CHICAGO — A small but vocal group of Damen Avenue property owners got their wish this past Friday when Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) recommended that the 800 and 900 blocks of North Damen be removed from a new taxing district.
According to Joseph Pranica of the 900 block of N. Damen Avenue, 90 taxpayers had signed a petition requesting removal from the Special Service Area (SSA) 57 map, which diverts a percentage of property taxes into a funding stream used for neighborhood projects like street cleaning, decorative banners and festivals.
Of the 26 business entities on Damen between Augusta and Huron, 20 had signed a petition that Pranica and other residents began circulating last month to oppose the expansion of the SAS district, which is applying for a 15-year license. Pranica said he was unable to reach owners of the six other businesses.
"[SSAs] are purported to be a pro-business thing, but the majority of the business owners did not see any value to having an extra property tax placed on them. Look at Chicago Avenue ... It's been in the SSA for 8 years, with lots of vacant storefronts. On Damen we don't have many vacant storefronts. You don't need an SSA to make your area viable business-wise. If your customers are going to come to you, they are going to come to you," Pranica said.
The Property Tax Numbers from the 800 and 900 blocks will likely be removed with the recommendation of Waguespack.
Dorothy Carollo, owner of Cesar's Polish Deli, 901 N. Damen Ave., attended the finance meeting and weighed in on the SSA.
"Basically small businesses cannot afford any more taxes. We pay enough property taxes to begin with, all of these services we are supposedly getting with the SSA we are already paying for," Carollo told DNAinfo, adding that SSA-funded snow shoveling and garbage cans were unnecessary.
"It's already city law that we have to shovel our own sidewalks. We're on the northeast corner of Damen and Iowa. Will they come and just shovel Damen because Iowa is not part of the SSA?" she asked. Since the building she and her husband own has more than six residential units, by city law they must pay for their own dumpsters and garbage removal through a private vendor.
After meeting with a representative from the West Town SSA a few months ago, Carollo was told that her family's taxes would increase about $4,000 per year for a 13-unit residential building and retail storefront if they were to be included in SSA 57.
"Obviously our alderman, Scott Waguespack, recommended that we are excluded [from the SSA map]. I am happy that he did that, it was a wise decision. It doesn't merit whatever services they are offering," she said.
While Waguespack said in Friday's meeting that he would recommend the removal of the Damen Avenue addresses, they wouldn't be officially removed until the next city council meeting on Oct. 31.