Oswego landowner seeks reduced impact fee
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media December 19, 2013 9:20PM
Updated: January 21, 2014 6:19AM
OSWEGO — The owner of a 68-acre tract of land at the corner of Orchard Road and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway north of Mill Road is now before the village seeking a reduction in development-related impact fees.
A prospective developer of the property would be responsible for $15.3 million in fees to the local government taxing bodies as part of concept plans for a 906-unit apartment complex.
The village of Oswego represents 54 percent of the total fees, according to village officials. Oswego School District 308 has already denied the landowner’s requests for a tax break.
The owner of the property, Don Morris, through a letter from his attorneys, has offered to donate 15 acres of the property to the village for a possible Metra commuter station as an incentive for a reduction in fees.
The bulk of the land transfer, however, is contingent on receiving zoning approval, while the remaining five acres would go to the village upon the sale of the property to a developer.
Directions to staff
Village trustees at a recent committee of the whole meeting directed the police chief to research the level of calls for service generated from an apartment complex of similar size in another municipality and for community development staff to conduct an in-house survey of impact fees in the region.
The Village Board also authorized staff to prepare request for proposals for an independent analysis of development impact fees in today’s economic conditions.
Village trustees did not make a decision of whether the village should negotiate lower fees for the Morris property, which has struck a chord among residents.
Several residents reiterated their objections to the village giving the landowner a break on fees to increase the prospects of development.
“The big picture concept is should the village reduce its normal and customary fees for the Morris property? Countless other developments have paid the standard fees as part of their development process (and) all of them found a way to justify those costs within their overall project and build-out costs,” said Sam Haldiman, a former village trustee.
Haldiman said the village is being asked to consider rezoning the land and reducing fees on a property where an actual project does not exist.
“No current developer has stepped forward with an actual development plan. You are being asked to reduce your fees in the hope Mr. Morris can find someone to propose and build a project, that is a bad precedent,” Haldiman said.
Haldiman suggested the village’s fees be adjusted for all future projects based on results of an independent study of development village-wide.
Impact on village
Village President Brian LeClercq said he agreed with a lot of what Haldiman had stated.
“I agree if we are going to do a study it should be done as a village policy, but I don’t know too many developments that have a $7,200 tap-on water fee,” LeClercq said.
Village officials said the village’s tap-on water fee was increased from $5,000 in 2009, $5,200 in 2010 and $7,200 in 2011, but due to annexation agreements already in place, no developer has actually paid those fees.
Maureen Sanchez suggested high-density housing would be more appropriate in the downtown where tenants would support local retailers.
“The property is more suited for an industrial or office development that would give residents a reason to come to Oswego other than to live,” Sanchez said. “What will stop every other developer from coming to the village looking for a handout? It is really unfair to residential taxpayers.”
Village officials said the development fees for all taxing bodies translate to $17,000 per apartment unit. Of that, $7,200 represents Oswego’s per unit water tap-on fee. The property owner has requested the fees be reduced to around $10,000 per unit, village officials said.
The breakdown of development impact fees would include $8.4 million going to the village of Oswego, $2.5 million to District 308 and $2.2 million to the Oswegoland Park District.
Staff is to report back in January to the Village Board on the issue.