A long-sought pact between Winfield and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital to bring unprecedented redevelopment to the village appears in jeopardy.
After two years of talks, the two sides seemed to agree on plans to turn a section of Town Center south of the hospital campus into a medical and commercial district. To the west of the 390-bed hospital, a parking deck would alleviate parking problems at CDH. Village hall would be torn down and moved to free space for more development near the Metra station.
But now those plans are in danger because CDH, which is tax-exempt, wants to remove a large portion of the development from the tax rolls in 25 years. Village leaders, meanwhile, insist hospital officials agreed to have all off-campus construction and the parking deck subject to property taxes.
"Despite our sincerest efforts, it clearly appears Winfield has been publicly misled by the Northwestern Medical Hospital System," Village Manager Curt Barrett said, "and the town needs to stand up for itself or get overrun."
Barrett read his statement during a village board meeting, and the village then distributed the remarks through email, social media and its website. A notice inviting residents to attend an open house on the proposed development warned to "Beware" of CDH's intentions.
Last week, CDH President Brian Lemon told residents during the open house that Barrett's communication "is a misrepresentation of our discussions."
"From the beginning of the discussions, we have made clear that Northwestern Medicine would not agree to pay property taxes in perpetuity for portions of its properties eligible for property tax exemption provided by Illinois state law," Lemon said.
Both sides acknowledge taxes have been a contentious issue in talks. Village officials say more than half of Town Center is off the tax rolls because of CDH, which is one of the region's largest hospitals. They want redevelopment to expand their tax base.
Village President Erik Spande said there was a "breakthrough" in October when CDH officials told him, Barrett and the village's planning consultant that a for-profit entity would be established for all the new development in Town Center.
The proposed development currently is within a tax increment financing district, so the increased property tax revenue would be reinvested in Town Center improvements and infrastructure.
But when the TIF district expires in 2027, the development would generate property tax revenue for the village, school districts, park district and other entities. With an estimated value of $70 million to $80 million, Spande said "millions of dollars a year" would be created for Winfield institutions.
Lemon said Winfield officials were told in October that CDH would develop the Town Center properties as a for-profit entity and property taxes would be paid for the parcels while they were part of that. Village officials also were told some of the proposed uses likely would qualify for tax exemptions, he added.
Still, the village said in its November newsletter that a requirement of the agreement would put "all new off-campus CDH development" on property tax rolls.
Barrett said Northwestern Medicine officials signed off on a draft of the newsletter before it was delivered to residents and businesses.
But once the news was out, "the (Northwestern Medicine) team became more evasive on the taxation issue, stalling further negotiation on specific language while suggesting their position remained the same," he said.
Both sides met Jan. 11, and "at that meeting, we again made our position clear," Lemon said.
Village officials say the hospital's position changed.
CDH is talking about removing all the medical-related uses from the tax rolls in 25 years, after the village completes TIF-related improvements to Town Center.
"There's a lot of upside to the development," Spande said. "We're just so disappointed that they've backed off their previous assurance on the tax rolls.
"I would like to see an artful compromise where we could find another alternative that helps achieve our goals."
On Thursday, Lemon released a statement saying the hospital remains committed to working with Winfield to create a "mutually beneficial plan."
"Our hope continues to be that we can achieve a development agreement to achieve the goals of the village and meet the needs of our growing hospital," he said.
But on Friday, Barrett said the hospital's "changing position" has left the two sides at a "major impasse."
"So I don't know when a mutually acceptable development agreement would be reached for formal consideration," he said.