In addition to recommending that the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district be extended beyond 2006, the consulting firm conducting a master plan for downtown Oak Park has also proposed adding three parcels to the TIF’s footprint.

Two of those properties?#34;the 19th Century Club, at the northwest corner of Forest Avenue and Ontario Street, and the Hemingway Museum, at the northeast corner of Oak Park Avenue and Ontario?#34;have been identified as potential sites for an Arts Center in a draft of the plan.

In addition to those two parcels, consultants have proposed that the Grace Episcopal Church parking lot, on the north side of Lake Street just to the east of the Certifiedland Grocers building at Forest, be added to the TIF. That parcel would be useful if the village were to pursue the plan’s recommendation that retail and parking at the Certifiedland corner be expanded.

Though adding the properties will be considered, Village Manager Carl Swenson said there are currently no specific plans for the future of the sites.

“There are no active redevelopment proposals. We’ve had conversations with each [property owner] in the past that would suggest an interest in doing something with their parcels in the future,” he said.

If incorporated into the TIF, tax revenue generated by those parcels would no longer go to taxing bodies. The monies would instead be diverted to a fund set aside for economic development purposes.

The three properties currently have an estimated Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of $153,000 and generate a total of $15,000 in property taxes. However, it is quite possible that after development takes place at those sites, the parcels would be “carved out” of the TIF, in accordance with an agreement between the village and school districts.

However, at a study session Monday, Trustee Galen Gockel indicated that expanding the TIF footprint is “contrary to the concept of the carve-out.”

“We would be moving in exactly the opposite direction,” he said.

Village President Joanne Trapani said that once developments are officially carved out, taxing bodies would have greater access to generated tax dollars.

TIF ‘only effective’ tool

Lisa Lyon, a consultant analyzing the TIF district, said she was unable to pinpoint to what extent the TIF specifically has contributed to economic growth. However, she said it is likely that the TIF played a strong role in the growth of the EAV of commercial property village-wide from $129 million in 1986 to $202 million in 2002. The total EAV in the village, including industrial and residential properties, has grown by an average of 7 percent annually over that timeframe.

At Monday’s study session, planning consultants continued to strongly recommend that the TIF be extended. If the current downtown plan is to be realized, it will require roughly $69 million in public investment, and $462 million in private investment. The cost of property acquisition is not included in those figures.

A significant number of the public dollars should be earmarked for infrastructure improvements, said George Crandall, of the planning firm Crandall and Arambula.

“There are all sorts of funds, but most of them are very ineffective. Your TIF program has great potential. We would argue that no other programs have been effective,” Crandall said.

However, Trustee Robert Milstein said he is not convinced that the TIF should be extended.

“When we only look at one model, we only end up with one model. In 21 years, we’ve beefed [the TIF] up, and yet [downtown] is rated fair [by consultants],” he said. “I’m not convinced we have the full picture of the economics.”

Darryl Davidson, the village’s TIF attorney, suggested the village consider at its Dec. 6 meeting setting the date for a public hearing on a TIF redevelopment plan, the first of several steps that would have to be taken before the TIF could be formally extended.

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