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Article updated: 11/19/2012 11:33 PM

Barrington meeting a preview of election debate

By Eric Peterson

An especially lively town-hall meeting in Barrington Monday night hinted at the debate that will likely dominate next April's village board election.

From beginning to end, the theme of Monday's two-hour exchange between village officials and the public was the nature of Barrington's downtown redevelopment and the tax increment finance district providing the public side of its funding.

After village presentations on these two related issues, the subsequent debate was kicked off by the declared opposition candidates in next spring's election -- Jim Magnanenzi, Mike Kozel and JoAnn Fletcher.

Magnanenzi in particular questioned the village's role in the planned public-private redevelopment of the southwest corner of Hough and Main streets, as well as its ability to pay off the debts of the TIF district.

Several other audience members took up Magnanenzi's theme of the Evanston-based developer of the project having been given an unfair advantage over existing businesses in the downtown.

But just about all the members of the public who spoke, apart from the three candidates, identified themselves primarily as business and commercial property owners in the downtown as opposed to residents who will actually vote in the April 9 election.

Village board members rigorously defended the TIF district's repayment plan as well as the Hough-Main project's ability to bring new life to all businesses in the downtown by adding 25,000 square feet of retail space, one or two upper floors of office space and 152 parking spaces.

Village President Karen Darch, who does not herself have a declared opponent in the April election, also responded to criticisms that the new project aims to poach existing tenants of the village.

She said such movement would happen only if a tenant were looking for more space already and would otherwise move out of the village to find it.

"The need for more space is there," Darch said.

The Hough-Main project will begin its design review before the village plan commission Tuesday, Dec. 4.

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