Lake and Lathrop developer to ask River Forest for cash soon

With TIF ending, time is short to make a deal

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

River Forest is expecting a detailed plan for the village's most prized piece of real estate in the next week or two — or at least a specific request from the developer for cash.

For months, the village board has been waiting for a proposal for the block at Lake and Lathrop in River Forest, as the village's chosen developer Keystone Ventures decides just what to do at the site.

The only problem is that the block is contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals from River Forest Cleaners — a point of contention that's making it complicated for anyone to buy the land.

So the River Forest village board has been fully expecting Keystone to come back asking for money — likely to help bridge the gap between the property's sellers, and perhaps to pay to help clean it up, as well.

That money would likely come from the village's Lake Street TIF fund. Those funds have been accumulated via a special taxing technique called tax increment financing, or a TIF.

The only problem with that pot of money is that it's got to be committed to a project before the end of this year, when the TIF district expires and whatever remains of the roughly $5 million in the fund gets passed back out to the village, the schools and River Forest's other taxing bodies.

So, running tight against deadline, the village has been waiting for months on a request from Keystone for TIF cash. At October's last board meeting on the 25th, Keystone head Tim Hague sat in on a closed session. Afterwards, Village President John Rigas said he expected Hague to bring back a proposal in two to three weeks.

Village Trustee Steve Hoke, however, has decried the idea of giving money to clean up polluted land from the start, and feared that the village would run short on time to thoroughly analyze the deal before the TIF clock ran out.

"My concern is that the village is going to end up paying for someone else's wrongdoing," Hoke said. "Based on the timing, it's going to be very difficult to make the people who are responsible for the contamination pay their fair share."

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