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Article updated: 3/19/2013 6:33 PM

Trustees: Costco, Meijer interested in Winfield

By Robert Sanchez

Less than two weeks after the Winfield village board rezoned a stretch of Roosevelt Road, trustees who supported the controversial decision say Costco and Meijer are interested in redeveloping the properties.

Trustees Tim Allen and Jay Olson said they have had multiple conversations since September with a site selector for Costco and Meijer about the possibility of one or both of the retailers acquiring land along the north side of Roosevelt near Wynwood Road.

"Costco and Meijer have expressed interest in locating in Winfield on Roosevelt Road," Olson said Tuesday.

But before any proposal could be submitted to the village, both companies had to know Winfield was serious about commercializing Roosevelt, Allen said.

They got an answer on March 7, when four of the six trustees voted to rezone 15 residential parcels along Roosevelt and Garys Mill roads. Even though Village President Deborah Birutis is planning to veto the zoning change, the board next month is expected to override that veto.

Talk of Costco and Meijer building in Winfield heated up over the weekend after hundreds of households received a campaign mailer sent from a group -- RightOnRoosevelt.com -- claiming to represent "land owners who were solicited by Costco."

"We have tried to keep quiet about this opportunity for fear of scaring Costco and Meijer away," the flier reads. "But with this election coming up, there is too much at stake for the village and taxpayers to remain quiet any longer."

The group is urging Winfield residents to support Rob Hanlon, who is running for village president against Trustee Erik Spande. The election is April 9.

Hanlon said he had nothing to do with the mailer. "If you look at my material, it doesn't look anything like that," he said.

Attempts on Tuesday to the contact site selector who talked to Allen and Olson were unsuccessful.

However, Allen said he spoke as recently as Monday to the individual and that Costco's interest in Winfield remains "for real."

"I am out of my mind overjoyed that this is an opportunity that Winfield could have," Allen said.

According to Allen, the Costco representative said a store would generate between $1 million and $1.4 million annually in sales tax revenue for the village. That would be a huge amount of new revenue for the town, which has been struggling to find money to fix roads and pay for its police force.

"It would definitely fix our roads," Allen said. "It could help us fund our police pension. It could lower our water rates because we could move our police costs out of our water funds."

Allen said a Costco also would bring visitors to Winfield and inspire further redevelopment along Roosevelt.

"That's going to create more (tax) money for the schools, for the library and the fire protection district," he said. "It's brilliant if we can land it."

Spande says that if Costco is interested, "I would like to review what they have to say." He said the village should look at all viable proposals.

However, Spande said he doesn't know if the claims made about Costco and Meijer are true.

"All we have are a couple of elected officials saying their version of events," he said. "There's no corroboration. Nothing has been proposed to the village. There's been no concept plan presented to anybody.

"Right now," Spande said, "it falls under the category of a blue sky, good idea."

Any plan for a Costco or a Meijer would need to overcome obstacles to become a reality.

According to Allen, Costco would need about 16 acres to build one of its warehouse stores. Meijer would need about the same amount of land. The area Winfield trustees rezoned covers 16.9 acres along the north side of Roosevelt, officials said.

But Olson said the area isn't shaped properly to accommodate a Costco or a Meijer, so neighboring parcels would have to be acquired.

Meanwhile, any attempt to bring a "big box" store to Winfield would face strong opposition from neighbors.

"I think the people who live down there will not be happy," Spande said.

Because of that, Spande said he wishes Allen and Olson would have mentioned their talks with the site selector when the zoning change was being proposed.

"If this goes forward, it will have a huge impact on our community," Spande said, "and it's being done behind the scenes. This is not going to generate any warm, fuzzy feelings on the part of the people that are at ground zero."

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