Suzanne Branding

 
 

What started as a discussion to select a developer to help transform a lakeside area of Main Street in Lake Zurich into a retail destination completely flipped and now has officials leaning toward selling off village-owned downtown property.

The decision to sell redevelopment land came Monday night after village board members could not agree on a developer from among four proposals for a portion of the downtown area.

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"It was definitely very unusual," Mayor Suzanne Branding said. "Theoretically, what was to happen was that a developer either was or wasn't picked to redevelop the parcel. But, in the end, trustees decided to do neither and, instead put the property up for sale."

Trustee Rich Sustich said the vibe in the board room was uncomfortable because most trustees realized they were not going to find consensus to choose one company.

"I think we are all very frustrated, but I think the community is also very frustrated that the (redevelopment) process has already taken this long," Sustich said.

Lake Zurich officials have been trying to find a group to restart their long-delayed downtown redevelopment project.

The Downtown Redevelopment and TIF Evaluation Committee, which reviewed proposals submitted by four groups in June, made recommendations to the board based on each group's approach to Block A -- the lakeside space on Main Street across from the Promenade.

The recommendations were based on the development team, financial capacity, and similar project experience to redevelop, Branding said.

The four proposals involved various residential projects and some offered retail property to generate foot traffic through downtown areas.

However, trustees could not agree on a single developer for the parcel, so board members decided to take the different route and declared vacant downtown properties as surplus that should be sold.

Five of six trustees voted in favor of selling the land, Branding said. The decision to sell Block A must come up for a separate vote in coming weeks, she added.

"Trustees have to vote again on the proposal to sell after the paperwork for the sale is drawn up," she said.

It's unknown at this time when the board would again vote about selling the land.

"I can see looking into all options for the property, but this was definitely strange to say the least," Branding said. "To all of a sudden change without further investigation, I was definitely taken aback."

When the issue of selling the land was brought up, Sustich said, frustration was evident among board members casting their vote.

"It's been a long sequence of events to get to this point, but it's been a slow painful process," he said. "There would have been no consensus last night so everyone got onboard with the idea of selling the properties."

The issue will be discussed again when board members have to vote to actually sell the land, he said, but he is unsure how it will turn out.

"We will just continue to work through the process and continue to do what's best for the community," he said.

Downtown development efforts have stalled in Lake Zurich since a special downtown taxing district was established in 2002, largely due to the nationwide economic recession. The village has gone through three developers that couldn't find funding to complete their projects.

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