Elmhurst Patch By Carol Kania Morency
Elmhurst may already have three mostly successful tax increment financing districts in town, but that is not enough to convince residents at a Monday public hearing that the city needs a fourth.
The hearing, which is required by law as part of the process for a municipality to create a new TIF, was a chance for residents to have their say about the new redevelopment district slated for a 1.8-mile stretch along North York Road. Most of the speakers were opposed to the project, and they posed many questions to the City Council.
TIF districts freeze assessed property values for local taxing bodies for up to 23 years to encourage redevelopment in areas considered blighted. TIFs generate new revenue through new construction in the TIF district, or if the township assessor increases the assessed value of the properties in the TIF district. The difference between the frozen property value and any new assessment or growth goes into a TIF fund. The city then uses this money to pay for any public improvements or to help finance redevelopment projects in the district.
The proposed new TIF would begin at the Hahn Street property, just south of North Avenue, and continue north to Grand Avenue. It would include the new Mariano's property at York and Industrial Drive, as well as the former Steven's Steakhouse and other vacant businesses.
According to Robert Rychlicki of TIF consultants Kane McKenna and Associates, the equalized assessed valuation for the North York TIF would likely be set at about $32 million. The TIF is projected to generate up to $150 million after $89 million in public and private development.
Rychlicki reviewed the results of the city's three current TIF districts. The City Centre TIF was created in 1986 with an EAV of $21.65 million and in 2011 had an $85.3 million assessed valuation. The Lake Street district began in 1993 with a $4.57 million EAV. In 2011, the same properties recorded a $16 million EAV. And the district at Route 83 and St. Charles Road was created with a $4.35 million EAV in 1996 that grew to a $12 million assessed valuation.
But most of the speakers at the public hearing had serious concerns about a fourth TIF.
“Everybody pays for the TIF,” said Terry Pastika, attorney and executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst. “You are privatizing profits and socializing the cost of development.”
Pastika said it was the inclusion of properties south of Interstate 290 that made the project problematic. She accused the city of stretching the district south to North Avenue just to be able to include Hahn Street, which is part of a previous redevelopment project planned by Morningside Group. Morningside, citing a sagging economy, was let out of its obligation to develop Hahn Street earlier this year. Hahn Street currently "lives" in TIF 1 and would be moved to TIF 4, adding 23 years of frozen valuation to the property. TIF 1 is set to expire in nine years.
Resident Tamara Brenner posed a series of questions to the council: Is creating a new TIF district the only way to offer incentives to businesses? Is it a good idea to establish a TIF district in this economy? Why was the city having a public hearing after the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee recommended approval of the TIF at its July 9 meeting?
Brenner also is dismayed at the quick pace of the movement to create the fourth TIF.
“This has moved along as fast as humanly possible under the TIF act,” she said.
The city has to wait at least 14 days after the public hearing to approve the establishment of the district. The DuPage County clerk will set the EAV for the properties after the ordinances creating the North York district are approved.