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Residents, Business Owners Speak to SSA

Opponents of the Downtown Wheaton Association's plan have 60 days to file written objections.

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.

Rick Nelson October 11, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Mixed feelings on this. Wish there was a better way to fund the DWA rather than through a property tax but I don't see any viable alternatives.
CJ October 11, 2011 at 09:31 PM
How about the Dickens of Christmas parade the horse carriage rides, the Vintage Car Rides, the list goes on check out their site. These would all disappear without the DWA. It is really mind boggling to think that these events aren't bringing traffic into downtown Wheaton and contributing to the fabric of our community. South side businesses might want to check out all the ways DWA has to help you. Haven't seen you in the Shoppers' Club. Shame on the city council members who are so short sighted to think that the DWA is not worthy of financial support or that it can be done by a couple of stores on their own. Wake up! Make our city great and do not try to starve the downtown to death. If all these things go away will we really have a more successful and vibrant downtown?
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 11, 2011 at 10:21 PM
thanks for commenting Rick.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 11, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Good points CJ ... I'm not sure the City Council was as involved in the hearing as in other meetings because the point of the hearing was for the public to speak their minds. It seems like council members see the value of the DWA but some were not supportive of how it was funded. (I could be wrong, who knows) But I don't see a way that stores/businesses could put on those events and try to attract other businesses independently. There's no way ... right?
Jim Hankes October 11, 2011 at 11:16 PM
In the not too distant past, downtown Wheaton was where you drove through to go somewhere else for a night out. That is no longer the case. The DWA and some cooperative and progressive business owners have done an outstanding job of changing the vibe downtown. Let's hope the growth continues.
CJ October 12, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Thanks Charlottee. There are some pretty vocal opponents on the city council and I have seen it in print that they recommend that it be self funded by the businesses that want it. This is what I am referring to, and this is what I find so distressing. Under what log does one live if we think this kind of operation can be funded by a few business owners. Everyone needs to participate. I would say this funding really does contribute to the fabric of our community just as much as having good schools and all the other services. Please people go to the city web site and email the city council members (Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti, Jeanne Ives and Phil Suess) and tell them you don't want all these great events to go away. These are the ones who have promised that they will not support the SSA. Without the SSA all these events will go away.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 12, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Thanks all for keeping it classy all. @CJ, I hope you also participated in the public hearing or are at least communicating with council members—they'll listen to you. That's what they're there for.
Mickey Flynn October 12, 2011 at 05:33 PM
While the DWA provides foot traffic for businesses downtown for the events mentioned above, I find it unfair to tax property owners in the district that do not benefit commercially from DWA. Thank God Jeanne exposed the unfair DWA tax gravy train that all of these so called capitalists were feeding off of. I would like someone from the DWA or one of the commentators above to explain why the DWA used tax money to make a political donation to a political action committee during the election this passed year. This same political committee supported Derek Bromstead and Alberta Adamson who supported public funds for the Theater. Mr. Bromstead was then President of the DWA. (Has Mr. Bromstaed filed his campaign disclosures the the State Board of Elections? A: NO) Private enterprises like restaurants, shops and theaters should not rely on tax dollars.
Mickey Flynn October 12, 2011 at 05:39 PM
@CJ The SSA7 got the 4 votes to proceed to public hearing. Now it is up to the 51% of the property owners to file their objections to defeat this unfair tax. Their 60 days started Monday at the close of the public hearing. School is back in session, and we have learned our lessons about the lack of transpancy at the DWA. They could not even submit their required audit on time.
