Lake Zurich board candidates clash over vision for downtown
The race for three seats on the Lake Zurich village board pits two slates with fairly disparate ideas about where the village should be headed and how to get there against each other. Among the key differences between LZ Values and Lake Zurich Progress is how to spur development in the struggling downtown.
Trustee John Shaw, who along with fellow incumbent trustees Marc Spacone and Jonathan Sprawka make up the Lake Zurich Progress slate, said the refrain the board hears from developer after developer is that the village needs more downtown residents.
"They all say they want to see more rooftops in downtown," Shaw said. "They need more mass."
Revitalizing downtown Lake Zurich has long been a focus of elected leaders. Previous village boards spent roughly $16 million buying up property, hoping the village could more successfully market them for redevelopment than the sites' owners.
Janice Gannon, a member of LZ Values, said whenever she tells residents how much real estate the village owns downtown they are shocked.
"There are so few for-sale signs here and there, I'd like to see a huge marketing campaign to sell this land," Gannon said.
Sprawka said the board has actively marketed the parcels and information about them is available on the village's website. He points out that in 2017, the village drew up a concept plan for the vacant lot at 173 W. Main St. known as "Block A." The plan would see a private developer construct a two-story building that would provide 19,000 square feet of new restaurant or commercial space and sweeping views of the village's namesake lake.
He said developers reviewed the plan, but didn't believe downtown Lake Zurich had enough residents yet to support it.
Gannon disagrees, saying that when events are taking place downtown, like the village's Rock the Block festival, residents come in large numbers.
"I believe if you provide a service, they will come," Gannon said.
Jeff Halen, a former trustee who lost a bid for re-election in 2017 and is running on the LZ Values slate, said it is terrific news that people are interested in downtown Lake Zurich, but said the board lacks a plan.
He cited the Somerset by the Lake luxury apartments development that was approved by the board over his objections. He said there was an opportunity to have retail on the first floor of the development and the board should have insisted on it.
"I fundamentally disagree with rooftops over retail," Halen said. "We need a mixture."
Fellow LZ Values member Michael Paulus agreed, saying the direction the village board has taken downtown is "obviously not working." The village, he added, needs to do more to encourage green space downtown and elsewhere.
"It seems to get sacrificed," Paulus said. "Every time a developer comes, they offer the minimum green space, and I think that's detrimental to the village."