Wheaton Council Passes SSA

In a 4-3 vote council approves taxing plan that will fund the Downtown Wheaton Association.

Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk cast the deciding vote Monday to approve the establishment of a new Special Services Area that will fund the Downtown Wheaton Association. 

The vote establishing SSA #7 mirrored the October vote that moved the process to the public hearing stage. Council members Jeanne Ives, Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti and Phil Suess opposed the plan.

While the SSA has been approved, a legal challenge may be filed by those who opposed its creation.

Last week opponents of the proposed SSA filed petitions opposing the creation of the taxing district that will fund the Downtown Wheaton Association. There were 86 petitions filed by property owners and 28 by electors, or proprietors renting the downtown properties—more than the magical number of 51 percent called for by state statutes. According to 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 is met, the SSA cannot be established for a minimum of two years.

However, after a review of the petitions, city staff threw out a number of petitions for various reasons, including invalid signatures, or were not in the chain of title of ownership according to county records, said James Knippen, attorney for the city. 

“We found a number of people who thought they were owners and weren’t, or at least weren’t owners of record,” Knippen said.

Opponents of the SSA process argued it is flawed because property owners who do not sign a petition opposing the plan are automatically considered a supporting vote—even if property owners are deceased. The opponents argued that allowing the dead to “have a voice” in the SSA is similar to the voting corruption found in Chicago history.

“What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong, dead people do not vote,” said Glenn Kosirog, an opponent of the proposal.

Ives said there is at least one property owner on the list who has been dead since 2008, but he was considered a supporting vote. By approving the SSA based on a flawed process, she said the city has opened itself up to litigation.

Gresk said he did not think any lawsuit challenging the SSA would have merit. He said he is confident city staff followed the guidelines of the law.

Mark Stern, an attorney for the opposition, said he hoped council would follow common sense when they saw so many property owners object.

“Nothing requires you to impose this tax if you believe the majority doesn’t want it. Those for the tax, many of whom are not property owners, don’t add up to our majority,” Stern said.

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.

Keven Graham, immediate past president of the DWA, argued that if the SSA was not approved, that of the DWA and its downtown marketing efforts.

Following the vote, Graham said he was pleased council supported the mission of the DWA. He said the organization would reach out to other business owners in the SSA who claimed they were not benefiting from the DWA efforts, such as a recent Groupon.com offering, and see how the organization could meet their needs.

Jim McMahon December 20, 2011 at 06:47 AM
Mark Kmiecik December 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM
That's insightful Jim, why bother...
Molly R. O'Brien December 20, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Once again Jeanne has taken the lead while others on council have sat back and allowed the downtown establishment that think they run Wheaton. Well, obviously they do. Our "Mayor" is sitting back allowing this to happen. What a shame! I thought he was a Republican. Obviously a RINO.
Keith Reily December 20, 2011 at 05:22 PM
This equates to my living in a community of say 50 homes and 10 of these families wanting to have a garage sale, yet it is mandated that all 50 homes have to pay for the signs and the advertising in the newspapers! However, technically it is even worse, because the 10 that will be enjoying and benefiting from the garage sale are not even the parents of the homes that are paying the "tax". It is the dependant children, who most likely are not contributing anything towards the payment of the tax, just deriving the reward from the sale. Plus, did as much time, energy and expense go into validating all the supposed "yes, we support this tax on our property" as it did contesting signatures of the "no, we don't want to pay even more into the DWA than we already have for the last 6 years"? Now the current property owners that have been trying to sell will have that much less of a chance when you consider the prospective buyers see that the DWA is a constant leech in the area with the support of the city council.
michael j gresk December 20, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Molly R. O'Brien ... got a second ?? give me a call at City Hall (630-260-2000) ... I look forward to meeting and speaking with you... Regards, Mayor Mike Gresk
Tom Mouhelis December 20, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Come to a meeting and say hello molly and keith


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