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Rogina: Lengthen Comment Periods for Controversial Developments

Alderman and mayoral candidate notes St. Charles residents were shocked by sudden Lexington Club approval less than a month after aldermen voted to recommend rejection of a TIF district for the project.

Alderman Ray Rogina of St. Charles’ 3rd Ward on Thursday called for a city policy to ensure the public gets at least seven days notice prior to any controversial votes on proposed developments.

In a release issued Thursday, Rogina vowed he would implement the policy if elected mayor of St. Charles on April 9.

His call for the policy follows the City Council’s divided vote nearly two weeks ago to approve the development, which has faced vocal opposition from neighbors of the project, as well as from critics of the city’s use of tax-increment financing districts.

Just a month prior, aldermen voted to reject the TIF for the project, effectively killing the plan. But the developer came back with a revised TIF, reducing the amount sought as reimbursements for improvements to the site from more than $6 million to $5.6 million. The reimbursements are to repay the developer for mitigation of contaminants at the site, formerly occupied by the Applied Composites factory, as well as for other improvements.

According to Rogina, many concerned residents told him they were shocked to learn a final vote on the Lexington Club had been added to the Jan. 7 City Council agenda just days prior to the meeting. The City Council agenda was posted on the city’s website the Friday before the Monday meeting.

“I support a policy that gives residents a reasonable amount of time to lobby their representatives directly,” Rogina said in the release. “I would recommend citizens engage their elected officials and ask for the rationale of their beliefs. This process implies more than one weekend of notice.”

The City Council’s 5-5 vote — a tie broken by Mayor Donald DeWitte — was an indication of just how contentious the Lexington Club proposal is. The developer plans to build 102-townhouses and 28-single family homes on the site between 6th and 12th streets.

“I believe the Lexington vote was a surprise rush to judgment,” Rogina said in the release. “I am confident that the lessons of Lexington make all of us better policymakers and I will continue to advocate professionalism, collegiality, cooperation and transparency among the decision-makers of our city.”

Rogina also said his position should not be viewed as “anti-development.”

“I encourage responsible growth where issues are thoroughly discussed, whether in person or through city surveys,” Rogina said in his release. “Citizens should have ample opportunity to comment before the council votes.”

Rogina is a retired St. Charles East High School teacher and a lifelong advocate for students and teachers who has lived in St. Charles for nearly 40 years.

Related:

  • Jan. 18, 2013: St. Charles Mayoral Contenders Mixed on Rogina Notice Plan
  • Jan. 8, 2013:Lexington Club Vote Sparks Anger
  • Jan. 7, 2013:St. Charles Shocker: Council OKs Lexington Club
  • Dec. 18, 2012:
  • Dec. 10, 2012:

