With Milstein dissenting, TIF gets OK

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Katharine Grayson

Just after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, the village board voted 6-1 to extend the downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district until 2018.

Extension of the TIF was recommended by Crandall and Arambula, the consulting firm that drafted the new plan for downtown. For the past several months, they have argued that the TIF is the "most effective tool" the village has to further spur economic development downtown.

Trustee Robert Milstein, who has consistently argued that the village has not effectively used the TIF in the past and that other funding mechanisms are available, was the only board member to oppose the extension.

At Monday night's meeting, Village President Joanne Trapani said she supported the TIF, in part because it is necessary to remain competitive with other communities.

"The first truth is that there will be steady cuts in state and federal funding. This is one tool we don't want to lose, so we will not be put at a disadvantage," she said.

The village board approved an intergovernmental agreement with both Oak Park school districts two years ago, which calls for various parcels to be "carved out" of the TIF once developed. The plan would send tax dollars generated by developed property back to school coffers.

Trustee David Pope said he expects that if the downtown plan is implemented, as much as $141 million more in Equalized Assessed Value will be generated within the district than the intergovernmental agreement projected.

"This benefits not just the village and other taxing bodies, but also the taxpayer," Pope said.

Village officials have said they expect to use TIF funds to improve infrastructure downtown, and invest less than in the past for the acquisition of property and subsidies to developers.

The downtown TIF was created in 1983 and was set to expire in 2006. TIF funds are earmarked for economic development purposes within the district.

Roosevelt Rd., UIC plans and Ike cap plans adopted

In addition to the Crandall and Arambula downtown plan, the village board on Monday approved a
redevelopment plan for Roosevelt Road, University of Illinois-Chicago "character" plans for the Oak Park Ave-nue/Eisenhower and Harrison Street business districts, and a plan for capping the Ike.

The Roosevelt Road and Ike cap plans were unanimously supported.

Trustee Gus Kosto-pulos was the only trustee to vote against the UIC plans.

"This was a good process. It was very academic. There were no real recommendations made in the end," he said.

Milstein said two years ago, he would have called the board "delusional" for considering the Ike cap, but said he thought the study was "well done."

"This is comprehensive, clear, citizen driven. It's at least something to keep on the table," he said. "It's a dream, and a hope, we should hold onto."

All board members expressed enthusiasm about the plan.

"The quality of life benefits have unbelievable potential," said Trustee David Pope.

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