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updated: 9/25/2015 5:18 PM

Geneva dropping idea for downtown business district

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  • Geneva is pulling the plug on the idea of creating a special business district for its downtown that would enable it to use sales and hotel taxes to pay for projects to improve the area.

    Geneva is pulling the plug on the idea of creating a special business district for its downtown that would enable it to use sales and hotel taxes to pay for projects to improve the area.
    Rick West/rwest@dailyherald, 2006

 
 

"Put a fork in it. It's over" is how Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns described a proposal to create a special district that would have financed and implemented public and private projects in the city's downtown.

Geneva won't be spending any more money or time to further develop the plan, he said Thursday.

Aldermen were supposed to decide Monday whether to have a meeting about the plan with nearly 400 owners of businesses and properties in the downtown.

Instead, they decided that since they weren't willing to increase the sales and hotel taxes charged in the district, going forward was pointless. State law would allow the city to increase the taxes by up to 1 percentage point, with the money obligated to be spent in the district.

It was Alderman Jim Radecki who skewered the plan to meet. He said he favored creating the district and implementing the extra sales tax. But other aldermen previously shied away from the tax, especially after the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and many downtown merchants vehemently protested it in 2014.

"If we don't have the courage (to implement the tax), then let's not do it (meet)," Radecki said. "It's time to fish or cut bait."

Aldermen Craig Maladra and Tara Burghart disagreed. They felt the city should continue to work on establishing the district and coming up with projects to do. It could later raise the sales tax rate.

Projects would have been drawn from the Downtown/Station Area Master Plan and the city's strategic plan. They could include items such as adding parking lots and decks, building public plazas, adding public restrooms, building arts and entertainment facilities, or making loans to owners to improve their properties and businesses.

"How did they (merchants and landlords) think that was going to come to be?" Maladra said of the projects.

Since some of the information for the proposed district is now four years old, it would have to be updated to meet criteria set by the state revenue department, according to Catherine Tymoszenko, the city's economic development director. The state has to approve the district.

Scott Lebin, chairman of the chamber of commerce board, reiterated the group's opposition to the extra taxes.

Its members aren't worried about the overall tax rate in downtown Geneva being higher or lower than that of neighboring towns. They are worried about it being higher than that for businesses along Randall Road in Geneva, primarily at the Geneva Commons, he said.

In April 2014, the city conducted a workshop for the public to discuss the district and to prioritize projects. Attendees were so opposed to the district the moderators adjourned the meeting early.

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