The fate of the hangs in the balance after more than half the downtown property owners and business leaders that would be affected by a new Special Service Area filed petitions Friday opposing its creation.
The taxes generated from the proposed SSA are slated to fund DWA promotional efforts to market downtown Wheaton for the next seven years, the duration of the SSA. Without those tax dollars, Keven Graham, past president of the DWA, said the organization . Right now though, Graham said Monday that the only thing his organization can do is wait and see if the petitions are validated and await the decision of the Wheaton City Council.
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 a 60-day filing period. If that criteria is met, the SSA cannot be established for a minimum of two years.
On Friday opponents of the proposed SSA turned in more than 100 petitions from property owners and business proprietors. Out of approximately 150 properties in the proposed area, 86 property owners filed petitions, said Assistant City Manager Mike Dzugan. Out of 55 electors, or proprietors renting property, 28 filed petitions.
Although numerous business leaders supported the SSA during an October public hearing, Graham would not comment on the number of petitions filed Friday or what that could mean as far as support for the DWA.
Dzugan said the city attorney will carefully examine the petitions to make sure they have been filled out correctly and are valid. They will then review the petitions and make a recommendation to the City Council, which could vote on the new SSA Monday night.
Glenn Kosirog, an SSA opponent who turned in the petitions Friday afternoon, told Patch the DWA should not be funded through tax dollars. He said many businesses are suffering from the economy and cannot afford another tax. He said the DWA marketing efforts can be shouldered by other existing organizations, including the Wheaton Park District and churches.
“This is one way we can cut corners,” Kosirog said.
Kosirog was also critical of $200,000 currently in the DWA accounts that have not been used for downtown marketing purposes. He said those funds should be redistributed to business and property owners.
However, over the course of the debate some business owners touted the benefits of the DWA marketing efforts. Jill Card, owner of , said she located her shop in Wheaton largely to promote downtown Wheaton. If the DWA were to fold, Card said she would have to think about keeping her business in Wheaton.
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. DWA officials want to change the funding mechanism because many of the downtown properties are in one of three TIF district and any extra monies generated through property taxes are sent into one of the TIF funds.
Council meets for a planning session at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12.