Barrington's 2013 election season unofficially began Thursday when the announcement of a challengers' slate prompted village board incumbents to state their plans as well.
Longtime residents Jim Magnanenzi and Mike Kozel -- the latter of whom ran unsuccessfully for trustee in 2011 -- announced they were putting together a four-person slate for the April 2013 village board election.
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The basis of their campaign is concern over the current board's management of both the Hough-Main redevelopment project and the tax increment financing district intended to spur commercial growth downtown.
Village President Karen Darch and Trustee Tim Roberts later said they will seek re-election next year. But incumbents Beth Raseman and Steve Miller will not seek another term, and will be replaced on the Darch-led slate by Pete Douglas and Sue Padula. Douglas previously ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2009.
Magnanenzi and Kozel said it's still uncertain who on their slate will run for village president, but it would more likely be Kozel unless one of the yet unidentified candidates proves to be a better fit.
The two challengers say they're trying to spread awareness among residents that $23 million from the TIF district fund has been spent on the redevelopment of the southwest corner of Main and Hough streets without any solid plan to recapture those funds.
They say they're not opposed to the use of TIF districts to spur redevelopment -- but mainly how this one has been managed.
"It's very late in the game and no one in the village is willing to acknowledge that we've spent all this money and it's going to be virtually impossible to recapture," Magnanenzi said.
Magnanenzi, who's spent much of his career in commercial real estate, argued that the current plan to add upper story office space on the redeveloped corner would only increase the village's high office vacancy rate.
He said the strongest demand these days is for rented residential space -- something that would also provide customers for downtown retailers.
Darch said the village put no restrictions or demands on its redevelopment plans other than what developers felt the market would support. The developer chosen among those who made proposals believes this plan will work, she said.
And with the strong interest recently shown for a new Heinen's Fine Foods and the survival of The Catlow theater, Darch said there's no reason to doubt the village's plans for downtown redevelopment are coming to fruition.
"We know we're going to recover the money," Darch said. "It's set up to be financially stable and good."
Another problem Magnanenzi and Kozel see with the public-private partnership is that it's been the village that has taken all the upfront risk. The developer is coming in with just a lease to use the land for $1 a year for 99 years.
Darch said the developer's risk is in its construction of the buildings. Even now, potential tenants are being solicited to justify that risk.
The agreement allows the developer the right to purchase the land within five years, but parking on the site will always be publicly owned.
Trustee Jim Daluga, who's in the middle of his current term, argued that the village is taking less risk by managing the project this way instead of selling the land outright to the developer.
Magnanenzi and Kozel have begun an information campaign called "Stop Hough-Main Give Away" and have a website at barrington2013.com. They plan to continue a series of occasional public meetings similar to one at Wool Street Grill & Sports Bar Wednesday night.