Public hearings planned for trio of TIF districts
By Dan Moran firstname.lastname@example.org | @NewsSunDanMoran October 15, 2013 8:08PM
Updated: November 17, 2013 6:11AM
Late last month, Mayor Wayne Motley sat down with members of other taxing bodies — including the Waukegan Park District and Waukegan Public Schools — to detail plans for three different Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts that could generate up to $374 million in revenue to redevelop the downtown and lakefront areas.
Because TIF districts, by definition, limit any increases in property-tax revenue in the target areas, Motley said the discussion called on his powers of persuasion.
“I had to make an impassioned plea. If we want to move forward with development on the lakefront, I can’t do it without the TIF districts,” Motley said. “I advised them that throughout my campaign and throughout my career, I’ve always given them the support they needed when they were embattled in a situation, and I asked them, ‘Please support me on this, because without your support, Waukegan will never move forward.’”
Motley added that he won the backing of those tax bodies at a required joint-review board meeting earlier this month, saying the trio of TIFs is now “through the first hurdle” in a process that could end with the districts being established by City Council action before the end of the year.
Under a TIF arrangement, property tax collections for all parties are held at a base level for the life of the arrangement, which would be 20 years in this case. Any revenue increases generated from new development or spikes in land value are dedicated to the municipality for investment in redevelopment, typically through issuance of bonds paid off with TIF dollars.
According to documents released in August by city officials and compiled by Chicago-based Kane, McKenna and Associates, Inc. (KMA), the TIF districts would be established to secure bonds that would lay the groundwork for a mix of public and private redevelopment of three distinct zones:
• Downtown: Technically, this district would encompass not only the downtown area but also the harbor area of the lakefront. Its boundaries would run fom Grand Avenue on the north to Belvidere Road on the south and from County Street on the west to the lakeshore.
The targeted revenues for the downtown TIF are listed as $119 million, making it the largest of the three proposals. That total would include such investments as $39 million in public improvements to utilities and infrastructure, covering things like road improvements and sewer lines.
Another $14 million would be geared toward land acquisition, while $10 million would be used for site preparation that would include environmental remediation.
All told, a total of 473 tax parcels sit in the proposed downtown TIF, including such lakefront properties as Larsen Marine Service, Lafarge North America and St. Mary’s Cement — all of which, according to the report, witnessed declines in their equalized assessed valuation (EAV) between 2006 and 2011.
• North lakefront: Defined as north of Grand and east of the Amstutz Expressway, this district contains 51 tax parcels — none of them residential or inhabited — and would come with a budget of $95 million. That amount would include $45 million in land acquisition and relocation, $20 million in infrastructure improvements and $9 million in site preparation/environmental remediation.
• South lakefront: As with the downtown district, this TIF would extend beyond what its name implies. It would run from Belvidere on the north to 10th Street on the south and extend west to Adams Street, taking in commercial and residential sectors along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Oak Street.
The southern TIF would include 388 tax parcels and would come with a total budget of $65 million, an amount that would include $22 million in utility and infrastructure improvements and $10 million in land acquisition and relocation.
As with both the downtown and north lakefront districts, the properties in the southern TIF have witnessed descreases in their EAVs over the last half-decade. The report makes the argument that investment in new development is needed to benefit all parties.
“The city proposes a Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Plan to assist an area in overcoming the environmental and other redevelopment barriers,” the report for the north lakefront area states in part. “Such redevelopment would build upon locational advantages and established commercial uses. As such, the city has identified a number of objectives for redevelopment, with tax increment financing acting as a tool to achieve them.”
After a preliminary public review last summer, a final set of public hearings on the proposed TIFs has been scheduled for Nov. 4 at City Hall starting at 5 p.m.
If no major objections derail the process, approval could come at one of the two council meetings scheduled for December.