CJ October 12, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Mickey, I really don't know what you are talking about "DWA tax gravy train". Lets keep this friendly and that is not very nice. I am all about trying to think the best of people and not the worst. Lets keep in mind that the DWA is run mostly by volunteers who I truly believe are trying to make downtown a great place to shop and our community a great place to call home. Could the Downtown Wheaton Theatre be a cultural center and an architectural gem of the community? There is no doubt. If the mission of the organization is to support downtown Wheaton it would be ridiculous for them not to get behind an effort like that. Did they do everything right? I don't know. Maybe not. It was decided on the ballot and lets move on. I believe that once again it is better to think the best of people and not the worst. If there is a better way to fund an organization that contributes so much to our community, I am all ears. If the compromise is to cut the taxing as much as has been proposed in SSA7 and people still want to kill it, I think it will a very sad day for our community and you won't be thanking Jeanne Ives for long. Will she lead the Christmas parade or put together the Vintage Car rides? Has she volunteered on a committee or tried meaningful dialogue? If she has. I have not heard about it.
Mickey Flynn October 13, 2011 at 12:23 AM
@ CJ What is so civilized or friendly about Mathieson screaming like a mad man when some one questions how the DWA operates? He was so disrespectful to Council that even the Mayor had to tell him to sit down and shut up. It is not fair for businesses south of the tracks to pay extra property taxes to benefit restaraunts like Mr. Bromstead's that are next to the theater. I have a lot of pet projects, but it is not fair for others to pay for them. Wall St. bailouts and bank bailouts are anti capitalism. If you are in business, government should get out of the way and not in bed with you. To answer your question, yes I can think of a better way to fund your business promotional bachine a/k/a DWA...... pay for it yourself. Businesses pay for advertising and promotional events all the thime. Stones Jewelers did a great event without tax payer money. The truth is not always nice, but the DWA gravy train is about to be derailed. Fund your own promotional events.
CJ October 13, 2011 at 12:55 AM
I don't know who Mathieson is or the situation you are referencing and I am sure he doesn't represent everyone who supports the DWA. I don't think I can say anything that will help. It sounds like you have been really hurt by this. I really don't think people are out to steal and free load as you suggest. I wish you the best even though I don't agree.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) October 13, 2011 at 01:25 AM
*keep it classy all*
Mickey Flynn October 13, 2011 at 02:12 AM
@CJ Are we back in the 60s with this phony I wish you the best? You act all tough when no one challenges you. But when the facts about the DWA taking money from tax payers to fund the political action committees of Mr. Mathieson come to light you run for the hills. To quote you, "under what log" do you live? The DWA is nothing more than corporate welfare. Ives, Pacino and Suess are the only ones with the courage to take the DWA on and stop this unfair tax. I do not wish your cause the best.
Jim Hankes October 13, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Wheaton residents enjoy the events downtown. If the DWA goes away, what happens to the events?
Mickey Flynn October 13, 2011 at 03:04 AM
@ Jim Hankes Go ask the Easter Bunny at your chili cook off.
Jim Hankes October 13, 2011 at 03:30 AM
The chili contest was a great event last year and I'm looking forward to it again this year.
CJ October 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM
Mickey I responded to both of your accusations. Just because you say one person (Mathieson) acted poorly doesn't mean everyone involved with the DWA is bad. I also explained why I found it logical for them to support the theatre effort. Since you brought it up again, it is quite inflammatory to say that they used tax payer money to support it. In fact they are a membership organization with people paying membership dues. It could easily be argued that they used no tax payer money but money that was from membership dues. But that is not the point. Here is the point I am trying to make. Lets not try to think the worst of everyone, and lets be respectful in dialogue. The DWA does a lot to support our community and contributes a lot to the character of our community.
Angie O'Gram October 18, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Mickey, tell your neighbors to ask the Easter Bunny too, because I'm sure they are going. By the way, if you don't like the way things are in Wheaton, Just move! Houses are at an all time low!
Keith Reily October 25, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Under the SSA6, each .95 cents was split between the City of Wheaton (getting 60% = .57 cents) and the DWA (getting 40% =.38 cents**). Now the currently proposed SSA7, each .45 cents would be entirely given to the DWA (getting 100% = .45 cents**) So the "tax" is asking for less is true, but the DWA would be getting more than it even has been getting for all these previous years. If everybody else needs to learn how to do with less, then this should also apply to the DWA. The DWA has collected $200,000.00 more than it has figured out how to spend in its quest to better the downtown area, so why now does it want even more money. Don't charge the property owners this tax. They may or may not be able to pass it on to the businesses that are leasing space from them. Let the businesses decide how to best promote their own business based on what their individual clients would appreciate, cheaper prices, coupons, frequent shopping passes, 2 for 1, etc.

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