Plans for a new Fresh Farms grocery store in Buffalo Grove's Cambridge Commons shopping center are in jeopardy after village officials Monday rejected the latest proposal for an economic incentive package for the developer.
Village trustees, fed up with failures to meet deadlines under the agreement and what some called misrepresentation by the developer, refused to even take a vote on a request to modify the package, leaving the future of the project uncertain.
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"I wish you the best of luck. I hope that Fresh Farms can come into the village," Trustee Jeffrey Berman told representatives of developer 14 Dundee Road LLC. "I would like to see the center redone. But it won't be on the taxpayers' dime."
Representatives of the developer, Nick Vittore and Paul Svigos of Svigos Asset Management, alternately pleaded hardship and lashed back at charges of misrepresentation, while calling into question the board's commitment to developing the center.
"When I sit up here and listen to these things, It doesn't sound like a community that wants this grocer in," Vittore said.
"I resent your statement that the village does not want Fresh Farms," Trustee Steven Trilling later responded. "We have done everything that the village can physically do and even gave you a building permit."
The village board in August 2012 first approved an incentive deal to land the grocer for the vacant Cambridge Commons, at the southeast corner of Dundee and Buffalo Grove roads. The deal called for sales tax rebates based upon certain performance measures. It was modified nearly one year later, after a store planned as part of the deal instead moved to Strathmore Square.
The agreement also held the developer to certain conditions, among them completing facade improvements by March 22. Village officials, however, say a permit issued Sept. 23 has yet to be picked up, and work on the improvements has not started.
Complicating matters further was the closing of a nearby Dominick's store, followed by news that a Garden Fresh Market would move into that location.
Recently, the village received a letter from Vittore requesting an extension of the incentive agreement to complete work on the facade.
"Due to the tremendous changes in the grocery market our tenant, Fresh Farms delayed the project in order to assess which competitors would take the vacant Dominick's locations," Vittore wrote. "Now that the majority of Dominick's sites have been absorbed they are now comfortable to move forward."
When questioned Monday by Village President Jeffrey Braiman about the delays, Vittore blamed them on structural work needed to adjust the building's roofline.
"I understand that there is frustration, but to be perfectly honest with you, no one has lost more on this to this point than Paul Svigos or myself," Vittore said.
Braiman allowed that the landscape has changed with Dominick's closing and new grocers moving in, but he added that newcomers are not receiving incentives.
"Neither one of them asked for incentives, so if they don't ask for incentives and we give you one, now they're maybe at a disadvantage, which I don't think is fair to them," Braiman said.
Berman subjected Vittore and Svigos to blistering criticism, including the charge that the developer misrepresented itself when it claimed during negotiations that it did not have a signed lease with Fresh Farms. In fact, Berman said, a 20-year lease was executed on Jan. 10, 2012.
Vittore reminded the village board of the potential financial benefits to be gained by having Fresh Farms. In 2008, the property was assessed at $487,000. By 2012, it had declined to $172,000. When Fresh Farms and the other new tenants go in, he said, the village will reap the benefits in property taxes.
"There are other tenants that are very interested if a grocery store comes in. These are real dollars. You're talking half a million in real estate taxes," he said.