Groundwork begins at Lakemoor Woodman’s site

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

The Woodman’s Foods in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. carries the interior and exterior design that will be duplicated in Lakemoor. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

Groundwater piping for sewer and stormwater basins leading to a 74-acre tract of vacant land in Lakemoor that will host a Woodman’s Foods and a retail center is underway with a planned late November completion date.

The preliminary work also acts as a gateway for the long-delayed project with actual site infrastructure work beginning in the early spring, and coinciding with the property’s purchase and closing by the Janesville, Wis.-based grocery chain.

The tract, at the southwest corner confluence of routes 12 and 120, has plans for a 240,000-square-foot store at the location with outlying retail shops, a fueling station, and parking amenities.

The site is also the subject of a civil lawsuit over its tax-increment financing district designation that was filed by the Wauconda Community District 118. The Wauconda District Public Library and Wauconda Township joined as plaintiffs, although no resolution is currently pending. The issue revolved around the diminished funding and larger percentages the school district would not realize.

The filing challenged the February 2015 creation of the tax increment finance district, which they identified as farmland that was capable of supporting cattle and corn production as it had for decades. The Village of Lakemoor created the district, under state of Illinois guidelines, maintaining the parcel was prone to flooding, unimproved, and met the definition of “blighted.” Announced in February 2016, the Woodman’s project sought has the planning stages fulfilled and is moving forward.

“We’re underway with the piping that leads to the site, and it’s being funded through the tax increment financing district as intended,” said Lakemoor Mayor Todd Wiehofen. “We are finalizing an accord with the Northern Moraine Wastewater Treatment Facility in Island Lake to handle the effluent water, too. At this point, we’re locking in the amounts for cost factors.

“The piping to the site is estimated at a $700,000 cost and being completed by the Village of Lakemoor,” he said. “The TIF account has about $10 million in funds as a balance to work from. The onsite infrastructure work in the early spring is the next step.”

The TIF district encompasses the 74-acre tract, and an additional 40 acres that it abuts. According to Illinois Department of Revenue rules, a TIF district effectively freezes the equalized assessed valuation on a property, for a period up to 23 years. Any taxes above the frozen rate accrue in a fund for eventual site improvements, such as infrastructure.

Woodman’s vice president and director of real estate, Brett Backus, had said that the TIF district is crucial to the commercial development, and tied to consummating the purchase of the parcel. “This public funding mechanism is necessary to the project, and without that … it doesn’t happen … we’d like to see this resolved.”

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Couiller has presided over the civil case, with a July 2018 status hearing to hear arguments. The suit was filed in February 2015, several days after the village formally created the TIF district.

“At that point, it will be three years, and it hasn’t even come to trial,” said Wiehofen. “They’re still obtaining depositions. The firm has been paid around $1.8 million for handling this case. I believe, according to the spreadsheets I have. The school district wants to raise its tax levy portion by 27 percent. Think of how much money wasn’t spent on the students. It’s an embarrassment and waste of tax money.”

Wauconda District 118 Superintendent Daniel Coles was unable to be reached for comment.

Woodman’s Foods is an employee-owned commercial enterprise with 16 locations, mostly in

Wisconsin. The Illinois sites include Carpentersville, North Aurora, and Rockford. The Pleasant Prairie, Wis. location is considered a “flagship model” for the store’s exterior appearance and interior schema, as well as its “jumping off point” for southward expansion.

The chain also is pursuing the completion of a site in Buffalo Grove on a long-dormant 25-acre patch of land on the northwest corner of the intersection at Milwaukee Avenue and Deerfield Parkway, known as “Berenesa Plaza,” a 1992 commercial enterprise that never materialized. The Buffalo Grove Village Board approved a 20-year package of economic incentives, during its June 20, 2016 meeting with $7 million earmarked for the company and approximately $4 million as a set aside for road improvements at the intersection.


–Groundwork begins at Lakemoor Woodman’s site–