Opponents of the proposed Special Service Area (SSA) in downtown Wheaton have 60 days to file written objections to the city after a public hearing at Monday night.
According to the statutes governing Special Service Areas, opponents of the plan who reside in, own property in or are taxpayers in the proposed district may automatically defeat the proposal if 51 percent file valid written objections to the city clerk by the end of the 60-day period. If that criteria is met, the SSA cannot be established for a minimum of two years, said city attorney James Knippen.
Downtown property owners and residents communicated their positions regarding the establishment of a new SSA in downtown Wheaton to replace the current one that expires next April. Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk, a former DWA president, said Monday he thinks unless a council member changes their mind, council will vote in favor of the new SSA.
Earlier this year SSA #7 was proposed by the to replace SSA #6. Under the new proposal, the DWA would reduce the tax rate from 95 cents per $100 to 45 cents. Under the current 95 cent rate, the city of Wheaton receives 60 percent of the funds and the DWA receives 40. Under the new 45 cent proposal the DWA would directly receive all the funding. If council approves the new SSA, it would remain in place for seven years.
The tax dollars the DWA draws from the SSA fund the organization’s promotional efforts to market downtown Wheaton including the annual "," a shopping event to benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and raise breast cancer awareness.
During the public hearing several speakers lauded the marketing and promotional work DWA conducts on behalf of downtown Wheaton.
Without the DWA, business will go
Richard O’Gorman, owner of , encouraged council to support passing the SSA. Urging council to look at the thriving downtown in Naperville, he said Wheaton has to dream big, which includes funding an organization like the DWA.
“Without the DWA you’ll lose downtown business,” he said.
Rick Tampier presented a resolution passed by the in support of the SSA. In the resolution they said the DWA demonstrated an ability to create a positive impact on downtown Wheaton and the city as a whole. A failure to approve the new SSA would cause a “significantly negative impact” upon the economic climate in downtown Wheaton.
Calling the DWA the “heart and soul of the community,” Jill Card, owner of , told council the proposed structure of the SSA means the taxpayers in the district will see their taxes cut nearly in half due to the funding change. The monthly $60 she pays into the SSA will be reduced to about $35, she said.
“To me, $35 is a bargain for all the marketing, for all the community support, for all the energy the DWA brings to the community,” Card said.
But the SSA is not without its share of detractors. John Botsis owns several rental properties on Main Street, which lies within the heart of the SSA. He said he does not think the funding mechanism is fair because it requires landlords to have to continuously pass the costs along to tenants.
"I see no benefit from the SSA"
Ken Rezmier said the properties he owns within the SSA all lie south of the railroad tracks. He said all the events hosted by the DWA take place north of the tracks.
“I see no benefit from the SSA. It’s something that may be needed, but I think those who think it’s needed should support it and not pass the burden on to property owners,” Rezmier said.
If the opponents of the SSA do not muster a 51 percent opposition, it is likely the Wheaton City Council will support the creation SSA 7, which will keep the Downtown Wheaton Association funded for the next seven years. If the SSA is not funded, DWA officials said it would likely .
DWA President Keven Graham said after the meeting that if someone could come up with an alternative funding mechanism for the organization, he's "all ears."
The City Council may vote 60 days from Monday, Oct. 10 and will likely vote on the establishment of the SSA in early December 2011.