Brian Grainger, the developer of the proposed Old Mill Park of Sycamore retirement community, has filed an Emergency Motion with the 23rd Judicial Court for approval of a property tax settlement agreement signed by the Sycamore School District #427 on June 20, 2017.
His petition will be heard at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, August 11 at the DeKalb County Courthouse. DeKalb County States Attorney Rick Amato has been subpoenaed to attend the hearing.
Grainger is the builder of the Somerset Farm of Sycamore retirement community. He began building there in 2013. The original developer built the first 32 units but the property remained dormant after the housing bubble burst in 2007. Since acquiring the property in 2013 Grainger has built an additional 64 homes on that property.
He first proposed building an upgraded but similar active-adult community at Old Mill Park at the southeast corner of Mt. Hunger Road and North Main Street in Sycamore in August 2016. The first phase proposed was for 48 homes built on about 8.5 acres. That required a zoning change from C-3, Highway Business District zoning to R-3, Multi-Family Residential District which was conditionally approved by the city council in December 2016. The rezoning was dependent upon Grainger successfully following through with his plans, and if not, the property would remain commercial.
Grainger has since proposed acquiring an adjoining 18.5 acres to build an additional 60 homes plus a 15,000 square foot assisted living facility in addition to a 16,200 square foot commercial strip center to potentially include a drive-through coffee shop, family restaurant, a salon, and fitness club. The entire 27 acres is currently used as farm land.
The parcel of land has been the subject of tax litigation since 2008. According to court documents, Keven Dahl, a local developer who currently owns the land in question, paid $307 in property taxes on the 8.5 acres for 2007. In 2008 the county raised the taxes to $120,371. In 2009 the tax bill was $119,908. Dahl paid the taxes in full and on time but appealed on the basis that since no development had taken place his tax rate should have remained farm land. The Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) ruled in Dahl’s favor and granted him statutory interest in addition to his refund.
Christine Johnson, DeKalb County Treasurer, issued Dahl 20 checks for a total refund of $265,922 in June of 2013. However, the DeKalb County Board of Review and Sycamore School District #427 filed and won an appeal of the PTAB’s decision with the 2nd District Appellate Court. The PTAB reversed their decision in November of 2015.
The county then demanded $291,569 from Dahl without offering any explanation or detail as to how that higher number was calculated. In June of 2016, that amount was again increased to $359,206.
Dahl has filed suit seeking declaratory relief.
According to Grainger, Dahl contractually gave him the rights to settle all encumbrances on the property. He obtained a signed agreement with District #427 that settled their tax claim. The school district receives about 68% of a property tax bill.
Grainger believes the other taxing units would reach an agreement with him to settle the tax litigation altogether and allow him to move forward with the project.
He has agreed to add an additional section of bike trail on the property. He would also pay for a lighted signal crosswalk for pedestrians and school children at the intersection of Route 23 and Mount Hunger Rd.
Once complete the project will add $11 million in EAV and approximately $1.1 million in annual property tax revenue to the county taxing units including $720,000 in new revenue annually to District 427. These projections are based on actual sales data at Somerset Farm.
The process has taken a lot of time and effort. There have been delays in the closing date, originally scheduled for June of 2017. It is now scheduled for Monday, August 14.
But on Friday, August 4, Grainger received an “offer” from the law firm of Giffin, Winning, Cohen and Bodewes, PC demanding $467,000.
On Thursday, August 10, Grainger sent County Board Chair Mark Pietrowski an email and the local media a press release filled with frustration. He will be represented by attorney Michael Coghlan at Friday’s hearing.
No structures. No improvements. Vacant land. From $305 to $467.000.
CORRECTION: There have been some improvements made to the property.
Court Documents:17 mr 266 Emergency Motion
8-8-17 Subpoena SA Amato
5-30-17 Order Dahl 16MR239
Answer of collector in 16MR239
Emails Forwarded by Brian Grainger:
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