How Hoffman Estates might jump-start stalled development

Intent on making vacant land west of The Arboretum of South Barrington shopping center viable for development, Hoffman Estates officials may create a tax increment financing district to pay for sewer and water utilities on the site.

The land in question is a 24-acre parcel and a 16-acre parcel at the northeast and northwest corners of Higgins and Old Sutton roads. Along with adjacent right of way, a total of 64 acres would be included.

Among the possible developments would be a gas station and convenience store along Old Sutton, 100,000 square feet of self storage along the CN Railroad tracks and a 150,000-square-foot retail center.

Under those assumptions, a TIF district would generate an estimated $20.7 million over 23 years.

The property is just part of the 185-acre Plum Farms commercial and residential development, which has been stalled for the past two years. The new plan for a village-initiated TIF district would focus exclusively on commercial development.

“This is absolutely the village's TIF,” Village Manager Jim Norris said. “It's not at the request of any developer.”

The development partnership behind Plum Farms dropped its request for a TIF district amid controversy over its plans for dense residential development, a proposal that drew objections from school officials and others.

A TIF district works by freezing the amount of property taxes local governments receive at the level of the district's first year. As taxes gradually rise, the increases go to a special fund to pay for public improvements within the district.

With Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod and Trustee Anna Newell adamantly opposed to a TIF district including the residential portion of Plum Farms, the request for one was dropped.

Nevertheless, the density alone of Plum Farms sparked a lawsuit by residents of the Regency at the Woods of South Barrington subdivision, an age-restricted community across Sutton Road.

The original lawsuit has been settled, according to the residents' attorney, but the concerns of Barrington Unit District 220 — which intervened on the side of the residents — have not. Superintendent Brian Harris said the district's fears are centered on the expected impact on schools of proposed new homes in the development.

Dense residential development can cause concern for local governments — especially school districts — if they believe cost of providing services to people moving in will exceed the additional tax revenue. This is even more pronounced in the rare instance of a TIF district for residential development, when the increased tax money doesn't arrive for up to 23 years.

The Plum Farms annexation agreement allowed for 1,250 homes of various types across the site, though the most recent version of the developer's plan calls for only 1,035 units.

The two corners at which Hoffman Estates is studying the eligibility for a TIF district are in Community Unit District 300 and don't involve District 220.

In the case of the newly proposed TIF district, Director of Development Services Mark Koplin told village board members they can choose to exclude residential development.

Consultants from SB Friedman Development Advisors in Chicago already have found the site eligible for a TIF district due to its being blighted, vacant land prone to flooding. Last week, the village board approved a contract with SB Friedman for $13,820 to take the eligibility study to the next step, including scheduling a joint review board meeting that would include representation by all the affected local governments.

A joint review board can't prohibit a TIF district, but its negative vote would require a supermajority vote by the village board to approve one.

Owners of the land did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Development plan has Dist. 220 looking at options

District 220 intends to join lawsuit against Hoffman Estates

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