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D-428 land swap still under discussion

DeKALB – Despite repeated assurances that they weren’t voting on it, a number of residents criticized DeKalb School District 428 for considering a swap of land with a local developer.

Superintendent Jim Briscoe said Tuesday that the formal language for exchanging the roughly 33 acres of land adjacent to DeKalb High School for about 41 acres the district owns near Huntley Middle School and Fairview Cemetery is still being worked out between the district and ShoDeen Construction.

Board President Tom Matya said a vote on the agreement will take place at a later date.

But the Fairview Fields/DeKalb Kiwanis Park is used by DeKalb AYSO soccer, a point repeatedly made by residents during the meeting’s public comment section.

Norden Gilbert, DeKalb AYSO’s regional commissioner, said the organization will celebrate its 35th year. He asked that the board to take its time with the land swap deal, and he suggested there’s no other field for the district.

“Kiwanis Park may not be the only solution, but after talking to the park district today, I don’t see any other solutions,” Gilbert said.

Briscoe said he met with key leaders of DeKalb AYSO to brief them on the land swap.

He said if the land is developed, the district would work with DeKalb AYSO to formulate an alternative plan for their seasons.

However, board Vice President Tracy Williams said the school district has larger priorities than worrying about DeKalb AYSO.

“Youth soccer has to be a lower priority for this body,” Williams said.

The land near DHS offers more promise for the district than Kiwanis Park. School officials said 1,800 students are enrolled at DHS now, but that number could expand to 2,500 or 3,000 students in the future, making it necessary to plan for a expansion of DHS facilities in the future.

DeKalb resident Bessie Chronopoulos took Matya to task for previously saying the soccer fields have no value to the district. She said the community-at-large values those fields.

Matya, at the meeting and in an interview, responded that the district has to explore possible options as it faces a $2.3 million deficit this school year.

Not mentioned during the debate was that the proposal would also free the district from paying $42,000 a year on a $1.05 million credit issued years ago. Instead of paying $40,000 an acre for the land that was developed for DHS, the district made a deal with Macon Development to pay a lower rate in exchange for an impact fee credit.

However, the two parties also agreed if Macon does not develop there, the district has to pay 4 percent – or $42,000 – a year starting in 2013. Now that ShoDeen has bought the property from Macon, the deal carries over.

As for ShoDeen, it will pay the district $654,511 as reimbursements for the public improvements that were made when DHS was built.

They also will not have to pay impact fees on its development until the district gets 600 students from the developer’s Fairview or Irongate communities or in seven years, whichever comes first.

Kerry Mellott, a former Fermilab engineer who sits on the district’s finance and facilities advisory committee, urged the board to slow down on the land swap agreement in light of news that the village of Elburn tabled an annexation agreement with ShoDeen on Monday. The village is considering developing the area around the Elburn train station.

He mentioned ShoDeen’s financial difficulties as being one reason to slow down the agreement. The developer is being sued by Bank of America for defaulting on two loans, totaling nearly $40 million.

David Patzlet, president of ShoDeen, was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

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