CAMBRIA — The Cambria Village Board during its meeting Thursday voted to approve three ordinances that will move a proposed TIF district redevelopment project plan to law.
Carterville Community Unit District 5 voted Wednesday evening to retain counsel to sue the village of Cambria if the board passes any part of the proposed TIF redevelopment plan.
A TIF sets property taxes at a pre-development baseline. As property values increase, the difference, called the tax increment, is put into a special fund for 23 years. It is used to pay back the investment of developers, with the remainder available for use by the village.
Carterville schools would receive the same amount in taxes from Cambria that they got this year. Part of the problem is that new development is expected to attract new residents — many with children — to the area. Carterville schools will receive the same amount of tax dollars with possibly an increased enrollment.
As the village board adjourned to the smaller council room for executive session, Mayor Steve Gottschalk told the crowd of more than 100 not to go anywhere. After a few minutes, the board came back to the regular meeting. The first order of business was to a tax levy ordinance, which was tabled to the next meeting.
The mayor then called for discussion on ordinance 1117546, which approves the redevelopment plan and creates a commercial and residential TIF district.
Trustee Robin McFarlin spoke to the crowd, saying she was elected, then made commissioner of public relations and the park.
“Our integrity and our best intentions for our village have been questioned, but we are Cambria strong,” McFarlin said.
She then made a motion to approve the ordinance creating the TIF district.
Zack Cox abstained from the vote, with McFarlin, Suzette Coffey, Terry McKenzie, Robert Chitwood, Mark Phillips and the mayor voting yes.
McFarlin then made a motion to approve ordinance 1117547, which designates the TIF project area. Again, Cox abstained and all other board members voted to approve the ordinance. The TIF project area, as proposed, includes slightly more than 95 percent of the village, both residential and commercial property.
McFarlin followed with a motion to approve ordinance 1117548, which allocates the TIF funds. Cox once again abstained.
Coffey said she was in the last class to attend junior high at the building now known as the community center.
“In the last few weeks, I have never been more bullied and intimidated, mostly by people who do not live in this village,” Coffey said. “Without hesitation, I vote yes for Cambria and yes for the TIF.”
The next item on the agenda was visitor participation. When the mayor called for visitor participation, a couple members of the crowd said that was out of order. Most who had signed up to speak wanted to speak against the proposed Cambria TIF district. All but one person declined to speak.
That man, David Brown, of Cambria, said, from his point of view, Cambria passing a residential TIF district is like Florida voting in favor of hot weather. The development would come without the TIF.
Gottschalk made a brief statement in support of the TIF, and the meeting was adjourned.
McFarlin said it is so disheartening to hear the negative comments about individuals on the board and the board as a whole.
“As a registered nurse, I was an advocate for my patients. I ran for trustee to be an advocate for my village,” McFarlin said. “Sometimes I have to make decisions that aren’t going to be popular.”
McFarlin researched the issue, went to multiple meetings and listened to the residents of Carterville and Cambria. She considered the “Vote No” on the Cambria TIF signs in the yards of 19 houses in town.
“My No. 1 priority is this village. We are Cambria strong, and we will survive,” McFarlin said.
For the Rev. Robert Chitwood, who serves as a village trustee and pastor of First Apostolic Church in Cambria, he understands the plight of the school district.
“Kids need a good education, but they also need a good home,” Chitwood said.
Coffey, who was born and raised in Cambria and is the third generation of her family to live in the small town, said the decision to vote in favor of the TIF was not a difficult one.
“It was difficult hearing all the bullying and intimidation. My job is to do what’s best for Cambria,” Coffey said. “I really feel like it is what’s going to help us survive.”
“I think it went very well. The trustees felt very good about the vote,” Gottschalk said. “We are cognizant of the comments of the school board and Carterville, yet we fell like this will benefit our village.”
He said their TIF attorney said there is no justification for litigation.
The next steps, according to Gottschalk, are to let everyone know Cambria is open for business, sign up new contractors and discuss what they are willing to do to help the village.