The Riverside Village Board on Sept. 17 temporarily put the brakes on a decision to direct the village staff to waive building permit and demolition fees as an economic incentive for new businesses to open in the village.
Trustees voted to table the matter until their meeting on Oct. 1 after some trustees felt the proposed resolution was too broad. However, there still seems to be support for offering that incentive for new businesses, particularly ones that generate sales tax revenue.
“These are tools that [staff] should have when they meet with potential businesses,” Trustee Joseph Ballerine said. [Uncertainty] just moves a business from one town to the next because there’s a lot of spaces in a lot of towns around here. We need to be agile.”
But trustees Michael Sedivy and Doug Pollock both expressed concerns that the resolution, as proposed earlier this month, might simply be a giveaway to any new business coming into the village, regardless of how that business fits into the downtown comprehensive plan.
“I’d hate to see a bank coming into the Village Center and we’re waiving their permit fees,” Sedivy said. “I just think there are some unintended consequences of this proposal.”
Pollock said it was important to know more about a business before granting waivers. He said he wasn’t in favor of granting waivers, for example, to a business that would be duplicating one that already existed nearby.
He suggested that waivers for building and demolition fees might be rolled into a more comprehensive package of incentives, such as sales tax rebates, instead of handing out incentives piecemeal.
“Why not do it on a case-by-case basis for those who need that kind of incentive?” asked Pollock.
But Village President Ben Sells and other trustees argued that giving the village manager the ability to waive building and demolition fees was something the village could do to immediately attract the attention of prospective business owners.
Village Attorney Lance Malina suggested that the resolution be amended to include language giving the village manager the discretion to waive certain fees, taking into account such factors as whether the business would generate sales taxes, places-of-eating taxes or simply increased property taxes.
“I’d say you want to give the discretion with standards,” Malina said.
Trustee Ellen Hamilton argued against making business owners gain board approval for the fee waivers, saying that if there are standards, the village manager should be able to use her discretion.
“Why should those people have to come back on a one-on-one basis? Would we give it to one restaurant and not give it to another? That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Hamilton said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s wordsmith it and make a policy to do it.”
Sells agreed that the granting of fee waivers should come with some standards and should be at the discretion of the village manager, not simply a blanket incentive to any business.
“It’s as much psychology as it is finance,” Sells said. “It would be good to have something on record that we have granted staff this discretion [based on standards]. … That way we’re not reinventing the wheel every single time somebody else comes in here.”
The fee waiver doesn’t amount to a great deal of money, noted Community Development Director Sonya Abt.
The provision would allow a waiver of demolition permit fees ($250 for up to 1,000 square feet plus $25 for each additional 500 square feet) and building permit fees (1.75 percent of the total construction value). For a $100,000 job, the loss in building permit fees for the village would be $1,750.
The revised resolution is expected to be part of the consent agenda at the next meeting of the village board on Oct. 1.