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Attempt to Fast Forward Dempster/Dodge TIF Vote Fails

Aldermen Don Wilson and Coleen Burrus voted against suspending council rules in order to introduce and vote on the proposed TIF redevelopment plan in the same meeting.

City council members attempting to push through a vote on a TIF redevelopment plan at Dempster and Dodge were stymied Tuesday by opposition from fourth ward Alderman Don Wilson and ninth ward alderman Coleen Burrus.

Wilson and Burrus both voted against a motion to suspend city council rules so that aldermen could introduce and vote on the TIF plan in the same meeting. If the council had voted on the TIF district Tuesday night, it would have allowed the city to implement the plan using the property’s 2010 assessed value, about $10.8 million. 

Because a motion to suspend the rules requires a unanimous vote, the action failed entirely, and the city council was unable to bring the TIF plan up for discussion. 

Earlier: 

“There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Wilson said, explaining his vote after the meeting. 

According to the proposal from Kane, McKenna and Associates, the shopping center could benefit from up to $20 million in tax increment financing over the next 23 years. Their plan proposes a revamped layout with smaller store sizes to attract new businesses. With a floor plan designed for big box operations, the shopping center has been plagued by vacancies for years, and had a 52% vacancy rate as of January 2012. 

The proposal from Kane, McKenna also lists several possible uses of the TIF money, including $3 million in utility improvements, $4 million in parking facilities and landscaping, $1.25 million in interest rate subsidies to the developer, $4 million in site preparation and demolition, as well as $4.75 million in rehabilitation of current structures.

But Wilson said he wanted to know how much money, if any, the city would have to put out up front to get the TIF district going. Furthermore, he said he wanted a specific plan on how the money would be spent by developer Bonnie Management, which recently purchased the shopping center at Dempster and Dodge where the TIF district is proposed.

"I have not been convinced that a TIF is needed,” he said. 

Aldermen have expressed mixed feelings on the proposed TIF district in the past. At a public hearing on the matter May 16, ninth ward alderman Coleen Burrus questioned why the city should play a role in attracting new stores, given that the shopping center has a new owner with a good track record. 

“I’m just really skeptical about putting a TIF on a parcel that’s already developed, when really what this is about is a commercial developer really marketing,” Burrus said. “I’m not sure why we’re taking on this burden when they just need to find better tenants.” 

First ward alderman Judy Fiske and eighth ward alderman Ann Rainey, on the other hand, have both spoken up in support of the plan. 

“I think the shopping center isn’t attractive because of the vacancies,” Rainey said. “Were they occupied, which this TIF could do through incentives, then I think you would see a huge change.”

Community members who spoke at the meeting also took both sides of the matter. 

“Anything we can do to create a slightly more prosperous economic enterprise in this neighborhood would be good not just for us but for the city as a whole,” said John Bushnell, a resident of Crain Street. “I support and my neighbors very strongly support a TIF for the shopping center.” 

Attorney Eric Leiberman, however, said the burden of redevelopment should fall on Bonnie Management, not the city. 

“They bought that project knowing it was going to take improvements to make it capable of supporting smaller businesses. They knew about the nature of the neighborhood,” he said. “I have no doubt that they took that knowledge and negotiated a better price because of it.” 

The matter will return to the council’s agenda at the next regular meeting, 7:15 p.m. Monday, June 11, at the .

Editor's Note: a previous version of this story incorrectly listed the aldermen who voted against the motion to suspend the rules. We sincerely regret the error.

Richard Schulte May 30, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Thumbs up! Instead of TIF, Evanston needs to knock-off it's anti-business attitude. No more talk about plastic bag bans and all of the other kooky stuff.

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