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Pilsen Special Tax District Proposal Dropped One Week Before Deadline

By Chloe Riley | June 7, 2013 7:56am
 What was supposed to be a community meeting regarding the Pilsen Special Service Area tax proposal was turned instead into a gathering of business owners and residents after the special taxing district proposal was dropped May 30.
Community Meeting Pilsen
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PILSEN — Plans for a proposed special taxing district that would have affected Pilsen business owners have been dropped, partly due to vocal opposition from multiple area businesses and residents.

Proposed by the Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association and housing developer The Resurrection Project, the Special Service Area would have meant increased property taxes for a chunk of businesses across the neighborhood.

On May 30, The Resurrection Project posted a statement on its Pilsen Portal website withdrawing the proposal due to community concerns.

“No application is being submitted. We are committed to continue to work with residents, business owners and stakeholders in the community to create a safer, more vibrant and healthier community," the statement said.

But it was a letter sent days later to Pilsen business owners that had many who originally disagreed with the special taxing district up in arms.

“As of last Thursday we decided to withdraw our application for the special service area, because of a loud yet small contingency of people who misinformed the community, and used social media to spread lies and misinformation about these efforts, and above all carry out personal political agendas. Contrary to the opinions disseminated on social media, the proposed SSA was not an attempt to raise the cost of living in Pilsen,” part of the letter read. 

The letter was signed by Ulises Zatarain, vice president of community programs at Resurrection Project. But at a community meeting Thursday, Resurrection Project CEO Raul Raymundo denied his group sent out a letter with that kind of language.

Raymundo was challenged about the letter Thursday by Nelson Soza, executive director of Pilsen Alliance, a grassroots social justice organization in Pilsen.

“These people were trying to ram this proposal behind people’s backs at the 11th hour. And that’s when people were up in arms,” Soza said.

“You know, this is a gentrifying community. And when you add a new tax to the community, it’s going to have a negative impact on those people,” he said.

The Greater Pilsen Economic Development Association — the driving force behind the Pilsen SSA — is made of 73 local Pilsen businesses.

“We didn’t really educate enough,” Greater Pilsen chairman Mark Sussman said. “And I think we tried to include too many areas of Pilsen.”

But other business owners echoed Soza’s sentiments, saying not enough notice had been given before the June 14 deadline to apply for a special service area, in which property owners voluntarily pay more taxes to fund services in the district. 

“I think they shot themselves in the foot,” Harbee’s Bar owner Steve Frytz said. “I really don’t think the community would have been so [upset] if they had done a little more outreach.”