Woodstock School District 200 board tables lawsuit over Lakewood TIF

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 School Board on Tuesday opted to wait until after an upcoming meeting with Lakewood officials to decide whether to sue the village over a special taxing district.

The board unanimously voted to table the item, which asked members to authorize a lawsuit seeking the dissolution of a tax increment financing district centered on the intersection of Routes 47 and 176. The TIF, part of which falls in District 200 boundaries, was approved by Lakewood officials in January.

On Tuesday, District 200 Board President Camille Goodwin told members a meeting had been scheduled with the village to discuss the matter.

"[We] will be attending to discuss whether or not we can come to some resolution the board would be comfortable with," Goodwin said.

The vote to table the item came after four residents spoke in favor of a lawsuit and after Lakewood village board member Beverly Thomas read a letter on behalf of village President Erin Smith. It expressed disappointment that the school district suggested legal action without first having a conversation with village officials.

District officials will meet with Lakewood representatives next week, Smith said Wednesday and added she was pleased with the school board's decision to table the item.

The school board decided to reconvene on whether to sue during a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 30.

"I'm very pleased they tabled the motion because I think it's actually going to be a very easy conversation with them on Dec. 22. I think we actually have a very consistent vision," Smith said. "I don't think we will be opposed to principals protecting the school district from residential development."

The possibility of residential development in the TIF and the effect on the school district is the primary concern, Superintendent Mike Moan has said. He has said if residential development resulted in more District 200 students, the district wouldn't get the corresponding revenue to pay for those students.

However, Smith has said the intent for the TIF is primarily commercial development and any residential would be geared specifically toward affordable housing for seniors or special-needs adults.

In the letter, Smith also said state statute includes a formula for distribution of revenues to a school district affected by residential development within a TIF. A school district would have to request the payment each year, the Northwest Herald has previously reported.

Moan said the goal for next week's meeting was to get some kind of assurance that development in the TIF area won't have a negative financial effect on the district.

According to district documents, the lawsuit would be based on findings that call into question whether parcels within the TIF satisfy requirements laid out in state law. The claim by legal counsel is when the parcels in questions are removed, the remaining land is not contiguous, another requirement of the act, documents said.

When the proposed TIF district went before a joint review board made up of all the bodies that would be affected by its creation, District 200 abstained from the vote and it passed with no objections. At the time, Moan said he abstained because the school board had not yet voted on the issue.