TIF Option Considered for Dempster Street

Attendees rally around TIF option at public input session.

In a public forum on Thursday night, Morton Grove residents leaned toward TIF (tax increment finance) districting to improve business on Dempster Street. Read more on the meeting . 

The plan would be to redistribute property taxes to a designated area that the village believes is incapable of luring private investment. The reallocation of taxes is enabled by freezing other taxing bodies' shares upon TIF creation, said Community and Economic Development Director John Said.

Said, who worked on local planning for Elmhurst before taking his current job in Morton Grove, described a TIF district as a "strategy for positive change" that has been widely successful in other village zones, including along Waukegan Road and between Lehigh and Ferris avenues, where an expanded Pequod's restaurant is planned. You can read about it .

"I equate it to an investment into retirement," Said said. "We invest in it and we pay it off and we reap the benefits from it."

Reactions from the audience

Most workshop participants agreed that TIF taxing would be the appropriate route, too. Economic development chairman David Lewis, who acted as one of four meeting moderators, told Said at the session's conclusion that his attendee group had no negative comments about TIF districting.

"Our group was unanimous," Lewis said. "They said the TIF was the most beneficial, the most lucrative, at this point."

Trustees' input

But beyond that consensus, residents offered varying views of how to generally improve Dempster Street. They were asked to address four discussion questions in groups, including an open-ended inquiry about the corridor's future.

Some speakers, including Village Trustee Shel Marcus advocated a complete overhaul of the street's commercial image.

"You have to brand it, and you have to come up with an idea to do it," he said, adding that such an ambitious goal cannot be achieved with "just a parking lot."

Village Trustee Dan DiMaria concurred that carefully crafting the Dempster stretch into an attractive destination would be ideal.

"You make it an attraction," he said. "They'll come."

