What started as a routine overview of the business connections of newly elected Oak Park trustees, has turned into a proposed reworking of the boundaries of Oak Park's Downtown Tax Increment Finance District.
The village board was scheduled to debate the proposal, and one that would amend the ethics code, at its board meeting scheduled for May 22, but the item was tabled until the June 5 meeting.
The request to table the agenda item was brought by Trustee Bob Tucker.
"There's a lot of information here and I think a lot of things to consider," he said. "I think I'll need more information on this, and I think we need to present a real clear idea of what's going on with these so we can all be informed and vote accordingly."
Earlier this month, the village began reviewing business ownership and connections of newly elected trustees to educate them on potential conflicts of interest when casting votes on issues in the village.
It was determined at that time that trustee Jim Taglia, who was appointed trustee earlier this year to fill a vacancy on the board, could face a potential conflict of interest when voting on issues within the Downtown Tax Increment Finance District, a special taxation district that is set to expire at the end of next year.
Taglia's ownership of Red Mango, a frozen yogurt shop at 1044 W. Lake St., which lies within the TIF District, could prevent him from voting on any issue connected to that TIF. But further legal review of the district by village staff revealed that Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb's restaurant Maya Del Sol, 144 S. Oak Park Ave., also is in the Downtown TIF.
This potential conflict of interest could prevent both elected officials from voting on the controversial proposal for a new residential high-rise at the corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue among other issues.
The downtown TIF has been amended multiple times over the years most recently earlier this decade as part of a legal settlement after a lawsuit brought by District 200, Oak Park and River Forest High School. As a result, only the Colt development on Lake Street and the Vantage building, also on Lake, remain as tax increment generating parcels in the much larger TIF. All other properties in the expansive TIF have been "carved out" meaning the property taxes collected are now passed directly through to each local taxing bodies. The carve outs include the sites of Maya del Sol and Red Mango.
The Oak Park Board of Trustees aims to remove the perceived conflict by approving an ordinance that "amends the TIF map by removing property owned or leased by elected officials (along with surrounding properties for simplicity) to visually show that neither the Red Mango nor Maya Del Sol remains in the TIF," according to an overview of the ordinance.
The ordinance aims to "provide clarity to the public and staff that these properties cannot benefit whatsoever from the increment generated by the Downtown TIF," according to the village.
Another proposed ordinance amends the section of the village code that deals with "conflicts of interest and ethics" to "provide legal certainty that village elected or appointed officers or employees who maintain an interest in the carved-out parcels" [namely Red Mango and Maya Del Sol] "are not in conflict with the TIF Act or the village code."
The village proposes an alternative measure to adjusting the map and code of ethics by dissolving the TIF entirely prior to its current scheduled dissolution on Dec. 31, 2018. "This would eliminate the capture of any TIF increment from either the Vantage Development or Emerson Development, the only two properties in the TIF which can generate increment for economic development eligible expenditures and it would eliminate the use of TIF increment in the amount of $1.8 million in tax levy year 2017 and $1.8 million in tax levy year 2018 for infrastructure debt service," according to the village.
* This article was updated to include information about the agenda item being held by the board of trustees until their June 5 meeting.
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