Frustration mounts as Winfield-CDH standoff continues
Frustration is mounting in Winfield, where some are calling on the town to reach a deal with Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital on a long-sought downtown redevelopment project.
"Work with the hospital to get this done," resident Jess Stielow told village trustees this week. "The residents elected you to represent the interests of all of us and put your personal interests and egos aside. We're counting on you to move the village forward and build the Town Center."
Stielow, who works at CDH, was among roughly 30 people who crowded village hall to watch Thursday night's board meeting. Residents who spoke voiced concerns about how negotiations are going with the village and the hospital.
In November 2018, Winfield and CDH seemed to agree on plans to turn a section of Town Center south of the hospital campus into a medical and commercial district. To the west of the 392-bed hospital, a parking deck would alleviate parking problems at CDH. And village hall would be torn down and moved to free space for more development near the Metra station.
But negotiations broke down in January 2019 when CDH, which is tax-exempt, told the village it wants to remove a large portion of the development from the tax rolls in 25 years. At the time, village leaders said hospital officials previously agreed to have all off-campus construction and the parking deck subject to property taxes.
While the talks resumed in June, village officials say multiple sticking points remain, including Northwestern Medicine's desire to reduce the time properties are on the tax rolls from 25 years to 20.
On Thursday, most trustees said it's time make a decision.
"We've got something on the table," Trustee Carl Sorgatz said. "It's up to us to make a decision."
Village President Erik Spande and trustees James McCurdy and Phillip Mustes said they first want the village to host a town hall meeting where residents can share their views.
But the other trustees rejected that idea because it would delay the process.
"I think we need to get it done," Trustee Don Longacre said. "There comes a point where a decision has to be made, and I think we're at that point."
On Friday, Northwestern Medicine released a statement saying it's "encouraged" that the majority of the board wants to address its proposal.
"We believe the plan will deliver a thriving Town Center development that brings lasting lifestyle and economic benefits to Winfield residents while also enhancing our ability to deliver our high-quality Patients First care," the statement reads. "We have a unique opportunity to partner with the village to create a Town Center that can economically support long-term growth for Winfield."
One issue that must be addressed involves a yearly $900,000 grant from CDH.
CDH awards the grant to compensate Winfield for the services it provides to the tax-exempt institution. But it's yet to be determined whether the grant will be renewed when it expires in 2021.
Northwestern Medicine is proposing to extend the grant until the first phase of the Town Center development is finished, which is expected to be in 2022.
Northwestern Medicine then wants to reimburse the village for certain services it provides to the hospital -- including road maintenance, police and administrative costs -- for a minimum of 20 years. But the grant amount would be "based on a data-driven methodology that identifies the actual cost of those services provided to the hospital," according to Northwestern Medicine.
The village also would receive $170,000 annually to help pay for economic development.
Winfield officials, however, say they want the grant to continue at $900,000 a year, with annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index.
"The village's formal position has been we want to continue with a known contractual amount of contribution to help pay for our services," Village Manager Curt Barrett said.
Barrett said the village would rather get a set amount for budgeting purposes.
He said Northwestern Medicine is proposing a "pay-as-you-go system." Paying for police services that way would be a problem because the number of calls fluctuates each year, he said.
Still, Trustee Dennis Hogan said he wants to get a deal done.
"We need revenue," Hogan said. "We have an opportunity here to develop our downtown. We have an opportunity here to get sales tax. We have an opportunity to get property tax. We have an opportunity to get a free grant from CDH."