Bartlett trustee candidates talk economic development
The six candidates seeking three available trustee positions on the Bartlett village board recently shared their views on the best ways to ramp up economic development in the community and the importance of doing so.
Incumbents Ray Deyne, Adam Hopkins and Kristina Gabrenya are being challenged in their re-election bids by newcomers Balwinder Chhokar, Columbus Montgomery and Guy Papa.
Chhokar said she believes the village needs to attract more commercial development to keep its residential property taxes affordable, but has concerns that Bartlett has been leaning too heavily on approval of video gambling licenses in recent years.
A member of Hanover Park's business community, Chhokar suggested that that village's CONNECT Committee which promotes business opportunities through promotional events and activities could be used as a model for something similar in Bartlett.
Montgomery said the need for further economic growth goes even beyond the village's tax revenue. With residential development still going strong, he said new businesses can help sustain that interest while providing job opportunities.
With Bartlett residents patronizing many businesses just outside the village, having the same opportunities in town would provide a way for neighbors to gather more and build a stronger sense of community, he added.
Papa said economic development is among his top reasons for running and one that could help take care of many other resident concerns like taxes. While he believes the village government is doing a good job, he sees greater promotion of the town as an area that the village board could step up its own efforts on rather than needing to hire a new staff member.
One particular need Papa sees is to fill a grocery store vacancy by Pasta Mia and the CVS Pharmacy in the Bartlett Plaza Shopping Center.
Gabrenya, who is seeking election for the first time after being appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of her mother T.R. Arends in 2017, agreed that a grocery store is definitely needed but said that there are too many other things as well residents are leaving Bartlett to buy or experience.
An optometrist with her own practice in the village, Gabrenya suggested polling residents to find out exactly what types of larger businesses they would like to see and then trying to match those up with specific vacant sites where they would be appropriate.
Deyne already has some specific vacant sites in mind to prioritize on Route 59 and Stearns Road, particularly favoring any possibility of an auto dealership for the amount of revenue it could generate. Seeing what other villages have done with their stretches of Route 59, Deyne was critical of some of his former colleagues on the plan commission for seeking only residential development on some of its vacant sites.
He also wants to see more growth near the Metra station downtown, including what he hopes will be a residential development on a vacant parcel there to provide more customers for both current and future businesses.
Hopkins said he's excited about the possibilities for downtown growth in Bartlett now that More Brewing is building a new location on the former Lucky Jack's site. Elsewhere, he favors extending the life of a tax increment financing district at routes 59 and 20 to provide an incentive for new development there, even though he is not generally a fan of TIF districts and previously voted against the creation of a different one.
But as supportive as he is of furthering the village's economic growth, Hopkins shares Chhokar's concern about the number of video gamming licenses that have been approved and would prefer future businesses that offer it be limited to those with full kitchens rather than ones for whom food service is secondary to gambling.
Election Day is Tuesday, April 2.