Pat Craig May 23, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Local governments sell the TIF concept to the public by claiming they are using funds that would not have been generated without the TIF district. . But even if the dedicated tax money from a TIF district suffices to pay off the bonds, that doesn't mean the arrangement is cost-free. The average public official says this is free money, because it wouldn't happen otherwise. But when you see how it plays out, the whole premise of TIFs begins to crumble. Rather than spurring development TIFs "move some economic development from one part of a city to another. Local officials usually do not consider how much growth might occur without a TIF. In Chicago in 2002 the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group (NCBG) looked at 36 of the city's TIF districts and found that property values were rising in all of them during the five years before they were designated as TIFs. The NCBG projected that the city of Chicago would capture $1.6 billion in second-stream property tax revenue over the 23-year life spans of these TIF districts, it also found that $1.3 billion of that revenue would have been raised anyway. The city invested $1.6 billion in TIFs, even though $1.3 billion in economic development would have occurred anyway. So the bottom line is that the city invested $1.6 billion for $300 million in revenue growth. TIFs are a form of government welfare -the burden of paying for the services to create the TIF will be shifted to the taxpayers. Sounds like giving away the store to me.
sherwin dubren May 25, 2011 at 02:32 AM
With two disasterous TIF's under our belt, the village board seems eagar to start a third. The Waukegan TIF was an overall failure. The village paid big money for land that they were forced to sell at big losses. We still owe a bundle on that TIF with no help in sight. The Leheigh Ferris TIF was another one that went bad. It was structured heavily on condominiums just as they started to go out of favor. We still see the village struggling to fill in the empty gaps there. Our neighbor Chicago is a perfect example of overuse of the TIF system. Billions of dollars are tied up there in money that should be going towards schools and general improvements. The TIF's are so constructed that only a few privileged few know how the money is being spent. The taxpayers are in hock for expensive bonds used to encourage developement inside them. The TIF's were set up to get rid of blighted areas and in a few small cases like the seedy motel on Waukegan Rd., there was some progress made. This village board seems anxious to open TIF's at the first opportunity. They tried to open one at the Golf School to promote their car dealership, but failed to understand the feelings of the neighbors or the Illinois State officials who put large sums of money into that area to build a nice park. Instead of learning from past bad experiences, our village board seems intent on repeating their mistakes.
Tony Kovacs May 25, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Why not make the whole Village a TIF and spend tax money where it is needed and not target some areas to the exclusion of others? Maybe I don't understand TIFs but I am not holding my breathe to have it explained as I am not sure many do!
Dan Staackmann May 26, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Part I The subject of TIFs cause strong reactions among the public, but at times that reaction is not based on solid fact. I would like to address some recent comments that seem to misrepresent the facts with the intent to either confuse or anger the reader. In one post, then it was stated that both TIFs in Morton Grove are a disaster and that the current village board is going to start a third. These statements are confusing and not based on solid truthful facts. I would like to address issues raised in this posting. First: The Village is not eager to start another TIF. We are very eager to make Dempster a vibrant asset to our Village. The Board & Staff are holding workshops & looking for input on what direction to take. We are looking for input from residents and businesses. We are not rushing into anything. We looking for direction and are actively seeking those who may want to invest in our community to determine what it will take make it happen.
Dan Staackmann May 26, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Second: It was stated that “the Waukegan TIF was an overall failure…” yet then noted that “the TIF’s were set up to get rid of blighted areas and in a few small cases like the seedy motel on Waukegan Rd., there was some progress made.” The reality is there was a lot of progress made. The overall atmosphere of Waukegan Road changed dramatically with new street scraping & roadways, along with a new and enlarged water main. There was a complete revamping of the infrastructure. Now it looks like a place where you want to do business, no longer a place to fancy your vices. What price do you put on improving the quality of life and the safety of kids going to school on Waukegan Road? Yes, the dollars generated currently are not yet what is needed to fund all of the improvements, but would you really rather have what was there before?
Dan Staackmann May 26, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Third: “The Lehigh Ferris TIF was another one that went bad.” On what premise is this statement based? That TIF is expected to generate over 40 million dollars that can then be used for more improvements!! It is one of the most successful TIF’s around. There were complaints about condos. The only condo project that received any TIF assistance was the very first developer, and their project was sold out three years ago. About 25 % of those units were sold to Morton Grove residents looking to stay in town who didn’t want maintain a house any longer, which opened the opportunity for young, new families to move into our community. In addition, the Village was very fortunate to have available the funds from the Lehigh-Ferris TIF to rebuild much needed infrastructure in the TIF and adjoining areas, such as the water main project on Dempster. The cost of those improvements was in excess of seven million dollars, and without the TIF funds to pay for them, most of those improvements would not have been done.
Dan Staackmann May 26, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Fourth: “The TIFs are so constructed that only a few privileged know how the money is being spent.” This statement is false, and seems only to have been made to lead people to believe that there is malfeasance. This is absolutely false. TIF financials, as well as Village budget documents, are bound by strict laws of disclosure, to which we adhere completely. All records are open to the public, and there is an annual TIF review each year, which is open to the public and posted according to the open meetings act. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to disagree and have an opinion, but it should be done in a fair and respectful manner, based on facts that can be substantiated. These are very hard times for many residents and what all of us want is to be treated fairly and honestly, and to understand what is going on with the Village in which we reside.
