The two links above allow Genevans an opportunity to compare Naperville City Government with Geneva City Government as they address comparable issues.
The City of Geneva recently approved this: “Establishing Basic Parameters for a Public Private Partnership and a Redevelopment Agreement to Induce a Mixed Use (Commercial- Residential) Building at 122 E. State and 130 E. State.” Unfortunately, a definition of “basic parameters” was not provided. Nonetheless, the Geneva Aldermen unanimously agreed to these “parameters.” This carte blanche is a de facto approval of the project before anyone outside the Geneva City Hall knew about the proposal. One alderman declared the proposal “checked all the boxes” for a TIF grant.
In a few minutes, a Naperville resident can find their city’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s discussion and action on the Great Western Flooring building at 720 N. Washington Street, Naperville. See the first link above. The Naperville video has an index, unlike Geneva’s, where the viewer must get past the mayor’s opening monolog and then search by guessing. The Geneva City Council recently voted to destroy audiotapes of some of its most notorious secret meetings. Is this what Genevans expect?
Washington Street is Naperville’s “main drag.” Washington has a level grade and is four lanes wide. By using the second link above, you can take a google “drive” up and down the street and around the block, plus get an aerial view. Across the street, the sidewalk is contiguous with the curb, which puts pedestrians within a couple feet of a busy traffic lane – just like much of East State Street in Geneva. On your google drive, you will note that no semi-trailer trucks are present – this is very unlike Geneva’s State Street.
The GWF building at 720 N. Washington is obviously scaled larger than its immediate neighbors, but some larger buildings are within a block. The setbacks vary widely. The uses of the residential buildings are mixed, and only a few still seem to be strictly residential. The aerial view reveals that alleys behind the Washington Street mixed-use structures cleanly separate the mixed uses from the strictly residential adjacent uses. Importantly, the Naperville GWF building apartments have reserved parking and an entrance from the back alley. The rear facade of the building is hideous.
The Naperville approval process was not tarnished by prior approval of “basic parameters” by the Naperville City Council. So at least the appearance of a fair and open deliberative process was preserved. Geneva, on the other hand, will send to its Planning and Zoning Commission a site plan whose “basic parameters” are already approved. The Geneva P&Z vigilantes, whose members were all hand-picked by an entrenched mayor, will go through the motions knowing that a “not recommended” conclusion is already foreclosed.
A nearly identical building to Naperville’s was presented to the Geneva City Council by Great Western Flooring and was approved on November 7th, 2022, before members of the neighborhood had seen even the rudimentary schematic.
However, Illinois Route 38 has a steep grade at 122-130 E State, which is a designated Class II Illinois State truck route. The building will be on the corner of State and Crissey Ave. That intersection is already occupied on the opposite corner by an intense use fast food two-lane drive-through with an exit onto southbound Crissey and an entrance just around the corner on State. The street access for the new GWF building is not depicted on State Street. This means that the twelve residential units and all the commercial uses will compete with the drive-through traffic within about 70 feet of the Crissey corner. Crissey is a two-way street in name only. Vehicle parking is allowed on the east side of Crissey, making it almost impossible for two medium PU trucks to pass. Remember that for much of Geneva’s history, Crissey was named Batavia Street. In many ways, Crissey and State is an intersection of two state highways: Routes 25 and 38.
Let me remind you that TIF1, which had shovel-ready projects on the river already approved, never produced the promised pot of gold at the end. The housing bubble that popped in 2007-8 took back all the “increment,” and the TIF grant recipients were the first ones in line to file assessment appeals, right behind the mayor. Speculative real estate investing is not the job of the mayor.
A fundamental problem with Tax Increment Financing districts is that they distort land use economics. Geneva’s TIF2 and TIF3 have been followed by the demolition of five historic antebellum residential structures within or abutting the TIFs. Consolidation of parcels is encouraged by TIFs and has been a stated goal in Geneva. The City has even purchased parcels with this rationale. But the Comprehensive Plan does not call for this, and it even specifically eschews demolition. Intellectual dishonesty underpins that schism and demonstrates the proforma nature of the plan document. Zoning rules are bent to the breaking point, with special uses married to variances in defiance of the plain language of the Municipal Code’s mandatory standards for granting special uses. Malone Funeral home now occupies six separate parcels in the block due east of the GWF proposal, and funeral homes are not a “by right use” in Zone B3E.
The Geneva City Council has already promised as a “basic parameter” that it will spot-zone the GWF building and donate $1.5 million. The City Council should kick its TIF addiction and stop rewarding land speculators and developers with cash gifts while ignoring safety and health risks. The embarrassment of the Geneva Pharmacy debacle should be a lesson learned. Remember how the Council voted down a proposed claw-back provision? The $850K gift to Country Meats was exorbitant and unnecessary. Can we be completely certain that a recent pedestrian death was not caused by a distraction created by a sign with a scrolling text message? A vehicle traveling at 40 mph covers about 60 feet per second. A driver concentrating on the road in the real world needs about 2 seconds to begin braking. An average driver with good brakes and tires might cover a few hundred feet before achieving a complete stop. Microsoft Word – Vehicle_Stopping_Distance.doc (nacto.org) An elderly person struck at 25 mph has about a 30-40% chance of dying as a result. Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death – AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
The City’s silly talk about local sales tax revenue (zero on prescription drugs and minuscule on groceries) is an insult to taxpayers. Building forty-five fraud-ridden $500,000 taxpayer-subsidized townhomes (Emma’s Landing) as a solution to a mythical local affordable housing problem was irresponsible. This was done while taxing the working stiffs and retirees living in their own houses out of town. Now the Council is about to demand more affordable housing at 122-130 State that will also add to the burden of its constituents, even without counting the $1.5 million it plans to give away to GWF.
The Council must overrule the mayor’s addiction to giving away money and concentrate on making Geneva affordable (attainable) again for current and future lower-income residents. I want the neighborhood that I chose over 40 years ago for its diversity back again before it is completely torn down.
Footnote 1: The long-awaited East State Street rebuild that has been in the works since 2002 and is now “scheduled” to start in 2024 overhangs all this. Geneva received a $1+ million Federal CMAQ Grant for this project several years ago. The money has sat, with negligible return, in an off-the-books TIF slush fund where it’s value is rapidly decaying via inflation. “CMAQ” stands for “congestion mitigation air quality”. Federal Programs Directory: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program | US Department of Transportation Neither the Geneva City Council nor the Geneva PZC has considered this critical issue. Air quality near major truck routes is dangerously poor in large part due to lethal sub-2.5-micron particles originating from diesel engines. If one wanted to pick the spot where unimpeded diesel traffic should be optimized on East State Street, that spot would be the intersection of Crissey and State at the top of the hill. Geneva has knowingly sabotaged the CMAQ goals through its foolish and short-sighted focus on TIF funding for all comers. Stopping or slowing semi’s going up the hill violates the most basic principle of land planning: protecting the health and safety of residents. Here is the back story on Herbert Hoover’s greatest contribution to his country: The Real Story Behind the Standard Planning and Zoning Acts of the 1920s (planning-org-uploaded-media.s3.amazonaws.com).