Nicolosi & Associates expanding influence

Oct. 10, Rockford City Council approved a motion to adopt a Planning and Development Committee report recommending the council approve a five-year agreement with Owen Center & Riverside, LLC, for a 50 percent rebate of the City of Rockford Retailers’ Occupation Tax. The rebate is for a seven-unit shopping center and five vacant lots developed by the Buckley Companies at Owen Center, Christopher Drive, and West Riverside Boulevard. An ordinance to approve the agreement was laid over Oct. 10 and passed at the Oct. 16 City Council meeting. Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1) abstained from both votes.

Sosnowski is also vice president of Commercial Real Estate for The Buckley Companies, and sits on the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee.

His wife, Roxanne Sosnowski, is an associate attorney at Nicolosi & Associates, LLC, and is working on the Land Use Plan contract for Winnebago County.

Roxanne Sosnowski made numerous promises to respond to The Rock River Times’ questions over the course of more than a week. As of press time, no response had been received. And a call from The Rock River Times was not returned.

Buckley Architects, Buckley Capital, Buckley Homes, Buckley Land Planners, Buckley Real Estate Brokerage, Buckley Title Services and Nicolosi & Associates, LLC, make up The Buckley Companies, LLC. Attorney Paul Nicolosi is co-founder, president and CEO of The Buckley Companies.

Combined, these entities have donated $93,250 in political contributions (see breakdown at the end of this article).

In a Sept. 6-12 guest column in The Rock River Times, Rockton resident Richard Ott voiced concerns The Buckley Companies, namely, the Nicolosis, had entered into conflicts of interest by representing numerous municipalities and governmental bodies within the county.

Attorney Phil Nicolosi serves as a Rockford Township Trustee. Nicolosi & Associates partner David Kurlinkus is an attorney for Roscoe Township and the Village of Roscoe, as well as president of the Hononegah High School Board. Nicolosi & Associates also represents the Village of Rockton, the City of Loves Park, and the Village of Caledonia. The firm is also special counsel for Rochelle.

Nearly a year ago, The Buckley Companies announced a planned $9 million multi-use office building on the southeast corner of Church and Chestnut, across from the site of what will be the new federal courthouse. Neither project has broken ground. According to a Buckley press release, the project is to include ground-level retail, five floors of office space as well as residential units and underground parking.

The local daily reported Dec. 1, 2005: “Nicolosi said the Buckley companies is discussing a potential tax increment finance district with the city to help fund the project. ‘We believe that financing will not be an issue,’ he said.”

Winnebago County records show 324 and 320 Chestnut St., and 312 S. Church St., as being owned by Church & Chestnut Development, LLC; Church & Chestnut Development F1, LLC, Member; Buckley Capital Real Estate Fund I, Limited Partnership, Member; Desert Creek Capital L.L.C. AKA Buckley Capital, LLC, General Partner; Paul Nicolosi, Member; Gino Galluzzo, Member; Gasparini Partnership, Member; Don Gasparini, Partner; John Gasparini, Partner; John Gasparini, Partner; Church & Chestnut Development F2, L.L.C., Member; Joseph Scandroli, Member; Carl Scandroli, Member.

Secretary of the State of Illinois corporate records show Church & Chestnut Development, LLC, as being registered as a Foreign LLC in the Jurisdiction of Delaware with a Record Office at 2711 Centerville Rd., STE 400, Wilmington, 19808, with Paul S. Nicolosi as the agent at 363 Financial Court STE 100 Rockford, IL 61107.

The Winnebago County Board approved a resolution May 25, 2006, to award a Land Use Plan contract to Nicolosi & Associates, along with Chicago-based urban planning firm Camiros, Ltd. The $355,000 contract for consulting and zoning ordinance rewrites will be split between the two companies.

Ott’s guest column implied the Nicolosi/Camiros land use and zoning rewrite contract may have been awarded as a result of Nicolosi/Buckley contributions and loans to the campaign of Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R). One of the chairman’s duties is to negotiate contracts, which are then subject to board approval.

“I just think it’s utterly absurd because it’s something that, frankly, just doesn’t go on,” Christiansen responded. “Anyone had the opportunity to bid on it. It had nothing to do with any campaign contribution.”

Christiansen added that Nicolosi & Associates, the only local bidder, would be in charge of rewriting zoning codes.

Christiansen’s D-2 campaign finance disclosure reports show $31,400 in loans and contributions by The Buckley Companies (formerly known as The Principal Group) since 2003. Of the $15,000 in loans to Christiansen, $300 has been repaid and $5,000 forgiven.

Ott wrote, “Maybe we could make the relationship of large cash contributions to campaign coffers from developers dictating public policy.”

In a Sept. 20-26 guest column in The Rock River Times, Winnebago County Purchasing Director Sally Claassen responded to Ott. Claassen explained a steering committee had been established to make recommendations to the Winnebago County Board’s Zoning Committee, which would, in turn, make a recommendation to Christiansen and the full board.

Claassen was also involved with the steering committee’s selection of Camiros/Nicolosi.

The six-person steering committee consists of three representatives from the county’s Regional Planning and Economic Development department: Long Range Planner Reginald Arkell, Director Sue Mroz and Grants Coordinator Judy Barnard. Forest Preserve District Director Tom Kalousek, Highway Department County Engineer Joe Vanderwerff and Zoning Committee Chairman Chris Johnson rounded out the committee.

