Batavia mayor taking heat for downtown redevelopment

  • The site of Washington Street apartments project in Batavia.

      The site of Washington Street apartments project in Batavia. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Pal Joey's is leaving its spot on River Street in Batavia to move into the empty Golden Corral location on Randall Road.

      Pal Joey's is leaving its spot on River Street in Batavia to move into the empty Golden Corral location on Randall Road. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/1/2018 10:20 AM

If you've been mayor of your community since 1981, you grow a fairly thick skin in terms of what people might say about you.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke has had to practice that aspect of local politics on more than a few occasions these past 37 years. The most recent being folks taking a few potshots at him because Pal Joey's is leaving its spot on River Street to move into the empty Golden Corral location on Randall Road.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The reasoning behind "blaming" Schielke for this move is that his support for the nearby Washington Street apartments project has somehow translated into higher rent for some on River Street. Or, that he has somehow ruffled feathers in other ways regarding that entire sector of Batavia.

"The apartments have no connection with the rent or anything else that happened at Pal Joey's," Schielke said.

"If anyone at Pal Joey's was mad about something, they would have left town," he added. "As it is, they are giving up a spot on the Fox River, but gaining Randall Road, with 50,000 to 60,000 drivers going by daily, some of who are going to be turning into their driveway."

Some of the consternation may go back to when the old Baptist Church at Wilson and Washington streets had to come down to pave way for the apartment project. That didn't sit well with many residents.

"The problem with the church is that it didn't comply with any ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) checkpoints," Schielke said. "A few other churches looked at the location and saw right away that when you opened the door you had 12 steps immediately going up and five steps going to the lower level.

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"It was going to be a burden for the elderly and the handicapped," Schielke added.

In trying to avoid use of taxpayer dollars for the site, the city made it a Tax Increment Financing district so the developer, if it remains Shodeen in this case, could use the TIF benefit to move the project along.

"We may need 10 to 15 years to pay that back, but once that is done, a lot of future Batavia governments are going to like seeing this kind of cash coming in, as property taxes could be between $800,000 to $1 million a year."

In that regard, it could be argued that if anyone around River Street or anywhere else were raising rents, it would be with an eye toward the extra business that a development at Washington Street could eventually bring. But that's a business decision that landlords have to make, and live with if it doesn't turn out too well.

That aside, Schielke mostly understands that for a city to move forward it has to take a gamble on occasion in hopes the vision it has and the decisions it makes benefit everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This is a trait many cities with mayors who have been around for decades might lack. Local politicians can get comfortable with the status quo and leave it at that.

It's something to think about before blaming a mayor for a restaurant's rent squabbles.

A place for sculptures:

Since it first began in 2006, we have found the Sculpture in the Park exhibit at Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles to be an enjoyable highlight of a nice summer stroll.

And it won't be long before the 2018 version is ready for visitors in May.

The St. Charles Park District, park foundation and event committee members have launched a new website to provide information and allow interested artists to apply online at stcsculpture.org. The Feb. 7 deadline is fast approaching for those who want a piece of art on display.

Organizers say the artist honorarium has doubled to $1,000 this year for each accepted sculptor. In addition, a selected piece will be on display for a year in the East Garden at the Baker Community Center. That would result in a $1,500 honorarium for the sculptor.

To help school:

Claire VanTreeck hasn't been so busy with her work with the Vocational Transition Program at Batavia High School that she didn't have time to come up with a good idea.

VanTreeck, a senior at the high school, is organizing a 5K Fun Run/Walk/Roll in which the proceeds would benefit that vocational program.

The Vocational Transition Program helps instruct students with intellectual disabilities or autism.

VanTreeck, who works with the program during her gym class periods, simply wanted to do more to help the program. She is asking people to visit her Facebook page to learn more and eventually sign up to participate in the event.

The dress giveaway:

It won't be long before high school prom season is upon us. That means girls will be looking for dresses.

As it has for the past several years, the CHIP IN organization in Batavia is offering its prom dress giveaway, but now opening the service to interested girls from any school district, regardless of need.

The Batavia Public Library is hosting this fifth annual event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 17 when more than 200 dresses and accessories will be available. Private changing areas and a seamstress for alterations will be on-site at the library.

The library is also the spot for those who want to donate a dress in good to excellent condition or accessories such as purses, jewelry or shoes until March 16 at the checkout desk.

Super, but not Bears:

Sure, we'll enjoy the company, food and fun of watching the Super Bowl today at our friends' annual party.

But it's been 12 years now since the Chicago Bears were part of this hoopla, and 33 years since they won it.

I would settle for being in the game at least once a decade, and winning it on occasion, if that is even remotely possible given the ownership and power structure of the management team.

I know other franchises have suffered even more than that. But that scares me as well. Up until the coaching hires of the past month, the Bears had been moving far closer to that sort of fate than one of sustained success.

We did this 100-plus-years thing with the Cubs. So we've had our jokes and fun with that sort of futility. We don't particularly need it on the football gridiron as well.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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