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Plan to Raise Property Taxes to Spruce Up Jefferson Park Moves Forward

 Jefferson Park Business District
Jefferson Park Business District
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — Taxes on commercial properties in the Jefferson Park Business District would rise an average of $1,100 a year to fund an effort to fill empty storefronts and spruce up the commercial district along Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues.

A survey conducted in March by the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce found "overwhelming" support for a special service area in the Jefferson Park Business District, said chamber executive director Amie Zander. In a special service area, owners of buildings within the area pay an extra property tax to fund improvements in the area.

"We got a good response," Zander said. "Jeff Parkers are really involved and interested, which is great."

The survey confirmed what business owners have been complaining about for years, Zander said.

"They are displeased with the variety of shops and say there is no real sense of place in Jefferson Park," Zander said.

Heather Cherone says like any new tax, this one might face opposition:

The steering committee that has been working to establish the special service area has set a tentative annual budget of $200,000 to fund efforts to attract new businesses by hiring real estate brokers to market the empty storefronts as well as to push Jefferson Park as a great neighborhood to open a business, Zander said.

In addition, the fund could be used to spruce up the business district and make it more welcoming to shoppers, Zander said.

Two meetings will take place at 6:30 p.m. May 14 and May 21 at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., to gauge the community's response to the tax hike, which must be endorsed by 20 percent of the 703 property owners in the area, Zander said.

The owner of an average commercial property in the business district would see the tax bill rise $1,118 a year if the plan is implemented. The owner of an average mixed-use property — with both residential and business tenants — would pay about $560 year while the owner of an average residential property would pay $170 a year, Zander said.

Taxes could rise annually based on a vote by the special service area's commission, made up of members named by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The initial proposal calls for Jefferson Park businesses to pay 0.45 percent of the equalized assessed valuation of their property by Cook County officials to the special service area, Zander said. The tax rate would be capped at 0.75 percent of property's value during the 10-year term of the plan, Zander said.

"We want to be totally transparent," Zander said.

Properties owned by the city and nonprofit organizations are exempt from the tax.

The proposed Jefferson Park Special Service Area is based on the successful effort in the Six Corners Shopping District, which helped attract more than two-dozen new businesses and begin to reverse decades of decline, Zander said.

Six Corners property owners pay a similar amount in taxes to fund that area's special services, Zander said.

"It has worked so wonderfully there," Zander said. "We're trying to replicate what they did."

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