East Dundee, a village of 3,000 people bordered by towns as disparate as Barrington Hills, Carpentersville and Hoffman Estates, has done much in recent years to deflect the loss of the original Santa's Village amusement park, car dealerships and, soon, its Walmart.
Among its efforts, it has created six tax increment finance districts to take advantage of tax laws that create enticements for businesspeople to redevelop and ensure a healthy future for the town. A number of deals have been made in recent years -- with auto-related businesses, a grocery store, a frozen custard shop and a high-tech engineering firm. They have received grants in exchange for assurances that they will essentially pay a higher amount in taxes (based on higher property values or larger sales tax receipts) -- and that they'll stay in town for a prescribed number of years -- or face a financial penalty.
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But none of East Dundee's approaches has caused a ruckus like a request from a private supper club for as much as $300,000 in TIF money to do a renovation project.
In a TIF district, property tax assessments are frozen for 23 years. The extra tax revenue generated by the improved property is poured back into infrastructure and other improvements within the district. The process can be used by municipalities to redevelop public spaces (the village of East Dundee is using TIF money for a fire/police station upgrade) or provide commercial or industrial properties grants to make exterior improvements such as facades, roofs, parking lots and landscaping.
Now, though, an East Dundee trustee with Libertarian leanings opposes The Anvil Club -- a 56-year-old private supper club housed in an 1800s blacksmith shop -- getting TIF money for an interior and exterior overhaul. And the Fox Valley Libertarian Party has taken up the mantle with a petition drive to attempt to block it.
There were few, if any, complaints when the village assigned some TIF money for the Van's custard shop to move into an empty restaurant space across from the Dairy Queen. There was great celebration when the village board forged an agreement to bring a precision measuring company to an old building at that same intersection. Why the negative reaction this time?
The philosophy behind a TIF district is that a rising tide lifts all boats, so it should follow that if the Anvil Club gets a grant, it will both ultimately produce more property taxes to benefit the village and provide a more attractive environment for other businesses to move to town or upgrade.
As for the Anvil Club's specific project, we reserve comment for the time being. Because the club won't answer questions, we don't know much about its scope or specific prospects, and the issue facing East Dundee isn't the quality of the project but whether it should get TIF money. But we expect that the club's construction plan for TIF money will stick to exterior work -- which is the crux of the law.
We also hope that if the village board approves the project, club members -- many of whom live outside of town -- don't just drive there for dinner and go home but rather linger in town and sample what the rest of East Dundee has to offer. They would owe the village that much, and that would go a long way toward proving the club's detractors wrong.