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posted: 2/12/2013 7:24 PM

Wheeling candidates debate how to get local economy moving

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  • Clockwise from upper left: Ken Brady; Bill Hein; Mary Krueger; Greg Stavros and Mary Papantos.

      Clockwise from upper left: Ken Brady; Bill Hein; Mary Krueger; Greg Stavros and Mary Papantos.

 
 

The five candidates for Wheeling Village Board have different ideas about how to get there, but each say the next four years must bring increased business development and economic improvements to the village.

Incumbent trustees Bill Hein and Ken Brady, as well as Mary Papantos, Mary Krueger and Greg Stavros are competing for three seats on the village board at the April 9 consolidated election.

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All agree that improving the economy and bringing in new business is a priority.

Redevelopment of the former Wickes property into a town center with residential and retail space has been on the table for years, but after several extensions to developer Urban R2, some of the candidates are looking to go in another direction in hopes of getting shovels in the ground sooner.

"I don't believe they are the right developer for the us," Hein said. "It seems like there is a lot of procrastinating and we should be making this happen."

Krueger agreed that it may be time to bring in a new developer. Papantos said she would rather see the entire development be commercial rather than include residential and a theater as is suggested.

"I don't think the village should be a real estate developer," Papantos said.

Brady said he is concerned that the concept for the project has changed from what it originally was, but said that he hopes the development will get moving as the economy continues to improve.

Stavros said bringing in a large anchor store will be difficult because of the economy and suggested a concept like downtown Arlington Heights, with upscale condos built on top of retail stores near the railroad tracks.

The village's use of money from its five tax increment financing districts will also be an issue as Wheeling tries to spur development over the next few years.

"I want to see our TIF money spent equally, I want businesses brought to town and we need to clean up the west side of town," Stavros said, adding he thinks too much attention and money is spent on the east half of the village.

He said Wheeling should use tax incentives to bring business to town, but only on a short-term basis.

Hein said incentives are warranted in some cases, but must be judged individually. Hein said he would also like to see TIF money used to revitalize the Lake-Cook Road corridor rather than Dundee Road.

He added that he doesn't like how money from one TIF has been moved to another over and over.

Krueger said she would like to see TIF money used for infrastructure improvements in some of the older parts of town and suggested localizing the national Small Business Saturday movement in Wheeling to encourage people to shop local.

Papantos described herself as a fiscal conservative and said she would rather see TIF money used for commercial and retail development than more residential property.

"I am against putting up any new buildings until we can fill up the old spaces," Papantos said. She also suggested building a riverwalk as a destination spot for people to come to Wheeling for commercial and restaurants.

Papantos also wants the Economic Development Commission reinstated, to work with staff and the village board to help bring new businesses to the community.

Brady said the stalled economy is a major reason he is running for another term. When he was a member of the plan commission, he added, the goal was for Wheeling to catch up with surrounding suburbs. He said that while that goal isn't quite realized yet, he's confident he can see it through.

"With the economy not much is moving, but everything is at the starting line," he said.

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