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Cary candidates differ on economic tactics

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CARY – The race to succeed Tom Kierna as Cary’s village president features a current trustee and a former trustee.

Bruce Kaplan, who was elected to the board in 2011, is facing off against Mark Kownick, who served two years on the Village Board after he was appointed in 2009 to fill a vacancy.

Kierna is not running for re-election as village president.

Kaplan was part of a slate of four candidates who ran together.

“I represented a fresh change in the village,” Kaplan said. “The ones that voted [for us] were interested in seeing new direction in the village, were not happy with things going on in town.

“The biggest thrust of my candidacy is to develop the commercial tax base of the village,” Kaplan added. “The tax levy is a constant, it gets paid by the commercial side and the residential side. So if the commercial side increases their tax base, the residential component doesn’t pay as much to cover the tax levy.”

Kaplan, who has lived in the village for 39 years, is a real estate broker for Premier Commercial Realty.

Kownick, who owns Action Building Maintenance Corp., has lived in the village for 21 years.

Kownick said the village needs to concentrate on putting retail businesses that produce sales tax in retail districts, rather than putting those that don’t in retail areas.

He gave the example of allowing Athletico, a physical therapy clinic, to locate in the former Johnson Eye Care Location next to Jewel. Kownick said he would have preferred a restaurant in that location and Athletico going elsewhere in the village.

Kownick said he would like to reinstate the village’s facade improvement loan program to help businesses fix up their storefronts.

The village needs to bring additional revenue into town to help keep taxes low, he said.

Kownick said he would like to see new development opportunities such as at Jandus Cutoff and Route 14.

“I see a large retail development there, anchored with a Mariano’s [grocery store], or an independent grocer, like a Joseph’s,” Kownick said.

“By bringing additional retail revenue to the village, that’s going to help offset some of those costs,” Kownick added. “I believe we have several different vacant sites within the community that will have great opportunities to develop. I’m a visionary; I like to see things.”

Kownick said he also wants to review all the different fees within the village. The goal is make the village competitive with reasonable fees for development, and the village needs to come up with a plan, whether it be using tax increment financing money or tax rebates when trying to attract businesses.

“I do believe businesses need to pay their way into the village,” Kownick said. “I would say most developers understand that is part of doing business. ... Our business strategy has to change and adapt without giving the store away.”

He said to help make the village a destination, he would like to see more franchise-type businesses, such as a Pot Belly or Starbucks, to come to town, because they would have marketing plans and are more invested in making it work.

“I know too many people who drive from Cary to Barrington, or Crystal Lake through Cary to Barrington, or Barrington through Cary to Crystal Lake,” Kownick said. “I want to capture that, by having reasonable fees.”

Kownick has said he is worried Kaplan would have many conflicts of interest if he were village president, especially with potential developments.

Kaplan said he has recused himself during Village Board decisions where he has a financial interest.

He said he would send developers to Christopher Stilling, director of community and economic development, if someone came to village hall looking for possible places to locate in town.

Kaplan said that if someone comes to his real estate office to inquire about a property in town, his responsibility in that case would be to the property owner to see whether a deal can be made.

He said the village needs to look at the incentives being offered by other communities to try to be competitive.

He said some sort of sales-tax rebate based on what a new business generates should be considered. The village could look into reducing or eliminating permit fees for certain situations, he said, and look into whether to adjust tap-on fees for connecting to utilities.

Kaplan said the village’s process for approving building plans for businesses needs to be more streamlined. He said the village staff has improved, but he has heard of situations where developers have to submit plans multiple times to village engineers before they can move forward with construction.

“One of the things that is hurtful to development is the time it takes to get their plans approved through the bureaucracy,” Kaplan said.

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