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Hickory-Kensington TIF Approved While Relocation Issues and Eminent Domain Possibilities Worry Business Owners

Tue July 08 2014 11:21 am  http://www.arlingtoncardinal.com/?p=70385
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The Arlington Heights village board Monday night unanimously approved a new TIF (tax increment financing) district for the Hickory-Kensington just east of Recreation Park and just north of Mariano’s Fresh Market. The decision was unanimous, but still difficult for all board members to consider because the TIF doesn’t assure businesses that they will be relocated successfully in Arlington Heights, and because of the tribulation associated with the proposed changes to owners and employees of the businesses. Particularly troubling is that Heller Lumber, built in 1922, has had no intention of moving, but is being put on notice that it’s Hickory-Kensington neighborhood is being changed from commercial to mostly residential “for the good of the community.” If all goes as planned, the properties that hold 24 businesses with older industrial buildings will become a land of mostly residential units in three-story and five-story buildings mixed with retail/commercial first floor space. And at least from the village board’s perspective, Heller Lumber will have a new home located elsewhere in Arlington Heights.

Speaking at the podium before board members, several businesses owners and residents asked for a “no vote” for the TIF. Peter Calandra, owner of Montclare Scientific Glass, of 25 North Hickory, said even though the area is supposedly in decline, he was astonished at the price that was recently involved in sales of buildings to the north and to the south of his building. With the TIF, Calandra said, “somebody else is dealing the cards, and I can’t see them.” He opposes the TIF because of the lack of a more detailed forecast of the future outlook for the TIF district.

Bob Heller expressed his concern over what he perceives as mixed signals from the Village of Arlington Heights about whether Heller Lumber could continue operations indefinitely. Heller said he has been supportive of the re-development plan because of assurances from village staff and elected officials that Heller Lumber could continue its operations for decades. Heller said that at a June 11 meeting of the redevelopment commission, Bill Enright replied “absolutely” when he was asked if Heller Lumber could continue operations indefinitely. As time passed Heller became wary about the assurances because the TIF opens the possibility of eminent domain. Heller said he is uncomfortable with giving the Village of Arlington Heights the right of eminent domain, which it would acquire in the TIF. He said he trusts the assurances of current officials, but worries about changes that could occur with future board members that might not honor current assurances. Heller’s business-political sense is valid because later Monday night, Director of Planning and Community Development Charles Witherington-Perkins was asked by Trustee Michael Sidor, “which properties in this TIF area are most critical to the success of the TIF district?” Witherington-Perkins replied that the block where Heller Lumber is located and where Dana Molded Products was located is the most critical. The Director of Planning and Community Development answered, “that block is the one that’s ripe for re-development.”

Bob Arnold spoke in support of Bob Heller’s opinion and cited a New London, Conn. TIF where homeowners were displaced for a Pfizer project that never developed. Arnold explained that the properties were condemned in 2000, that the Supreme Court decision the use of eminent domain for a TIF district was upheld in 2005, and that the property in 2014 is an empty dump. Bob Arnold wants the market conditions to dictate the re-development of the Hickory-Kensington area.

A board member from the Arlington Commons condominium association supported a “yes vote” for the TIF, which he believes will jump start new development in the area and will hopefully improve the apartments north of Arlington Crossings, which he called a “slum.”

Daniel Hidding, owner of Dana Molded Products, Inc., moved his company from the property just south of Heller Lumber to a TIF district in Carpentersville. He spoke last at the podium in support of the TIF district, where he still owns the property where Dana Molded Products was located.

Eight people spoke before the board under the three-minute each time limit. Six were opposed to the TIF, and two were in favor the TIF district (TIF Redevelopment Plan – PC14-010).

More than 30 residents and business owners attended the meeting. No residents spoke at the podium with any concerns about traffic or congestion that may be caused by the large increase in residential units proposed for the area.

Each village board member contributed their opinion of the TIF district plan, with many downplaying the possibility of eminent domain and expressing hope that eminent domain would not be necessary. Several board members expressed hope that Heller Lumber would be relocated inside Arlington Heights. Trustee Carol Blackwood asked if any other locations have already been considered for relocation — specifically noting Heller Lumber with 91 years in the community. Charles Witherington-Perkins answered that a site for Heller Lumber has been identified near the railroad, but he admitted that limited information has been given to Heller Lumber to this point. Witherington-Perkins added that Heller Lumber generates some good sales tax for the village, “and we want to keep that here.”

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