The purpose and function of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District is to use the real estate tax increment generated by increasing property values within the district to help bring more value to the area by reinvesting the increment back into the district. There is no hard and fast requirement for any TIF project to produce jobs, additional revenue, or anything tangible. TIF has also been described as a “but for” incentive, meaning, “but for” the investment of TIF dollars, the project or property would not be done or the improvement would not be made. Every single TIF deal is first reviewed by the TIF Advisory Board before it is referred to the Village Board for approval. Public comment is taken at both meetings and rough guidelines have been set up to avoid abuse of the funding process. Not all TIF funding goes to private property projects, public projects can also be funded. As an example, we put sewers on N. Main Street, because there will be no future development in that area “but for” sewer being available to a new building or project.
Today’s post by Mr. Seehausen regarding the private meeting recently held with property owners bordering the alley on the west side of Main Street between Exchange and Cass is nothing short of incredible. First of all, the meeting was private for a reason. We were trying to be sensitive to the opinions and circumstances of all involved. If there was an owner that could not, for whatever reason, get on board with this project, we were not interested in having that become a public issue. Pardon us for being sensitive. The public will have ample time to review and comment on the plan once it is closer to being finalized. This entire issue should not be a political football. We have looked at this project several times in the past and have not acted in favor of making the improvement, because frankly, it wasn’t justified. Just after the park district announced their dance studio and purchase of the building, we received an inquiry from a local business owner expressing concern about the parking situation. We had no idea how many folks could possibly be using the new studio, so after checking, we decided to review our previous plans and have a preliminary meeting. Because the plan anticipates using a layout that disregards property lines and treats the area as one large piece, buy-in is needed from all owners. My personal observation of parking in this area is, that with rare occasion, adequate parking is available, especially in the evenings when the bank is closed. It should also be pointed out that back in 2003 Mr. Seehausen sued the Village of Crete in an attempt to force us to close the fitness center, because some of its patrons parked in his lot. He lost the suit, because he had a remedy, that being, to tow the vehicles, which I believe he did. To help remedy the situation, we took over the Methodist Church parking lot as a public facility, intended for use of employees of the downtown area, but it seems he has heartburn with that also.
To answer directly his other allegations, it should first be noted that I have never voted for a TIF project. The projects are not “the Mayor’s”. They are projects of various origins that have been brought to the Village Board for consideration and are all handled and reviewed for their own distinct merit. No two are alike or treated alike for that reason. No one has been “forced” to do anything except follow the codes as they relate to what they are trying to accomplish, like turning a house into a business. Businesses have different requirements than homes, and we have not used TIF funds for any private single family residence. We have purchased vacant run down property, which is an allowable expenditure, with the intention to assemble property when it becomes available, to avoid being held hostage by a future owner. In both cases it was property within the Metra Station planning area and could be used as parking until the need changes, once the final station location is selected and designed. This is called vision and planning ahead and acting not reacting. All of this was discussed in open session. The Village Board is very thorough and deliberate in their evaluation of all TIF projects. You have to make your case to receive funds.
As far as naming a ground up development in the downtown, I guess Mr. Seehausen forgot about Matt’s Printing. Building an actual structure is a prohibited use of TIF funds, but in Matt’s case his funding was used for utility work and site preparation. Remember that one of the main purposes of TIF is to provide façade restorations, especially in older areas, which we have promoted and funded by teaming with willing owners. Mr. Seehausen has also apparently forgotten that the Edge has addressed their rear entrance area and the Park District will be doing the same. No other TIF projects have been proposed for buildings that have alley area exposure. And, as far as street lights are concerned, the luminaries are different in the Main Street decorative lights than in the lights on the side streets. The State of Illinois has strict lighting standards that prohibit brighter bulbs at lower levels along state highways, such as IL Rte 1/Main Street. That is why there are tall overhead lights mixed in along with the decorative lights on Main Street. Everything that has been done regarding TIF has been straight forward and transparent. I guess it takes running for office and not paying attention to justify second guessing the last 20 years of TIF work.
Leadership, vision, planning, cooperation and compromise are what it takes to make TIF work, along with some problem solving abilities thrown in for good measure. This is what a mayor understands and does along with a talented and educated staff of professionals. I hope residents consider this when they go to the polls on April 9th.