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Henry James January 18, 2013 at 04:48 AM
Mr. Rogina I think that is a very responsible and transparent approach for the process. What happened during the Lexingtoning proposal was just wrong especially since residents and council members were lead to believe there would be at least the opportunity for additional discussion at the Council meeting and then there was none. I hope more approaches like this are advocated for.
David Amundson January 18, 2013 at 07:22 AM
All too often people on the inside know what is going to happen many days in advance, but the general public is never given notice until noon on Friday. When there is an issue of importance up for a vote on a Monday, it does not leave enough time to rally support for whatever cause one is supporting. I will gladly endorse Ald. Rogina's plan, and I wiould also like to take it one step further: with any important issue (developments alwayscseem to be hot topics) the City should have links set up on the web page where one could see, at a glance, the general anticipated arc of the process. Lay out very basic information like 'this project will first be reviewed by the Plan Commission during the month of October (give dates, links, and contact info. for tentative meetings), then it will be forwarded to the Planning and Development Committee (give more dates, links, and tentative meeting dates), last, it will be presented in front of the full City Council for approval (links, info., etc). Additionally, clear information on the difference between submitting letters to the Aldermen vs. submitting something into the official public record (and how to do that) should also be at all our fingertips. Simple changes like this are so incredibly easy to implement, but would go miles towards increasing transparency and increasing public trust in our gov't; something that has been in very short supply as of late.
David Amundson January 18, 2013 at 07:33 AM
I understand that there are legal obligations the City must fulfill in order to comply with the law. Rigidly sticking to those 72 hour notice rules sends a signal (intended or not) that the gov't would prefer to do its business w/o the people getting in the way and messing up the carefully laid plans. While perfectly legal, it only breeds distrust, and an excludes those who might be interested in a particular issue, but really don't have the time, energy, or motivation to get schooled in the art of How Business Gets Done At City Hall. Ideally, an average citizen, who has never interfaced previously with their local gov't should be able to be totally up to speed on both information available AND governmental process with just a few mouse clicks. Currently, one needs a crash course from one of the residents who has attended City meetings for decades in order to truly know what is going on. We can do better than we currently are doing, and doing better at this important job will increase trust and communication between the residents and the gov't. I totally support Ald. Rogina's proposal; I just hope that whatever is ultimately implemented goes a whole lot further.
Kim Malay January 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM
David you are right we can do better with the process both for the residents and internally. Ald. Rogina's proposal is a great step and hopefully there will be more. As I proposed during the Comp Plan meeting, I also believe a meeting between the developer and the residents needs to occur too that way good discussion can happen, concerns can be stated early and hopefully get worked out early in the process vs having to fight so hard to the very end and sometime still not addresssing those issues as happened in the case of Lexington. I too feel the more open the process the better. As I said this is a great step towards it and yes Henry it is a responsible and transparent approach that is refreshing to see.
Brian Doyle January 18, 2013 at 01:40 PM
David: I can't speak to the operations of the City Council, but as far as the Plan Commission is concerned, I can assure you that the commissioners do NOT receive advance notice of the meeting agendas or the agenda materials. The only thing we know in advance is the date of our next meeting, which is always included on the prior meeting agendas and announced at the end of those meetings.
Doug Eden January 18, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Mr Rogina--go man go. I totally agree with you. The current administration is far from transparent and DOES prefer doing business without public input.
Charles Davis January 18, 2013 at 08:44 PM
The current administration waited until the last possible minute to post the agenda for the meeting in question. I checked at 5:45 pm and it had still not been posted. Way to go City! Shows how much you think of the citizens.
josephine s. January 19, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Do remember Doug, Mr Rogina has been a part of this Administration.
David Jackson January 19, 2013 at 10:32 PM
This is an excellent idea. The votes by the five Aldermen who supported the developer and the Mayor showed how little they respect the citizens of St. Charles. And I am not speaking only about the ones who have been fighting against that project; the City's Priorities Survey, which they paid good money to have professionals do, clearly showed that the majority of residents are opposed to new housing in St. Charles. Those six politicians showed that they do not care what the residents want, they much rather please out-of-town development interests in their attempts to make St. Charles into a Naperville-lite.
Elizabeth R January 20, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Josephine yes unlike any of the other candidates Rogina has witnessed the problems first hand and this is why he is speaking out against the process. He didnt have anything to do with how this all played out on January 7th it was Administration which isn't Council. There is a difference.
Betty M January 21, 2013 at 06:21 AM
I do not know who I will be voting for in April, but I do think that Mr. Rogina's proposal has merit. If nothing else, it will slow down the "rush to judgement" mentality that has characterized the current administration.
Henry James January 21, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Thomas you are correct. Administration is different than Council and I am always careful to note that as we have some good council members on our council. I must say though that some have recently disappointed me. I will admit though that I was critical of Mr. Rogina when he was first seated. He has pleasantly surprised me though. I am not sure as of yet who I will be voting for as I want to get fully educated on our candidates. I do know who I am not voting for but that is a different topic. What I do know is Mr. Rogina has stood up strong for his ward and this community when it came to Lexington, he is getting a full view of what is going on behind the scenes both good and bad and with many of the issues that have been going on this could be a great thing if he choses to address those issues and it sounds like he is working towards that. At least he is not just falling into line adhering to the status quo.

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