Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles Lake Zurich Patch will provide about Village Board candidates' views on key issues within the village. All five candidates were given a questionnaire and had the same amount of time to prepare and submit their answers. Their answers are presented in their own words. The order of their responses will rotate with each article so that each candidate is fairly represented.
Five candidates are seeking to fill five available posts on the Lake Zurich Village Board in the Tuesday, April 5 consolidated election.
Incumbent Tom Poynton and former Mayor John Tolomei are running as independents. Mark Ernst, Dana Rzeznik and Jennifer Talley are running as part of the LZ Vision party along with incumbent Kathleen Johnson, who is running unopposed for village clerk.
Following are their answers, in their own words, to the question: What do you believe is the best approach to a successful downtown redevelopment program in Lake Zurich?
The various “master plans” that were developed over the years for Lake Zurich downtown may no longer be in line with the overall economic situation. The small town retail mix that failed in other towns might also not be the best solution for Lake Zurich.
I may have very specific ideas for what I would like to see but in order to not make the mistakes of the past we need to listen to the experts to suggest to us what is feasible. At the same time we need to involve the residents and listen to their input because if downtown is to become a destination, they will have to be attracted to come there.
Identify reliable and proven developer(s) and invite bidding. Village Administrator Bob Vitas has spent some time already putting a plan together. A plan needs to be decided on and we need to stick with it.
So much time has been lost because the last contract locked all other developers out of the process and the developer who was selected did not have the resources to proceed. Future agreements must have clear timetables and protect the village’s interests.
The best approach is one that will build off the public input provided by the design charette that gave a vision to the downtown and the form-based code from which to build it. A truly successful downtown will require a mix of small shops, unique restaurants, office space and residential space.
The question always arises as to whether there should be a master developer or several developers. Either approach can work as long each developed parcel brings with it a contribution to the public amenities and infrastructure commensurate to the value of its location.
Doing what had been done has proved to be unsuccessful. Village Administrator Vitas is approaching this in a professional way and I/we support a more conservative and diversified approach. Involving multiple developers spreads the risk and provides the best options for the Village. For the past two years, all other developers were blocked from competing for uptown development because of the contract with ESG. Now it can be an open and competitive process with opportunities for several developers to participate in the redevelopment of Lake Zurich’s uptown in light of the current economic conditions.
We will need to re-assess the development of downtown Lake Zurich; finding the right mixes in a post-recession economy … a work in progress. I recently had a conversation with a local businessperson who commented that he would like to see downtown Lake Zurich become “vibrant” again. I’ve lived in Lake Zurich for 26 years. I don’t recall downtown ever being what I would consider “vibrant”. BUT … it was functional.
There were and still are small businesses providing some of the services that residents used. These businesses came and went over the years and others took their place, as is the cycle of retail. There were, at some points in time, four restaurants west of Old Rand Road. These restaurants drew people to downtown Lake Zurich.
Downtown Libertyville and downtown Barrington seem similar to me (but much larger than LZ) in that they have a mix of old and new that seems to work. Their downtowns are functional and there are destination restaurants and businesses. Those are models we should consider emulating as we move forward. I’m not so sure that a large level development approach on a limited access private lake would work in the changed economy. Perhaps we should consider downtown development from the perspective of the people who are here now and maybe not so much for the people who aren’t here and who may never come.
Several years back one of the consultants the village used recommended an approach that would utilize multiple developers in order to limit the village’s potential for catastrophic developer failure. Sort of don’t put all your eggs in one basket approach.
We need to re-examine that idea and possibly return to that philosophy. Regardless, we must increase our efforts to inform both the financial and the developer communities that we are open for business, that we have a great community in which to set up shop, and that we have some terrific properties to develop. Additionally we need to increase our marketing of Lake Zurich and the Lake Zurich area.
Ultimately, the Village needs to spur economic development by working with proven and responsible developers to fill vacant commercial and industrial properties and to develop downtown Lake Zurich.