New Direction on Downtown: All 4 Developers Rejected

Lake Zurich board agrees to sell surplus, village-owned downtown property instead.


Monday’s Lake Zurich village board meeting started with a call from residents to move forward with downtown redevelopment. Resident Dennis Abbott recalled days past when downtown was a vital, busy gathering place; he urged the board to eschew apartments and choose  David Smith of Southshore as the developer. Chamber Director Dale Perrin urged the board to choose a development with commercial and retail. “Be bold; be daring,” Perrin told the board.

However,  trustees could not come to a consensus on a single developer for the village owned parcel on Main Street, that faces the Promenade and lakefront. After nearly two hours of discussion, the board determined to take a different route and start declaring vacant downtown properties as surplus and sell them off.

“My goal tonight was to come to some sort of resolution.  This is the last thing I expected to happen,” said Village President Suzanne Branding after the vote.

The only trustee who voted against selling the land, rather than choosing a developer, was Terry Mastandrea.

After the meeting, Branding said she wondered if trustees might regret the decision.

“It was a little bit crazy the way this happened. This has never even come up before; it has never been talked about,” Branding said. “It wasn’t very well thought out.”

Branding said she believes there are some vacant parcels the village should sell.

“There are lots broken up and split up that  wouldn’t lead to any huge development. I could see selling that, but to put everything on the block; it’s a little bit strange,” Branding said. 

Prior to that decision village trustees discussed the and Branding asked each trustee if they could name their top choice. 

Mastandrea and Jonathan Sprawka initially wanted to go forward with two developers; when pushed to choose one they both chose Southshore. David Smith of Southshore’s plan was for rerouting Main Street and creating a gathering space with restaurants, and retail. Trustees Tom Poynton and Rich Sustich chose developer J. Moises Cukierman’s plan, which was primarily residential with luxury apartments.  Trustee Dana Rzeznik chose Richard Sova and Landover, but then switched to John Breugelmans of ARDE, a mixed-use development with commercial on the ground floor and apartment/condominiums above. Trustee Jeff Halen said he was not comfortable going ahead with any of the developers.

Although the plan for the meeting did not include developers addressing the board, Breugelmans, Smith and Sova were present and were allowed to address the board. 

Sova addressed the board and explained why the developers want exclusivity before moving forward with studies.  He told them that normally a developer puts a piece of property under contract before spending money on things like soil borings, marketing studies and rezoning.

“ In this case, the developer does not control the property;  you do. We’re reluctant to spend a lot of money on something that may or may not happen,” Sova said.

Sova’s comment sparked the idea to sell the property. Trustee Sprawka suggested selling the property and other village property as a way to ensure that the developer has the financing and will go forward with the project. The consensus of the board was that surplus property, including Block A, should be sold. 

“It’s  not a failure on the developers' part; it’s a failure on our part of the process. The developers came forward with great plans. I’d like to see it put up for surplus and I’d like to see every one of you at the table gobble it up,” he said. 

