CARY – Village president candidate Bruce Kaplan tried to set the record straight Thursday and say that his realty business would not serve as a special interest if he were elected.
Kaplan, a local real estate agent, said his “one special interest” is Cary’s residents.
Kaplan and his opponent Mark Kownick answered questions from community members Thursday at a candidate forum hosted by the Cary Grove Chamber of Commerce.
At the same event, candidates for the Cary Park District also appeared. Mike Renner, Patrick Smith and Phil Stanko are running for two seats on the Cary Park District board.
Kownick and Kaplan are running in the April 9 election to replace outgoing Village President Tom Kierna.
Kownick has said in the past that he is worried that Kaplan being a real estate agent would lead to many conflicts of interest.
Kaplan, currently a village trustee, said his job should not be a reason to vote against him. He pointed that real estate agents serve as elected officials in many municipalities and other taxing districts.
“Realtors are your neighbors,” Kaplan said in his opening statement. “We live in your communities and every one of us truly cares about the towns we live in.”
During the forum, residents asked questions about permit fees, bringing business into Cary, tax increment financing districts, the previous village administrator and video gambling, among other things.
Kownick, who was part of the board that decided not to allow video gambling in town, said he would look into the issue, but “would like to get some more information about it.”
Kaplan said he would lean in favor of allowing video gambling in town.
“This is strictly an economic issue with me,” Kaplan said. “I do not like it when our residents take their money and go spend it in someone else’s community.”
Kownick said that during his two years as a trustee, the board hired a nationally recognized police chief, saw Sage Products have an expansion, had a $5 million road bond with no increases to taxpayers, and made improvements at the Three Oaks Road and Silver Lake Road intersection.
Kaplan said a fee for a simple variance request can cost $750, which helps cover the cost of a zoning meeting and any lawyers who are involved. He said fees should not be so high.
“I think that’s an exorbitant amount of money,” Kaplan said. “We should not be making profits off the backs of residents, who are asking for a simple variation.”
Kownick said he believes the village should try to focus on bringing businesses that produce retail sales taxes into the retail zoning districts.
He added that he wants to make Cary a destination and it should look into reasonable incentives to drive economic development.
“By reintroducing retail sales taxes to the village, we’re able to return that money to the village,” Kownick said.
Kaplan said he believes that free enterprise should decide which businesses locate where rather than the village saying a service business cannot be in a retail area. He also said the bureaucratic process in the village tends to deter economic development.
“Our current structure is chasing business out of our town, it’s costing us jobs, it’s costing the landlords rent,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said he had a problem with the village’s desire to charge a sign permit fee when commercial property owners wanted to sell property, and brought in the Illinois Association of Realtors to help get the fees removed.
Kownick said he questioned the fees when he was a trustee, after Kaplan brought up the issue, which eventually led to the fees being waived.
A question was asked about the corporate paperwork of Kownick’s business Action Building Maintenance Corp. Kownick said there was an oversight when he took over sole ownership of the company and when there was a change in accounting firms. Kownick said his attorney has refiled the necessary paperwork for his business.
“It was unbeknownst to me; I corrected it when it was brought to my attention,” Kownick said.