An ongoing investigation revealed claims being made by the mayor's office and developer (Chapa-LaVia) of property values were based upon an appraisal from nearly three years ago.
And, back in 2003, Linda Chapa and her husband took out a mortgage with a maximum lien of $750,000 that appears to still exist.
After news broke of the scheme, Weisner abruptly postponed the vote that was scheduled earlier this week at the Aurora City Council as they tried to figure out how to save the scheme.
The restaurant operator, Mario Aliano, who has only been in business since 2011, claims he is "excited" to be in Aurora and will create a "wow" pizza place. Vernon LaVia, Linda Chapa's husband, claims he's ready to pour over $200,000 into the project of his own.
Alderman Rick Lawrence, who said the deal is too risky for taxpayers who already lost $500,000 on the original Restaurant Row scheme and notes that other than the Chapa-LaVia property at 29 W. New York, the other properties for Restaurant Row are ALL in foreclosure with heavy liens and complications.
Lawrence says that while the current scheme proposed that would cost taxpayers yet another MILLION DOLLARS is not responsible, if the restaurant operator is truly interested in Aurora, Linda Chapa and her husband are truly interested in investing their money and the mayor is truly interested in rescuing the Restaurant Row concept, there's a solution that would would SAVE taxpayers a million dollars and still create a win-win-win for everyone.
Currently, the scheme calls for a massive 7,000 square foot restaurant, mostly with basement level seating and limited windows. It would involve substantial costs, ranging from adding a complicated new deck and addition to potentially serious infrastructure costs.
Linda Chapa and Vernon LaVia already own their building at 29 W. New York, which they claim is worth $500,000 and have an appraisal of $475,000.
They also claim they have a bank, Wintrust of St. Charles, which is ready to loan them funds (previous mortgage was with Banco Popular).
Meanwhile, the city owns a portion of land behind the building that is mostly useless to taxpayers, could be more productive on the tax rolls and could be used for outdoor seating and riverfront dining.
Lawrence suggests the developer can start almost immediately converting their current vacant space for the new restaurant in the building they already own (which previously included a pizza place) and bring in Mr. Aliano's operation much faster and cheaper.
The size of the location would still be massive (including the lower level) but likely under the 5,000 square feet that would trigger costs like sprinkler requirements that would apply to the original scheme.
It would not need to involve the combination of properties in foreclosure, force taxpayers to pay for land acquisition costs or create complicated infrastructure and construction costs.
Those other properties could go through the foreclosure process and become available later to this developer or any other developer interested to create an actual "row" of restaurants.
Lawrence says between the investment by the developer and investment by the operator they claimed were ready to do, combined with the fact they already own the property, there would be less upfront cost, a much faster track of operation and a more realistic opportunity of success since a much larger restaurant also means that it would require much larger business to sustain.
The proposed solution would allow the restaurant to test the theory that a massive market really exists for another pizza place without risking taxpayer funds on top of $500,000 already lost.
"The only potential loss for taxpayers with this solution is the small piece of land, but that would now go on the tax rolls and produce taxes."
Lawrence says the City of Aurora should also cooperate by waiving all permit fees and says that any developer willing to invest in Downtown Aurora should also automatically get the same incentive without having to ask for it.
In the meantime, the city should carefully monitor the foreclosure situations on the other properties, attempt to recover the $500,000 previously lost and seek solutions that will bring private investment instead of raiding the TIF funds and taxpayers.
"If the data shows Mr. Aliano's operation does well at 29 W. New York and the massive market that is alleged actually exists, it will be much easier to then market the other properties for restaurants and attract private investment and operators."
"And, if that means they want to expand beyond 29 W. New York Street for more space at their own costs, good for them" said Lawrence.
"Most importantly, this would save taxpayers from risking and losing another million dollars, but give everyone who claims they believe this restaurant in that location would be a success a chance to prove it."
Lawrence said he shared details of the proposed solution with the mayor, city council and State Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia.
A local restaurant design expert told us "the solution takes the risk off the taxpayers and makes a lot of sense. If they truly believe there's a market, they were ready to invest and they can do what they claim, this is actually a safer deal for the developer and operator as well. It really is a win-win-win for everyone."
Will State Rep Linda Chapa-LaVia, her husband and the operator take the solution or are they only interested in a deal that takes a million dollars from taxpayers?