K Moritz August 22, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Love this comment! Dead on. I've lived in Lake Zurich for 27 years and I am SO dissappointed in how run down this vibrant town has become. Very embarrassing. Wauconda has done an amazing job with their waterfront and downtown. Lake Zurich...take a peek and take notes while doing it! Come on already!
K Moritz August 22, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Sad is an understatement...
K Moritz August 22, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Love this "virtual walk" through Lake Zurich... There is so much potential and yet there it sits...being wasted and aging rapidly for the supportive residents of our town.
jeannine nasca August 23, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Disapointed, but I'm not surprised by thier actions. I went to several board meetings in support of David Smith as he brought his plans before the board, and I saw downright derision on the faces of a majority of the board members faces. When we vocally voiced our support we were chastised by Bob Vitas. David Smith has humbley gone before the board many times just to be shot down repeatedly. I agree, we should all go public with this and make this known to all Lake Zurich residents. Maybe we can start by showing up at the next board meeting.
JF August 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Still angry over here. Made my first comment at 8:25 this morning. Now it's 7:35 p.m. and I'm still blown away by the failed leadership of Branding and all the trustees. Do we really need 6 trustees and a so-called president to do nothing? Suggest we scale that back to 2 trustees and a president. Would the results be any worse with 2? Not joking here. Imagine the savings.
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 12:54 AM
JF, The Trustees are paid $3,000/year, the mayor makes $10,000/year and is the liquor commish. Claudia failed to capture the story appropriately (typical for Patch, they like to sensationalize for their parent company, the Huffington Post). The board couldn't reach a consensus on proceeding with a developer, likely due to being burned in the past. The new path of declaring the property surplus will likely result in action much quicker than languishing through the red tape and secret agendas (mayor doesn't want condos or retail, just a cultural arts center). The property needs to be declared surplus prior to sale, which is a formal board action that still needs to take place. It isn't over. If David Smith and ARDE have the money, the property will be available for them to purchase, thus triggering the revitalization of downtown Lake Zurich and getting the village out of the landlord business!!!! Please attend the meetings to voice your opinion.
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Remember that two trustees voted for Southshore!
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Sure, run for the village board, petitions are out this fall for next April's election. The village board needs you!
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 01:05 AM
For those interested in running. December 17-24, 2012 Filing period for candidates seeking election at the Consolidated Election, April 9, 2013. [10 ILCS 5/10-6(2)] (Petitions may NOT be circulated prior to September 25, 2012.) [10ILCS 5/10-4] http://www.elections.il.gov/Downloads/ElectionInformation/PDF/2013CanGuide.pdf
Say it isn't so August 23, 2012 at 01:14 AM
What is the election schedule?
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 01:19 AM
3C petitions should be a Village Hall in September, can't start circulating until the last week of September.
C W August 23, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I always thought selling property obtained by eminant domain was illegal.
JF August 23, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Trustee. Thanks for listening and clarifying. We're all obviously pissed at decades of inaction. I'd love to attend meetings, but I've got a house full of kids and a job that I'm desperate to keep. So making time is nearly impossible. I'm just guessing here but I bet the majority of those in attendance at meetings are retired or semi-retired residents whose goals and lifestyle are different than mine. So this Patch site is my only way to communicate. Branding has failed at issuing regular newsletters to keep us informed by the way. A cheap solution would be to email the dang newsletters. But that takes vision and effort. Anyway, my family and I have been frustrated for more than a decade that we can't enjoy the lakefront. So I go to Wauconda and spend my time and money in their downtown. Please tell me the trustees have been to Lindy's in Wauconda to see how it's done right? The place has something for everyone ... including right-on-the-lake dining and an area for little ones to play in the sand/lake, and a spot for moms and dads to enjoy a drink and admire the lake happenings and watch the kids. Not sure the retired and semi-retired folks in LZ think about the benefit / attraction of such things. And BullDogs ... wow. Note we go to Deer Park, Kildeer, and Palatine too. I don't want to be too harsh on the places downtown LZ. It must be rough. Let's just say they don't compare favorably to the other options in nearby towns.
Say it isn't so August 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Thanks TRUSTEE- who's up?
Trustee August 23, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Branding, Halen, Sustich, Mastandrea, Sprawka
Janet Putbress August 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Ginny - I agree with you 100%.. one reason I left. The politics/local government cannot get their act together. I worked hard at improving the school district, coming on during a very difficult time. As the District smoothed out and stepped up.. I thought the village was going to step up as well. It's time for all of them to reflect on the big picture. It is an embarrassment to see what could have been.. and what it is. Without a plan and without leaders who cannot take the leap of faith that is needed, Lake Zurich will continue it's decline. There are so many wonderful people in LZ who believe in community. Too bad.
Claudia Lenart (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 03:24 PM
For those of you who would like to go to village board meetings, but can't afford the time, did you know you can watch the meetings online? Here is a link to the Aug. 20 meeting. http://www.volz.org/index.aspx?NID=260 The village also has a YouTube channel, although the Aug. 20 meeting is not on there yet.
TheJET August 23, 2012 at 06:36 PM
For those interested in bashing, I suggest a few facts: 1. The media does not give you all the facts. Sometimes, they cover what happens in the meeting, not the background. Sometimes, they don't tell if your way or my way. 2. Those who wish to bash the board about ESG, might I remind you that Smith had 18 months to produce something yet had produced nothing. There's more to that story as well. 3. Surplussing the property is part of the mandated process to sell it. That does not necessarily mean cash price tag. It must be sold under a competitive bid process with a minimum selling price. Only after that can it go on the open market. 4. For those cynical about the return from a sale, I'd suggest any price would be better than the $10 per parcel (you read that right) that ESG could have paid. 5. This is not an answer or end to the issues. It's just refreshing to see someone say "Let's do something to stop wasting time and money."
Say it isn't so August 23, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Let the election begin!- Need four votes to get anywhere, so lets start with three trustee's - Are the trustee's by district or at large?
