Real Wealth Society

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I’ve been thinking about impact(s) By Fred Cederholm

Column for on/after June 18th

I’ve been thinking about impact(s). Actually I’ve been thinking about growth, “in equity,” our school, taxes, “but-what-abouts,” and King Solomon. A community that does not grow, or change, is doomed to wither and die. But… growth is also a double-edged sword which must be approached thoughtfully - with due consideration given to so many things.

You see, I sit with four other local personages on Creston’s planning commission at the pleasure of our village president - with the concurrence of the village trustees. As a forensic accountant, I look at things differently than most people. During my career in public accounting I found myself specializing in failure – divorces, troubled debt restructurings, bankruptcies, debtors-in-possession, and professional malpractice and damage computations. In my three years with the FDIC/RTC, I did detailed case write-ups on hundreds of ventures, developments, and projects. My task was to determine when a reasonably prudent person – be they lender, director, auditor – should have seen an impending failure and walked away. IT was intense.

Last Tuesday, I received a “meeting package” from our staff representative/consultant regarding a concept plan for a proposed 269 house development. Creston presently has about 190 single family homes and another 50 or so duplexes, townhouses, and apartments. While I was expecting such a package for “a” development later this summer, or fall; it wasn’t for this one and it certainly wasn’t for our blessing on Wednesday, June 21st. Priorities had shifted.
Creston is way ahead of other communities in the area as far as having a completed comprehensive plan, a completed subdivision ordinance, and current codification of the mandatory village ordinances and building codes. We know what we want for our community; and more importantly, we know what we do not want. In recent past, we have paid a great deal for professional advice, counsel, and work-product - and it was well worth it! We knew growth and development was coming and we were going to be ready with “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed.

The planning commission’s part in the process is easy – relatively speaking thank God. We square the proposal against the nuts and bolts and “sacred cows” of the comprehensive plan and subdivision ordinance and vote yea or nay in “recommending” the project to the village trustees. The devil lies in the (monetary) details. Resolution of the project’s financial impact (who will pay for what improvements) comes in the body/text of the land annexation agreement - which the village trustees approve. There is only one chance to get it right. THAT is intense.

In law there is the legal fiction of “in equity.” If the parties “stand in the same shoes” after an event, they have not been damaged, or incurred a loss or additional costs. In this context, “in equity” means that the newcomers should not be made to pay all the costs of improvements made for benefit of the whole community; likewise the people who have been here should not be dinged to subsidize the incremental costs of the growth or expansion. That is why God created attorneys, consultants, and negotiators.

In numerous prior months, there have been countless meetings between the village reps and the developers which focused on impact(s) and who would be liable for what costs. First and foremost is the impact on our local school. Creston is proud of its little school, and with good reason; it consistently ranks in the top fraction of a percent statewide as far as student performance in basic skills evaluations. While there is some available capacity, in no way can it handle this anticipated growth. I mean, the “new” part was built in 1959! Taxes for our grade school, Rochelle High School, and Kishwaukee College (and mandated pensions) make up roughly 75% of each year’s property tax bills. That isn’t currently covering operating expenses.

When the details of the annexation agreement are made public, there will be a flood of “but-what-about” questions regarding the library, the park district, water and sewer capacity, fire protection, security, streets, other maintenance costs, etc. The night of that vote our village hall will be filled to capacity and the trustees will need the focused thoughts and wisdom of a King Solomon. I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2006 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved.


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