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Hearing Set for Tax Hike to Spruce Up Jefferson Park Business District

By Heather Cherone | November 9, 2015 6:05am
 The finance committee will consider the plan to form a Special Service Area at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The finance committee will consider the plan to form a Special Service Area at 10 a.m. Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — City officials are scheduled Thursday to consider a plan to raise taxes in the Jefferson Park Business District by 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.

The Chicago City Council's finance committee, set to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at City Hall, is expected to consider the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce's request to create a Special Service Area along Milwaukee Avenue between Montrose Avenue and the Kennedy Expy., as well as on Lawrence Avenue between Austin Avenue and the expressway.

But the plan will go before the committee without the support of chamber President Lionel Rabb, who withdrew his support for the effort after he concluded it would be inappropriate to force homeowners to foot a portion of the bill for improvements designed to bring new life to the business district.

The proposal is backed by Ald. John Arena (45th), who has said a Special Service Area is a good way to benefit the community, and praised the impact it has had at Six Corners in Portage Park.

Since the money would be controlled by a board of local residents, rather than the City Council, it could be used quickly to make a real impact, Arena said.

A vote by some members of the chamber board to scuttle the plan was declared invalid.

There are five single-family homes within the boundaries of the Special Service Area, whose owners would see their taxes rise by about $300 a year. The owners of the 386 condominiums in the area would pay an additional $200 a year, officials said.

Chamber leaders asked city officials to change the rules and exempt those properties. City officials declined, citing the presence of residential properties in the more than 50 Special Service Areas throughout the city.

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 an extra $560 year.

The tax hike was endorsed by 20 percent of the 703 property owners in the area, as required for approval by the city, chamber officials said.

The proposal includes a tentative annual budget of approximately $220,000 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, officials said.

The initial budget proposes to spend the largest chunk of money — $82,000 — on fixing up public property and improving the area's aesthetics, officials said.

Opponents of the plan, including Rabb, contend it should be dropped after the City Council approved the largest property tax hike in Chicago's history to shore up police and fire pensions.

If approved by the finance committee, the measure could be considered by the full City Council Nov. 18.

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