TheJET August 23, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Trustees are elected At-Large, my 3¢. Need a full slate of candidates, plus one 2-year term (Mastandrea is a full-in). Caution - dispite criticism, there is a lot of work to do the job right.
Disgruntled August 23, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Remember Janine that Smith was given 2 years to accomplish "something". In that time, he accomplished none of the required tasks. He made promises & NEVER delivered. He swore he had money but NEVER was able to show it. Vitas never chastised anyone. Vitas told Smith to "Show me the money" yet he never could. In this "round", Smith could proceed without Village support yet he has not. If David Smith wants credibility, he needs to put up or shut up. At some point, enough is enough!!
Say it isn't so August 24, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Its time to put up or shut up!
Resident 225 August 24, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I think it's unfair to say the David Smith produced nothing. He had a plan and he asked for two more weeks to finalize his funding. Vitas made sure that the Trustees would not extend the two weeks. Who knows where this project would be if they had waited those two weeks. Maybe no where but it was a better bet than what we have now. I have lost patience with the lot of them except for Mastandrea. He at least voted to select a developer. His actions appear to lean toward moving forward. Also, if this is such a good idea why wasn't it done long ago before another consultant was hired to "study" our options? Did the consultant recommend this move? And I can't believe Jet that you think it's refreshing to see someone say let's do something to stop wasting time and money. The residents have been saying that for YEARS!! By your statement it's obvious that you and Trustee have not been listening. This is a debacle that Branding and her cronies campaigned to fix. They haven't fixed a thing, just got us further behind. Jet, your facts are your version and frankly it's time to get people to the meetings and raise hell. If you can't make a meeting call the trustees, email the trustees, write them a letter just let them know how you feel. It was much easier to attend a meeting before Branding when the meetings were held every Monday. But, she's the champion of transparency...yeah right!
TheJET August 24, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Resident 225, It is fair and accurate to say that ESG produced nothing in the 18 months. It is refreshing that someone has insisted moving the whole TIF instead of one piece and that the law is finally being followed. It is also great to see Consultants' reports being followed (I agree, for a change). I'm not saying anybody has done a good job or that this is a solution. The flaws in all of the proposals are too great to be addressed here. I don't believe in "doing something even if it's wrong" mentality. All of the developer propaganda is just that, including how they are going to be the financial savior. Pay attention to your tax bills & you will see that none will accomplish that. I have been critical and vocal since the TIF began. That includes past and present administrations. I can show you the real facts with no emotions attached, so long as it was not a back-room deal. It would be refreshing to see people at the board meetings, knowing the details of the matters and speaking intelligently on the subject. It would be nice to hear people ask for objectivity, rather than just lobbying for something. It would be nice for someone to attend the meetings & know what happens. I get lonely!!
Jodie August 26, 2012 at 03:48 PM
If anyone is considering running for office please have knowledge and a vision so that we don't waste more time. The downtown area doesn't need any more residential apartments or condos. We need retail, restaurants etc. It would be nice if the village invested in a ferry boat to offer rides on the lake that would attract people. All the vacant buildings need to be torn down already. Buy loosing control of the property - the downtown area will continue to look like shit so let's stop this sale from going through.
TheJET August 26, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Jodie, I agree with your concerns. Nothing is being sold yet. The sale process is mandatory by law but ignored in the past. Conditions of Sale does not mean losing control. It does mean all of it will be addressed instead of worrying about only one piece. It does mean that a bunch of amateurs cannot micromanage affairs for which they know nothing. A look at the past decade shows how to goof things up.
Say it isn't so August 26, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Jodie - One of the biggest reasons why we have what we have is because NOBODY votes!- This past March the voter turn out was 22% county wide- Lets assume that everybody who voted cast a ballot, either yes or no for the electricity smoke screen. The total number of votes was 2430. In the last census LZ has a 19,709 population, taking the ballots into consideration thats 12% of the pop. Yes I know that includes kids but its not even close- In all of ELA township 26,624 people voted which is close to the 22% of registered voters. These trustees walk right in... The whole downtown needs to be replatted. relocate street and get the Park District to pony up with some land and you have a shot at it.... Another reason nobody big is interested, permit costs, brain damage from building department and the police department. Take a look at the Dimucci property, 1.5 million PER YEAR will go to Lake Zurich schools with no additional students. Dont you think that will relieve the dependency on us? 70% of our tax;s goes to LZ95. Was there anybody at the hearings from LZ supporting it? I guess I was the only one. GET INVOLVED!
goodlife August 27, 2012 at 02:57 PM
The Dimucci property just spreads the crap stores all over the area. I get the taxes, but revitalize downtown, yes-like Wauconda, Crystal Lake, ect... And people will want to LIVE here. The taxes we pay go to our very good schools. Its not all about money. Its about quality of life. Community.
Disgruntled August 31, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Ginny, Who's running the show? Nobody - that's the problem Why is the leadership so fractured? It's not, only because there is no leadership. Don't blame the trustees. They ask for things that never happen. Your comparisons would be fine but all that could have made LZ like the others have been bulldozed (ancient history). Planning a downtown and a planned downtown are two different things. How about "Lead, Follow or get the ___ out of the way"
Cheryl T. Eisenhuth September 07, 2012 at 01:09 PM
So let me get this straight, the board has mis-managed the downtown revitalization & can't work together to get the project done, so now we are just going to give up and sell off the property so that it's somebody else's problem and we have no control over what they do with it ? That's not a development strategy that's a cop out. Get your heads out of your backsides and get together and make it work. There is absolutely no reason the board can't come to a consensus on a development plan which THEY requested, from one of 4 developers. If one of the plans needs some tweaking than do that, but get moving on improving Lake Zurich's downtown today! Everyone in this community wants to see Lake Zurich live up to it's potential, doesn't the board? If this were a private business, it would be out of business and the board members would all be looking for work!


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