Kaneland school board votes against approving waiver with law firm involved in Crown development project

Rich Olson, principal of Gary R. Weber Associates, Inc., (consultant on the project for Crown Community Development)  answers questions from Don Adams, of Sugar Grove, at The Grove community engagement meeting on Monday, June 12, 2023 at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.

The Kaneland District 302 School Board voted unanimously against approving a waiver of conflict of interest with the law firm Ottosen DiNolfo Hasenbalg & Castaldo, Ltd. regarding Crown Community Development’s request for a TIF district for a proposed development at the Interstate 88 and Route 47 interchange.

The vote and discussion took place during the Sept. 11 board meeting.

Ottosen DiNolfo Hasenbalg & Castaldo, Ltd., which has been representing the Kaneland school district since 1992, also represents the village of Sugar Grove, which is involved with the new development.

It is believed the village of Sugar Grove will be using the law firm for the development of a new tax increment financing district for The Grove, a 760-acre master-planned community at the I-88 and Route 47 interchange. Since such representation presents a conflict of interest between Ottosen DiNolfo Hasenbalg & Castaldo, Ltd., the village of Sugar Grove and the Kaneland school district, all board members voted against the waiver of conflict of interest.

“My biggest concern is it’s a major conflict of interest,” board member Aaron McCauley said. “I’d rather have somebody that’s going to focus on Kaneland, on our school district, and they’re going to work with us. If we have to spend an extra couple of bucks, that’s fine. I love my wife [who is a lawyer]. I’m taking her advice and going with that.”

Kathleen Field Orr, a TIF expert in Illinois with more than 40 years of experience in municipal law and finance while working extensively in economic development, recently was retained by the village of Sugar Grove and is part of Ottosen DiNolfo Hasenbalg & Castaldo, Ltd., as of Aug. 1.

Crown Industries is interested in bringing a town center, residential housing for all ages, retail, parks and more, but not without a TIF, which is a development tool used to encourage economic growth.

“They [the village] are interested in a big development, but how much money are they giving away in order to get it? I don’t know,” Ottosen said. “The president [Jen Konen] of Sugar Grove came out and spoke to the Fire Protection District Elburn last week and I was there and she talked about the percentage and what their interests are, so maybe that kind of presentation here would make sense as well. She said that they wouldn’t do the development without [the TIF]. How many times have we heard developers say if you won’t give us this, we’re done?”