River Forest trustees approve North Avenue TIF

District stretches from Harlem Avenue to Thatcher Avenue

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By Nona Tepper

River Forest trustees unanimously voted to create a tax-increment financing (TIF) district along North Avenue at a village board meeting on Aug. 20. Trustee Respicio Vazquez recused himself from the vote, since he works at the law firm that represents River Forest Elementary School District 90, part of which falls within the TIF area. 

"The village has done its duty in, I'll be honest, in terms of trying to communicate with residents and we also welcome continuous conversation," Village President Cathy Adduci said of the North Avenue TIF. 

The new TIF stretches from Harlem Avenue to Thatcher Avenue, along the northern border of River Forest, adjoining Elmwood Park. A 2010 Corridor Plan found that 35,000 cars travel the TIF route daily, making North Avenue the most heavily trafficked corridor in River Forest. 

Village Administrator Eric Palm noted that the village held more than the number of legally required meetings with the public about the North Avenue TIF before it was approved. 

But resident Erika Bachner said she still believed there was confusion in the community about the TIF and urged trustees to table voting on the ordinance until the village conducted more outreach. 

"I live very closely to the North Avenue TIF, so people are wondering, 'Is it actually worth bringing in developers? Is there a need for that in a TIF situation? Would developers come in, even if we didn't have a TIF there,'" Bachner said. "An assurance that eminent domain would not be used and is not on the table would be very helpful." 

Trustee Tom Cargie said that, like the Madison Street TIF, which the village board created in late 2016, the North Avenue TIF has protections against eminent domain to the single-family homes in the district. The ordinance does not protect against eminent domain to multi-family housing. Cargie said the goal of the TIF district is to promote development so the village has a broader tax base. 

"The point of the TIF is we can't get people to build," he said. 

Following creation of a TIF district, the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of the property is frozen for taxing bodies whose boundaries are within the district. These include elementary and high school districts, Triton College and various county agencies. 

Any property tax revenue generated by the increased EAV goes into the TIF fund to be spent on improvements in the district, generally infrastructure. But TIF funds can be used for other purposes, including property acquisition and assemblage and providing incentives for redevelopment.

The village only one other TIF right now along Madison Street, which generated $56,835 in revenue in 2017, according to a report produced by Cook County Clerk David Orr's office. 

TIF revenue accounts for approximately 4 percent of property tax billed in the suburbs and, on average, 1 in 22 suburban properties are in a TIF, according to the clerk's report. The lifetime of a TIF is 23 years.  

"I agree that this can be very confusing and I appreciate resident concerns," said Trustee Patty Henek. "I think some people envision a wrecking ball coming through, just knocking everything down, which is not the case. 

"But to also reiterate, in terms of the process, even if there is development, there is going to be opportunities for the community to have input and raise concerns."  

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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