Westmont trustee Nero talks issues in town, outlines goals for new year
|Westmont Village Trustee Steve Nero sits on a bench outside of the Westmont Village Hall last week. Nero highlighted the accomplishments in Westmont in 2012, and gave his New Year's resolution for making the village a better place in 2013. (Photo by Matthew Piechalak)|
WESTMONT — It has been a busy year in the village of Westmont — from attempts to fill vacant storefronts and grow the local economy to plans to rewrite the village’s comprehensive plan.
The Westmont Village Board also set the stage to implement its first tax increment finance districts in village history in an effort to entice developers to open business in Westmont.
Residents also voted to repeal home rule status, a move that officials say could end up costing the village $2 million in revenue annually.
Village Trustee Steve Nero shares his thoughts on those highlights of 2012 as well as the challenges 2013 may bring for Westmont.
Q: What have been some of the highlights in the village of Westmont in 2012?
A: There have been many. Among the highlights is the launching of the new village website. Each member of the community can find just about anything they need on our website. Whether it’s viewing the village calendar, reporting a concern, making a payment or keeping up on local news, the site is a great way to stay connected to the village.
The village of Downers Grove and Westmont partnered for the electric aggregation program. With the two villages’ agreement, residents should see an automatic reduction on their electric bill of around 30 percent. Other highlights include the creation of the South Westmont Business District tax increment finance district and the completion of the 55th Street/Cass Avenue intersection construction project, where traffic congestion has been reduced significantly with the additions of turn lanes and a new stop light.
Q: When it comes to business and new development in Westmont, what can be done to fill vacant storefronts?
A: There are a few ways. One is through incentive programs, such as sales tax breaks, fee reductions and other incentives. Another is through permit assistance and streamlining the process for potential developers. Another is to implement the downtown TIF and South Westmont Business District TIF at 63rd Street and Cass Avenue to entice new developers to the area. We also need to look at implementing a “Pop Up” store program to help fill vacancies immediately. This program will allow stores to come in “temporarily” and has been very successful in other areas of the country, and gives a potential business owner an opportunity to test the market for a smaller investment.
Q: What is your top resolution for 2013 for the village, and what are the steps fulfill it?
A: To be the leader not the follower. Westmont has a history of trying new things last. I pledge to work with the rest of the board to be ahead of the curve in any way possible. We need to be competitive and willing to try to make things work. In 2013, I plan to work with my colleagues to allow Westmont to take on new innovative ideas. ... Bringing in new vibrant businesses is a must. As a board, we have to look into the successes of other towns and implement a similar plan in Westmont.
Q: One of the biggest events this year was residents voting to cease home rule. How do you think this will impact the village in 2013 and beyond?
A: Adjusting to the loss of home rule, both financially and administratively, is the number one thing the Westmont Village Board will need to address in the new year. First and foremost, losing about $2 million is going to be tough to compensate for. Residents will see a direct affect on their services as a result of the loss of home rule. It’s unfortunate that a small majority of residences took this power away from the board. Actual impacts to the residents will be discovered throughout the budgeting process.
Q: As one of the youngest elected officials in Westmont, where do you see the village in five years?
A: I see Westmont in five years with some significant development projects near completion or underway. With the successful adoption of a TIF district in the downtown area and the South Westmont Business District significant changes are bound to happen.
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