WEST ROGERS PARK — A proposal to renew the special taxing district along Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park could more than triple the levy property owners pay now.
Advocates for the new district, called Special Service Area 43, say the additional tax would help maintain landscaping and other amenities added to the bustling street during the ongoing Devon streetscape project.
"Once they put it in, it’s going to be our job to maintain all the landscaping, all the seating areas, the trees and tree pits," said Amie Zander, director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce, which submitted its application last week to renew the tax for the next 15 years.
She said the district's current, modest budget of about $180,000 only allows for minimal services, such as trash pickup, snow removal and some signage.
But when the city installs 225 planters, side-street seating and other amenities over the next several years, work to maintain the street is "going to be a little bit more intensive," she said.
"It's going to be a lot of work," she said.
The current incremental tax rate is locked in at .4 percent. So a property owner pays $400 a year for every $100,000 in assessed property value.
The proposed tax rate for 2015 is 0.91, with a proposed tax cap for the life of the district set at 1.5 percent.
That means in 2015 property owners along Devon between Damen and Kedzie avenues — and along Western Avenue between Arthur and Granville avenues — could expect to pay more than double what they pay now.
Zander said that rate could increase to the cap, 1.5 percent, as the city completes the streetscape in five sections.
She said the city informed her each section would cost $22,000 a year to maintain.
The new taxes — and the ongoing streetscape — concerned some business owners along Devon, such as Ted's Fresh Market owner George Ballis.
Ballis said he was "absolutely" weary of new taxes, even though he only leases the space for his store.
"Property owners are always upset when taxes are raised," he said as he stocked freshly butchered meat onto a rack.
But Pete Valavanis, who owns two Devon Avenue buildings and runs Cary's Lounge at 2251 W. Devon Ave., said the new taxes would bolster development and safety in the neighborhood.
"We need to keep this community vital," he said at his bar Tuesday.
Valavanis also acknowledged the concerns of property owners who would have to pay more in taxes each year.
"Maybe on one level it's a gamble," he said. "But it's an investment that goes directly to this neighborhood; it doesn't go anywhere else. This neighborhood needs it."
Zander, of the chamber, said taxpayers would be informed of a final public hearing on the new tax district in October before the City Council votes on whether to approve it.
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