Claassen wrote, “Language within the contract with Camiros, LTD, and Nicolosi specifically prohibits them from doing development/construction within the same unincorporated area of Winnebago County for the duration of the contract.”

May 24, the zoning committee unanimously approved the recommendation to hire Camiros/Nicolosi. The full board approved the resolution the following day by voice vote, and no roll call was taken. David Yeske (R-2) and Phil Johnson (D-8) were not present. The contract took effect June 26.

Claassen indicated four firms had responded to Requests for Qualifications (RFQs), adding all four had been interviewed by the steering committee May 9, 2006. Christiansen said he had not been present.

One of the four companies to submit qualifications in response to the county’s RFQ was Chicago-based Duncan Associates.

“We withdrew our name from consideration a couple of days before the scheduled interview,” explained Duncan Associates Executive Vice President Kirk Bishop. “In light of the reported contract amount, I’ve had occasion to second-guess that decision.”

The remaining firms, Teska Associates, Inc., and Clarion Associates, were unanimously ruled out by the steering committee.

Winnebago County Director of Regional Planning and Economic Development Sue Mroz said the Camiros/Nicolosi team’s presentation demonstrated ability, experience, reputation and knowledge of the area. She added no one on the steering committee knew how other committee members were voting.

“The word I got back was the Camiros/Nicolosi presentation was far superior to any of the others,” said Christiansen.

“In my opinion, the unique factor that gave Camiros/Nicolosi the edge was that it allowed us to coordinate the land use plan with the zoning code/zoning ordinance rewrites,” Arkell explained.

Although approved, not every board member feels a new land use plan is necessary. Pete MacKay (R-5) thinks it’s a waste of money.

“We’re gonna spend $355,000,” MacKay argued, “for a land use plan written by a bunch of people in Chicago who wouldn’t know rural Winnebago County from a load of hay.”

The Buckley Companies also c

ontributed to the campaigns of board members Gary Jury (R-3) and Chris K. Johnson (R-4), who is the Winnebago County Board Zoning Committee chairman.

Camiros, Ltd., representatives did not respond to messages from The Rock River Times.

As noted in the Aug. 2-8 issue, taken from the last year of advertisements in the local daily, Buckley Partners had promoted their developments, lots for sale and office space for lease as follows: Hawthorne Village, “Located on Broadcast Parkway, east of Perryville Road—Across from HUCK’S”; Mulford Grove Condominium Homes, “Located on Mulford Road, North of Newburg Road (Next to the Flowering Vine); Perryville Ridge Outlet: “Excellent Perryville frontage, suitable for office and medical. 1.47 acres with access from Perryville and Marsh Hawk Roads. Loves Park.”; 4912 Rolex Drive; “(Next to Mostly Cats) 1.5 acres, high traffic area. Perryville frontage, suitable for office and medical. Loves Park.”; Riverside Crossings Outlets: “Prime location, across from the new Wal-Mart Supercenter, on Rockford’s Westside growth corridor. Fully developed pad-ready sites with all utilities to the lot line, zoned for retail, office, restaurants & convenience. Sites range from 1-3 acres.”; 364 Financial Court—“Under Construction. Class A Office Space, prime location, 10,585 sq. ft., divisible into units of 1,500 sq. ft., suitable for medical or general office use. Behind Saturn of Rockford. Perryville Pointe Office Park.”; Perryville Ridge Office Center, “Under Construction. Class A Office Space, Perryville frontage, 10,585 sq. ft., 4,900 sq. ft. available, divisible into 2 units of 2,450 sq. ft., suitable for medical or general office use. Loves Park.”; Riverside Crossings Shopping Center: “New Construction. Retail Center across from the new Wal-Mart on W. Riverside Blvd. Spaces range in size from 1400-2300 sq. ft. Going Fast!”; Perryville Ridge Shopping Center: “Coming Soon. Excellent location, Perryville frontage, masonry building, from 1281 sq. ft., zoned for retail, office, restaurants & convenience. Available Summer 2006. Loves Park taxes.”; Second Street Square Shopping Center—“5303 N. Second Street. Prime location, high visibility, very busy retail area with a long history of well-established businesses. Masonry building for retail, office, restaurants, & convenience. Reasonable rents, Loves Park taxes.”

Buckley/Nicolosi Contributions

County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen: $16,400 and $15,000 in loans for a total of $31,400

State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34): $17,500

Circuit Clerk Marc Gasparini (R): $12,550

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I): $8,110

Former Attorney General Jim Ryan (R): $6,100

U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16): $3,750

Winnebago County Republican Central Committee: $3,190

Mayor Doug Scott (D): $2,500

Rep. Dave Winters (R-68): $2,200

Dennis Johnson (R) for Mayor: $1,000

Winnebago County Board member Gary Jury (R-3): $1,000

Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg (I): $750

Rockton Mayor Dale Adams: $750

Joe Birkett (R) for Attorney General: $500

Roscoe Township Supervisor Tom Hawes (R): $500

Rep. Ron Wait (R-68): $500

Winnebago County Board member Chris K. Johnson (R-4): $250

Ald. Bill Timm (R-9): $250

Ald. Joe Sosnowski (R-1): $250

Machesney Park Trustee Mark Sorrentino (D): $200

TOTAL: $93,250

Editor’s note: Not all elected officials have D-2s on file with the state or county clerk listing individual contributions because their fund raising came in under the $3,000 filing requirement.

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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