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Article posted: 1/29/2013 6:27 PM

Lake Zurich downtown redevelopment addressed by mayoral candidates

By Bob Susnjara

Three Lake Zurich mayoral candidates are addressing how best to spark a long-stalled redevelopment of the village's downtown.

Mayor Suzanne Branding faces Trustee Tom Poynton and political newcomer Mary Black in the April 9 election. Branding, Poynton and Black tackled several topics during a Daily Herald editorial board interview Tuesday.

Downtown redevelopment is one village issue the candidates say is often raised by residents. In August 2001, village trustees approved a special taxing district to lure developers, but nothing significant has occurred since then because of the weak economy and other factors.

Lake Zurich has what's called a tax increment financing district for downtown. That's where property tax revenue above a certain point goes into development rather than to local governments such as school districts.

Poynton, Black and Branding were asked Tuesday what role a mayor should play in the pursuit of downtown redevelopment.

Branding said the mayor has an important part in leading the charge to revamp downtown.

"The mayor needs to bring out the vision that the board wants, the vision that's in the downtown, deal with developers when necessary and bring them in, make suggestions and recommendations to the board," Branding said. "It's an important role."

Branding said she envisions the downtown, principally along Main Street, being used more for commercial, retail, office and professional space. She said it also should be a place for special events that residents can enjoy.

Poynton said the mayor's role should be to help prod downtown revitalization with an eye toward service-oriented businesses, restaurants and some residential development. He said he'd push for a downtown marketing plan as part of the process.

"I'd like to see this marketing plan put together by property, put into a book and sent out to multiple developers," he said. "One of the problems that we've had is we've had the same (four) developers since 2002."

Black, a real-estate broker, said the mayor should have a secondary part in downtown redevelopment, compared to the village administrator or the building and zoning director. She said attracting music and culture for downtown could create an energized vibe the village lacks.

"My whole thing with this (downtown) is we need to stop, we need to stabilize and we need to succeed," Black said. "And in order to do that, we need to follow the direction of building and zoning. A lot of people have big problems with building and zoning. I do not."

Poynton captured his second, 4-year trustee term in 2011, so he'll remain on the village board if he loses in the mayor's race in April.

Branding landed on the Lake Zurich village board when she ran with Poynton on a political slate in 2007. She defeated incumbent John Tolomei and Scot Unger to become mayor in 2009.

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