David Lewis May 26, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Mr. Dubren, Instead of spreading misinformation on this website, it would be much more productive for you to attend the workshops that the Village has provided for its commercial property owners, commercial tenants and Morton Grove residents. This Village's administration has bent over backwards to provide opportunities for business owners and residents to attend meetings and workshops to discuss ideas for improving our community. The meetings are announced in advance in the local media, on the Village's web site, in the Morton Grove Exchange newsletter and on Morton Grove cable TV channel 6. As a resident I personally find it very frustrating that my fellow residents criticize and complain about the Village's operations and appearance yet never bother to attend a Village Board meeting to express their ideas and suggestions. Time and again I have seen this Village Board reach out to the residents for their input. The residents have no one to blame but themselves if they continue to refrain from attending these public meetings. Complaining on this web site will accomplish nothing.
sherwin dubren May 26, 2011 at 07:10 AM
I'm afraid Mayor Staackmann has his own set of facts and he is too quick to discount anything that does not agree with his line of thinking. He is more worried about his own political position than he is about angering or confusing the public. Both Mr. Said and the village trustees seem to be in favor of a TIF for Dempster, so maybe the mayor should be telling them to cool it. All I see on Waukegan Rd. are a bunch of car dealerships. If Mayor Staackmann had his way, we would have seen another one in place of the Golf School. With the disclosures on TIF activity, the mayor does just what the law requires and no more. Most residents of Morton Grove are not aware of what is going on in the TIF's. Anything of significance is usually announced heavily after the fact. For Mr. Lewis, maybe if the mayor would be more friendly to the public, people would start showing up at the board meetings. The meetings are not very productive where there is no discussion of issues and virtually every trustee votes in favor of all resolutions. This is the consequence of a one party rule. Mr Lewis seems to say that this forum is of no consequence, yet he takes great pains to defend his positions. I think he just wants to stiffle criticism. Criticism is one of the foundations of a democracy. Maybe he prefers a dictatorship.
Pat Craig May 26, 2011 at 12:46 PM
"Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts – I Know What I Think" seems to be the mantra of some of the commentators. That is unfortunate, because personal opinion and political agenda presented as fact is, at best, disingenuous. I am not a fan of TIF's in general. I see them as municipal welfare that has turned many businesses into hogs feeding at the public trough. It has become an unfortunate fact of public life that without the TIF tax incentive "bribe" an enterprise will shop competing towns to get the most "vigorish" out of the citizenry. TIF's seem to be viewed by every suburb as a means of inexpensive financing of a pet project. Such a perspective leads to the possibility of TIF abuse. When bond issuers and real estate brokers are touting the TIF as a no-lose proposition and the local municipal leaders fail to objectively analyze their true needs, the taxpayers will be the ones ultimately holding the bag. Morton Grove leaders, PLEASE move carefully and do your due diligence.
David Lewis May 26, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Mr. Dubren, My father used to say, "You cannot reason with an unreasonable person." If you had bothered to read the Patch articles regarding the May 19th Dempster Street meeting that was held at the Civic Center you would know that Mayor Staackmann made it very clear that establishing a TIF district for Dempster Street was simply a concept and that nothing definite had been decided upon. The consensus of the property owners and residents who attended (you were not one of them) was when compared to other programs such as Business Improvement District (BID) and Special Service Area (SSA), the TIF program was the most viable. A second meeting will be held in June or July and I urge MG property owners and residents, including Mr. Dubren, to attend the meeting. The date and time will be announced soon.
David Lewis May 26, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Mr. Dubren, One last comment. It is blatantly obvious that your chronic criticisms of Mayor Staackmann and the Village Board are based solely on politics. Allow me to remind you that the elections were over in April. I have previously challenged you to run for political office, attend Village Board meetings, attend Commission meetings or simply volunteer your time to any organization in the Village. To the best of my knowledge you have done none of the above. And, I do not wish to stifle criticism, in fact I encourage it but only when it is based on facts. To make silly unfounded charges such as the "Mayor being more friendly to the public" or my wanting a "dictatorship" only minimizes the purpose of this forum and the person making those charges.
David Lewis May 26, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Mr. Kansoer, In response to your comments, the Village leaders ARE moving carefully and demonstrating due diligence by providing public meetings that are designed to educate the public, encourage discussion and debate, and present an open forum for questions, suggestions and ideas. John Said runs a very organized meeting and my fellow EDC commissioners assist him in his efforts. As I have suggested to others on Patch I hope that you will consider attending the next meeting. The date will be announced soon.
David Lewis May 26, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Mr. Dubren, If you take the time to look, the EDC's Agenda and Minutes are posted on the Village of Morton Grove's web site as it has been for some time. To view the documents go the site, click on "Government" and then on "Village Committees and Commissions". Had you made the effort to attend the May meeting you would have witnessed a very lively exchange of information and ideas from members of the EDC. We recently assisted the the Director of the MG Civic Center with suggestions for her marketing efforts and did the same for the Director of the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce. We also receive monthly updates from the Morton Grove Library. The EDC is a pro-active group of MG residents and business owners who are committed to supporting and promoting our business community. I am fortunate to be a part of this Commission and proud of what they have accomplished and continue to accomplish. What have you done to move the Village forward?


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