The little village of Green Oaks is considering creating a corridor along Route 176 for a special financing district to spark redevelopment and attract business.
Mayor Bernard Wysocki said the village wants to "step up our game" by providing a mechanism that could help fund improvements in the area known as Rondout, which was annexed into Green Oaks in 1996. The area primarily is composed of older industrial sites and some commercial businesses, but it may best be known for a train heist in 1924 that netted an estimated $3 million in cash, bonds and jewelry.
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Beyond that historic footnote, the area for years has been plagued by drainage and other issues that have hindered investment, officials say.
"I think you'd consider it a blighted area. We always hoped to redevelop that area," Wysocki said.
Most of the area needing improvement is east of the Tri-State Tollway, said village Trustee Dennis Dorsey, chairman of the board's planning, annexation and zoning committee.
"We have drainage problems, we have flooding problems," Dorsey said. "We like to consider ourselves very business-friendly and would like to help in any way we can."
The answer for the village of about 3,900 residents could be establishing a tax increment financing district, a mechanism used in several communities, including Libertyville and Vernon Hills, to attract investment.
Village planner Rolf C. Campbell & Associates Inc. is gathering property ownership and other information to determine the feasibility of establishing a TIF district for about 300 acres to include the former Jamaican Gardens nursery, east to the village limit at Bayonne Avenue.
"The village has a very minimal sales tax and no municipal property tax to deal with the deteriorating infrastructure in Rondout," Wysocki said. "We looked at various ways of funding those improvements."
In a TIF district, property values are frozen for tax purposes to local taxing bodies. As property values increase when improvements are made, the owners pay tax on the higher value. But the difference, known as the increment, is put in a special fund used by the village to pay for items such as road or drainage upgrades.
The potential TIF area includes the long-dormant northeast corner of Route 176 and the tollway, which three years ago was proposed for a cinema complex with up to 15 screens. That project didn't materialize, and village officials say they want to be ready for the next proposal that surfaces.
"This is a long-term program for the village. This area can't change overnight. We're hoping we can gain some revenue over time," Dorsey said of the potential financing district.
Wysocki said the intent is for a "pay-as-you-go plan" that would not put village funds in jeopardy if a proposal doesn't work out.
The village board soon is expected to consider a plan by Denver-based Spectrum Retirement Communities LLC for the 15-acre Jamaican Gardens. The village's plan commission on Wednesday recommended approval of the idea for a 212-unit development in one main building and six duplex buildings.
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E.M. "Al" Maiden of Rolf C. Campbell said the village's comprehensive plan envisions no commercial uses west of the tollway.
"This fits in with that," he said of the Spectrum proposal. Jamaican Gardens closed in 2010.