Barrington 220 considering options in face of Hoffman Estates development

The Barrington Area Unit School District 220 school board is considering changing their attendance boundaries in response to the proposed 184-acre residential development at the northwest corner of routes 59 and 72 in Hoffman Estates, which could significantly increase the number of children in the school district.

The current boundaries would call for the children living in the development to attend Countryside Elementary School. Board President Brian Battle said the board will entertain the idea of changing that portion of their map to "undesignated" or "TBD."

Battle said such an action would acknowledge that Countryside Elementary would not be able to support the large increase in student population the sizable development could bring to the district.

"You could have 400 or 500 elementary kids coming in," Battle said at a board meeting last week. "That's a full elementary building. So we would have to figure out where they go, or if we have to build another elementary campus."

There is a wide disparity between the developer's and school districts' estimates over how many students might live on the property. At a meeting of governmental stakeholders Tuesday, Anthony Iatarola, manager of the development partnership, said 575 students are the maximum projected to live in the property's planned 1,035 housing units at any one time. But District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said his district is estimating the development could add 1,300 to 1,800 students to its two school districts, Barrington and Community Unit District 300.

Part of the reason for such disagreement is the plan for the development, Plum Farms, has not been finalized and released to the public.

Although it is continuing to move through the review process, the plan is not a slam dunk. The developer, 5a7 LLC, is seeking creation of a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, as a mechanism to provide about $21 million in property tax reimbursements over 23 years to overcome the financial challenges of making the site construction ready. Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said he's been consistently voting against moving the TIF process forward because he's philosophically opposed to TIF districts for residential developments.

Village Trustee Gary Pilafas said he's been voting in favor of the process in hopes that a development beneficial to all affected parties might result. But he added that his support for the project would drop if it were found not to be in everyone's best interest.

Other governmental stakeholders who are being included in the TIF review process include Districts 220 and 300, Harper College, Elgin Community College, the Hoffman Estates Park District, the Barrington Hills Park District, the Barrington Area Public Library and Cook County.

Battle said the district respects that it is the right of Hoffman Estates to approve development within its boundaries as village officials see fit, but added that school officials want to make sure village officials understand the significant affect the development would have on the school district's taxpayers and work with them to mitigate that impact as much as possible.

In order to get a better sense of the impact the development would have if approved, officials from Districts 220 and 300 are planning to hold a closed-door meeting with officials from Hoffman Estates and the developer in advance of another public meeting of governmental stakeholders in the proposed TIF district that is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7.

• Daily Herald staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this report.

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