Winfield candidates talk about stalled deal with Central DuPage Hospital
The inability of Winfield and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital to finalize a deal to bring downtown redevelopment has become a source of debate in the village trustee race.
Six candidates, including three incumbents, are competing in the April 2 election for three 4-year terms on the village board. Joslyn Almirall, Karri Custardo and Emily Jacobs are seeking their first elected post. The incumbents are Dennis Hogan, Robert Greer and Carl Sorgatz.
With Winfield and CDH at an impasse about a proposed development, the candidates disagree about what went wrong.
Some argue the village failed to negotiate properly, while others blame the hospital for changing its position.
Last fall, CDH and village officials seemed to agree on plans to turn a section of Town Center, south of the hospital campus, into a medical and commercial district. Now those plans are in jeopardy because CDH, which is tax-exempt, wants to remove a large portion of the development from the tax rolls.
Village leaders say CDH agreed to have the development subject to property taxes. But hospital officials say it was always Northwestern Medicine's position that it wouldn't pay property taxes in perpetuity on land eligible for a property tax exemption.
Hogan says there's no way to confirm who's right because no minutes of the meetings were taken. He said it's one reason he believes professional negotiating on the development deal is needed.
"What the current village administration is doing is shooting missiles at the hospital instead of negotiating," Hogan said. "We need to get back in the room and start negotiating again."
However, Greer said the village has done a good job of negotiating. "We brought it almost to the finish line," he said.
The village announced in its November newsletter that a requirement of the agreement would put "all new off-campus CDH development" on the property tax rolls. Northwestern Medicine officials signed off on a draft of the newsletter before it was delivered to residents and businesses, according to village officials.
Greer said the hospital changed its position on taxes after the newsletter was published.
CDH now is talking about removing all the medical-related uses from the tax rolls and compensating local government entities for the lost tax revenue for up to 25 years. The village is opposed.
"When we said 'no,' they said, 'That's all we're going to do,'" Greer said. "That's when we hit the impasse."
So what happens now?
"We need to get back to a situation where we sit down at the table and get back on track discussing what may or may not work for both parties," Sorgatz said. "We have an opportunity to get an agreement made."
Almirall said she would be happy to see the project built as long as it's on the tax rolls. She said more than half of Town Center already is off the tax rolls because of CDH. Taking more land off the tax rolls "is just not acceptable to me," she said.
Custardo said the village must continue to negotiate to keep the project on the tax rolls.
"It's difficult to negotiate when the goal posts keep changing," she said. "But you do it."
Jacobs, meanwhile, says she believes both sides must contribute toward a compromise. She said she met with hospital officials who told her they are willing to negotiate.
She said CDH officials must understand the village has limited sources of revenue.
"Therefore, we deserve a unique agreement," she said. "To make this deal happen, I'd like to see the village add a trustee to the negotiating team. I also think each trustee should meet with (the hospital's) administration to share what they want to see from this deal."