TIF’s, Facts Not Fiction

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.

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Goals: Near Term

Crete is a great place and it is on its way to becoming even better. We have lots of assets that are yet to be realized and fully developed. We have an abundance of open space, a large amount of Village owned property, the IL 394 corridor, heavily forested areas, the potential for an extensive trail system, a well defined downtown area, abundant land for industrial development, a wide variety of housing options, including senior housing, the possibility of a Metra station and excess sewer and water capacity. Not many towns can make these claims. My goal is to develop and utilize these assets in the best way possible for the long term benefit of our residents and in keeping with our planning objectives that have been defined with citizen input. This is a process not an event.

You will hear about what other candidates are dreaming about, what they claim they are going to do without regard to reality or costs involved, using comments intended to create suspicions that something is wrong or something has been mismanaged. They will also bring up items that have already been effectively handled and are really old news. The governance of the third airport, Illiana Expressway and the intermodal facility are prime examples. I will tell you what I want to accomplish, at a minimum, during the next couple of years, and I have a “wish list” of several other things that would be nice to accomplish if the funds are available.

  • Assist in the completion of the Holland Company’s major office expansion and the Al-Amin Brother’s refrigerated warehouse development totaling an $11M investment in Crete.
  • Implement a new parking plan on the west side of Main between Exchange and Cass.
  • Encourage more property owners to do façade changes in the downtown area, such as Aurelio’s and Cal’s.
  • Finish the downtown “Time Square” project so that area is completed.
  • Investigate the possibility of making major changes to the east side of Main between Cass and Exchange that will open up more Main Street retail opportunities.  We need new retail space in the downtown area if we expect to attract any additional new businesses.
  • Create a new street off of N. Main Street across from Speedway that would go east.  This would create an access point to a new mixed use area that could provide new retail opportunities.  The traffic count at this location is double that of properties south of Burville Road and the land is less expensive.
  • Build Old Monee Road east through to Hartmann Drive to open up more industrial property ready for immediate development and create marketing plans for the TIF #3 industrial area.
  • Build on our successes in the 394 corridor.  We did well even during a down economy, so as the market turns we should do even better.  There are users out there; we just need to identify them.  One retailer I have identified is currently reviewing the area for a possible project.
  • Encourage CenterPoint Properties to consider redefining their focus to include a wider variety of potential users.  This project needs to move forward.
  • Create an easy to use property inventory list on the Village web site featuring available residential, commercial, retail and industrial development sites.
  • I will again explore the creation of a train horn quiet zone, if we can secure a funding source.  It appears that I have just identified a possible condition change, which could reduce the overall cost to a point where it may be possible.
  • Work with the park district on finalizing the master trail plan for the entire village.  I drew one up several years ago and presented it to the Crete Park District.  Because they are under funded, it has never been finalized or been officially acted on by the district.  This will give everyone a vision for what needs to be accomplished as the village grows.

All of these items are realistic, attainable, and within the area of responsibility of village government operations. All of these items will move our economy ahead, provide growth opportunities and enhance our quality of life.

Mike Einhorn, Village President