While some Woodstock City Council candidates named specific development projects they’d like to see carried out, others said there was much to be done before anything new could be brought in.
Seven of Woodstock’s nine City Council candidates participated in a forum on Wednesday evening, hosted by the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They are vying for three spots on the Woodstock City Council in the April 4 election.
The forum covered a variety of topics, including development priorities, taxes and how to balance the needs of businesses and residents.
Candidates Melissa Barker and Crystal Squires were not in attendance, with Barker having travel plans and Squires sick.
Some development priorities mentioned specifically by candidates included city-owned Die Cast site, moving of the Metra train yard from Crystal Lake into Woodstock, roads improvements, and for some, the need to keep growth at a controlled pace.
Die Cast site
Late last year, the City Council heard three proposals for the Die Cast site, before moving forward with a project pitched by Chicago Hubs Realty. The current plan, which is not final, calls for nearly 400 living units and roughly 25,000 of commercial retail space.
Several candidates, including Flynn, McMahon and Ziemba, said the Die Cast site should be a priority for the city, with McMahon saying the current site was an “eyesore.”
For Ziemba and McMahon, they said they hope the site will spur other development in town, while Flynn said he likes the idea that it could bring jobs and people closer to the city’s downtown.
Starzynski, who previously has served on City Council, praised the current board for its work on getting the Die Cast project started and said he likes the affordable housing component of the project.
We have to put the horse before the cart.— Woodstock City Council candidate Mark Indyke on the importance of infrastructure
Indyke and West expressed skeptism about the project. Indyke raised concerns about the project’s energy usage and possible traffic. West said he’d like to see other spots get attention before the Die Cast site, particularly along Route 47.
When asked about Die Cast, Calvin said when looking at development, he considers how it will help growth, along with the kind of housing it will bring.
Metra train yard
Several candidates during the forum, including McMahon, Flynn, Starzynski and Ziemba, said they supported the Metra train yard moving into town. Ziemba said that the project is several years down the road.
Flynn said the move could open up Woodstock’s train schedule, which was something Starzynski said would make Woodstock easier to live in “and that’s a good thing.”
McMahon said it could bring residents, but if residents come too fast, it could be a problem. She also proposed quiet zones. West said he wasn’t sure he would be a fan of large population growth.
Calvin said he liked the idea of moving the train yard “on its face” but wants to take precautions to ensure there won’t be potential issues, such as spillage or accidents, with more trains coming into town. He also stressed the need for “slow and steady growth.”
Both Indyke and West said they felt like there needed to be more looked at before the city pursued this.
West and Indyke said infrastructure should be a top priority for the city, with Indyke making a point to say the city needed to square infrastructure away before development could be pursued.
“We have to put the horse before the cart,” Indyke said.
One of Calvin’s primary focuses is fixing up roads. He wants to see the city earmark more funds to cover any remaining street issues in town.
We need a plan. We need to know where we want to go.— City Council candidate Darrin Flynn on the city's direction
McMahon, Calvin and Ziemba said they would like to see more opportunities for children in the city, particularly in the form of venues.
For the historic Woodstock Square, Starzynski likes the focus of bringing entertainment.
A hotel was something a few candidates, including Ziemba, McMahon and Flynn, considered a need in the city and was something they would support.
West said he wants to see the city expand its art offerings. He also isn’t sure the city’s rennovation of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House will be worth the $16 million price tag.
Woodstock’s 15-year comprehensive plan was discussed too, with Flynn hitting on the need for the city to create a guide “to know where we want to go.”