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Mell Signals Support for Proposed Special Service Area on Irving Park Road

By Patty Wetli | January 18, 2013 6:20pm
 Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) meets with constituents at a meeting of the 33rd Ward Advisory Council.
Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) meets with constituents at a meeting of the 33rd Ward Advisory Council.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

NORTH CENTER — A Special Service Area has been proposed for Irving Park Road as a way of goosing economic development and attracting new businesses.

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) threw his support behind the plan if for no other reason than it would provide the funds to clean up the neighborhood's sidewalks and clear them of snow in the winter.

"If we had some common sense, we wouldn't have to have this talk," said Mell, criticizing residents who litter and business owners who allow snow and trash to pile up in front of their shops.

"That's what aggravates me to no end."

The SSA, which levies a special tax on property owners within specific boundaries for communal services such as snow removal, is a way of saying, "OK pal, if you don't want to do it yourself, if you're too damn lazy to do it yourself," we'll tax you for it, Mell said.

"They're deriving a living from the neighborhood. The least they could do is clean it up."

The potential SSA was announced at Thursday night's meeting of the 33rd Ward Advisory Council, held at the Horner Park fieldhouse, 2741 W. Montrose Ave.

The Northwest Community Corp. is proposing to manage the SSA. NCC was founded in 2011 with a startup loan from the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce, with the intent of parlaying the chamber's expertise in managing its own SSA into a revenue stream. (SSA managers earn a fee for their services.)

While not questioning the need for an SSA on Irving Park Road, Mark Thomas, ward resident and owner of several businesses including The Alley, urged caution in approving the proposal.

"SSAs are a fabulous tool," said Thomas. "But a lot of SSA money has become wasted."

He pointed to SSA #17 in Lakeview, which he helped form.

The SSA originally collected $100,000, a figure that has ballooned to $800,000 and now pays out $90,000 to a full-time director, according to Thomas.

"We need to stop people from looting these SSAs."

Establishing an SSA for Irving Park Road is still a long way off, explained Brad Ball of the Northwest Community Corp.

The process requires a series of public meetings, a tax study and an interest survey of business owners and residents.

Boundaries are extremely tentative, according to Ball, but could include the stretch of Irving Park Road between California and Kedzie avenues, as well as portions of California and Elston avenues and an area around Roscoe and Addison streets.