MAHOMET — The battle over a set of annexations approved by the village of Mahomet in the spring isn’t over, according to one resident, who addressed the board of trustees on Tuesday night regarding proposed tax rebates for newly annexed residents.
In the meantime, village leaders say they continue to aim for an “amenable solution.”
In April, trustees voted unanimously to approve resolutions to annex Briarcliff and Summit Ridge subdivisions, and to annex land that includes Tin Cup Campground. Property owners whose homes are included in the annexations, which were hotly opposed by many residents, include Rich Eardley, who lives on Karadan Drive in Summit Ridge.
He addressed village leaders multiple times throughout the annexation debate, and he spoke to the trustees in the public comment portion of their special meeting Tuesday to ask for an update on tax rebates discussed for the newly annexed taxpayers.
“We want something in writing about the tax rebates,” Eardley said. He made the same request of the village in June.
Eardley said he spoke multiple times with village President Sean Widener, who then referred him to village attorney Joe Chamley. But Eardley said he still has not gotten the information he requested.
“I didn’t do this. You did this,” he told trustees about annexation. “It’s your responsibility to figure out (how to handle tax rebates). This probably should have been done at the time you voted to force us into the village. All we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re getting what you said you’re going to give us.”
Chamley said Tuesday that he is happy to take Eardley’s input on how to implement tax rebates for the newly annexed residents.
“I do have some ideas as to how we’re going to structure this,” Chamley said. “As the mayor indicated, previous transactions were development agreements; that’s really not feasible in this scenario with the number of lots we have.”
The attorney said he is working on the issue.
“It’s on my list. It’s certainly on my agenda, Rich,” he told Eardley. “It’s not being ignored. Absolutely not. I understand your concern.”
Chamley said he hopes to be able to share with village leaders a plan regarding proposed tax rebates by September or October.
Trustee Andy Harpst asked about possible legal action from any newly annexed residents.
“Is that happening or is there still talk of that?” Harpst asked.
Eardley replied, “There’s talk of that, yes. But ... one of the things we need is that document to help us make a decision.
“Yes, we’re still considering legal action, but we need that document to see who’s going to be affected if there’s legal action and what’s going to happen,” he added. “We need to know what the playing field is.”
Widener noted, “The tax rebates was an optional piece of that (annexation) puzzle. This board had no obligation to offer anything with annexation. With that being said ... we’ll get back to you.”
Newly annexed residents have been offered three years total in tax rebates — the taxes they would be scheduled to pay to the village in the first three years they are within Mahomet village limits would be returned to them. But a lawsuit likely would change that offer, Widener explained to the Citizen on Wednesday morning.
“If we get a lawsuit that challenges annexation, which is their decision ... we were not going to take those monies and basically rebate them and expend legal monies to defend the action,” he said. “Every indication that they provide is ‘we’ll see you in court.’”
He noted that each of the three annexations would be treated separately so that, for example, if Summit Ridge residents decided collectively to file a lawsuit but Briarcliff homeowners did not, tax rebates could still be offered to the latter.
“Our intentions have not changed. We’re trying to find an amenable solution to this thing,” Widener said.
Grant application approved
The primary reason behind Tuesday’s special meeting of village trustees was to vote on whether to apply for a grant for improvements to Barber Park. Trustees unanimously agreed to the move, which was explained by Dan Waldinger, director of Mahomet’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development or OSLAD grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would match up to $400,000 in village funds to spruce up Barber Park. Waldinger presented plans that include additions such as a playground/spray ground, and improved amphitheater/pavilion space to the 55-acre park located along the Sangamon River.
The cost of Phase I proposed improvements to what Waldinger called “our premier park” is estimated at $830,000. Any efforts to add to or change the park are made with the proximity to the Sangamon in mind, he said.
“We’re very conscious of the (potential for flooding), so much of the area in the flood plain is going to remain the same as you see it today,” Waldinger said.
He added, “What we’re talking development-wise is really raising the fields ... more to (the level of Field 2) to get everything above the flood plain. It would give us a lot more flexibility in our field space; we can host more games.”
Study session held; festival volunteers needed
Immediately after the special meeting Tuesday, trustees held a study session that included moving equipment purchases for the Public Works Department to the consent agenda for the next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.
In the mayor’s report, Widener noted upcoming issues including expected approval of the downtown master plan in September; discussion on adult use cannabis in October; and review of a citizen advisory group related to the economic development commission in November.
Harpst asked about the newly acquired land just east of the village administrative building. Village Administrator Patrick Brown said one of the three homes on the properties purchased through the Wayne Perkins Trust remains occupied, and it is expected to be vacated sometime in September. The village will proceed with demolition soon thereafter, Brown said.
Finally, just before adjournment, trustees called for more volunteers for the Aug. 23-24 Mahomet Music Festival.
“Even just an hour of time,” Widener said.
“We definitely need help,” Brown noted.