Continuing economic growth, an early incentive payoff and partnership with local agencies on various projects were among the successes cited Monday by Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne in his State of the Village address.
As he has done every two years, Byrne recapped a comprehensive roster of village projects and accomplishments in several areas, including finance, community development, public works and general activities.
Among the highlights were approvals for the $200 million Mellody Farm, a mix of 270,000 square feet of commercial space anchored by Whole Foods and 260 apartments at the northeast corner of routes 60 and 21. Construction is expected to begin in about six weeks, with a planned opening in the fall of 2018.
The village approved a $20 million economic incentive for the project, the largest since the village began the practice several years ago to protect its vast commercial base.
Because it doesn't impose a property tax, the village needs sales taxes to fund its operations and other projects, Byrne said.
A $955,000 sales tax rebate to lure Mariano's food store, Byrne said, was paid off eight years earlier than projected, resulting in a bump in sales tax revenue to the village.
The village has a reserve of nearly $24 million and for several years has maintained AAA credit ratings while funding police pensions at 82 percent, among the highest levels in Illinois, Byrne reported.
Its financial picture also has allowed the village to contribute $1.5 million to the Vernon Hills Park District to buy the former Opa restaurant property and expand Century Park, and another $200,000 for the new Kids Kastle playground.
"We've helped assemble a lot of land in town for public use," Byrne said.
Among the challenge's going forward, Byrne said, are the state's dire financial condition, maintaining the village's AAA bond rating, keeping the village a leading regional shopping destination, and enhancing revenues to fund operations.
About three dozen attended the morning session at the village hall, including village trustees Jim Schultz and Tim Grieb and many village employees. Also there was trustee candidate Craig Takaoka, a member of the Fresh Start slate that is fielding challengers for mayor and four trustee seats in the April 4 election.
Takaoka said the small number of residents who attended is an example of why the slate's platform includes increasing interest in local government.
"We're not saying anything is wrong," he said. "We've got to get more people involved."