A nearly 2-year dispute between the Town of Normal and town council candidate Stan Nord remained unresolved on the eve of Election Day.
The town says it somehow failed to collect a sewer tap-on fee from the previous owners of Nord’s 15-acre property at 2012 W. College Ave.
The property also isn’t platted as a lot of record. The town says that’s unusual; typically the town approves a final plat, then development begins, not the other way around.
Council members considered Monday night whether to approve a final plat for the property, with the condition that Nord pay the $11,904 tap-on fee.
Instead, the council voted 6 to 1 to send the plat back to the town’s planning commission, giving Nord the chance to seek a fee waiver.
Nord and his lawyer, Ryan Powers, addressed the council before the vote Monday night.
Nord said it’s not about the money. Rather, he believes he shouldn’t have to pay for the town’s mistake.
“I think the town should go back and see who failed to collect the fee, and they should handle that internally,” he said.
But town corporation counsel Brian Day said Nord isn’t required to plat the property—and therefore, isn’t required to pay the fee.
“The town wouldn’t collect the fee until the plat is approved,” said Day. He explained plats are typically filed when an owner wants to develop a property.
Yet Nord said he has no intention of further developing the property.
Council members wondered why then Nord had filed the plat.
Nord said the intent was to bring the town’s mistake to light—and make sure developers wouldn’t face undue fees in the future. He said the town risked setting a dangerous precedent of “ghost charges.”
“Property owners need to be informed that the town plans and expects them to pay for these newfound historical errors,” he said. “This policy is going to devastate property values. Who is going to purchase or loan money on property in Normal if they know the town can and will search through the past few hundred years of history and find where the town could have collected more money?”
Normal Mayor Chris Koos called the claim “ridiculous.”
“Properties are bought and sold all the time,” he said. “There are issues having to do with tap-on fees; those are negotiated; those are dealt with.”
Council Member Jeff Fritzen echoed Koos: “The insinuation is that this isn’t a random occurrence, that this could be widespread throughout the community ... and that simply isn’t the case.”
“I don’t think a professional staff makes this type of error over and over again,” he added.
It’s possible that the council will approve the final plat and waive the sewer tap-on fee, following planning commission approval. But Day said while that’s ultimately a policy decision, Nord’s argument has no legal standing.
“The property has been receiving this service, the ability to have been connected to the sewer since 2008 without having paid the fee,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the fee just automatically disappears and the taxpayers are expected to pay it instead. There’s no legal precedent for that anywhere that I’ve been able to find.”
Nord said without the waiver, he would take legal action against the town.
Depending on the outcome of Tuesday's municipal election, that could leave the town in a legal battle with a sitting council member. Nord said council rules would prevent him from joining any public discussion or vote on the matter, but he wouldn’t drop the dispute.
“I’m sure if anybody on the council right now gets a bill, if they disagree with it, just because they’re on the council doesn’t mean they say, ‘Whatever you bill me is what I’m going to agree to pay,’” he said. “They absolutely need the right to ask a question, see if the fee is right.”
As to the timing of the vote, just one day before the election: “I turned in this paperwork weeks ago,” Nord said. “So if there’s a reason this happened the day before the election, it’s not on me.”
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