Downtown Libertyville parking plans move to west side
It may be a while before parking relief comes to downtown Libertyville, but village officials are taking steps to ensure funding will be available when it's time to build more spaces.
The village has asked various taxing bodies to amend an agreement regarding a special taxing district in the downtown area that allows money to be set aside for parking improvements. While considered routine, the language change reflects the reality that the east side of Milwaukee Avenue is out of the picture for a new parking deck and allows the village to pursue a structure on the west side.
Efforts to buy or lease land on the east side to accommodate a parking garage have been unsuccessful and the village board has directed staff members to proceed with a deck on the west side, most likely on the site of the Libertyville Civic Center lot.
"That seems to be the one with the cleanest ownership situation and cooperation with neighbors," said Bob Bleck, who heads the village's parking commission. Each of three possibilities on the east side had issues with size or ownership, he said.
Parking has become a concern downtown with the continued opening of new or planned restaurants. In May, Mayor Terry Weppler suggested a moratorium on liquor licenses and land uses that increase the need for parking, but village trustees opted to let the market dictate what happens.
About 600 more restaurant seats have recently opened or are in the works. The size of a new deck has not been determined.
"I don't know we have a magic number," Weppler said. "We're trying to get it done as quickly as possible."
In August, trustees approved downtown zoning changes requiring that parking be provided for a new building or addition, and eliminated an exemption on the first 1,500 square feet. Parking now must also be provided for outdoor dining areas, but the first 500 square feet of floor area devoted to that use are exempt. A provision in the code that allows for changes in land-use intensity without a requirement to provide parking was left intact.
Adding parking has been a village goal for years. Five years ago, a 360-space parking deck at Lake Street and Brainerd Avenue opened and adjoining surface parking was reconfigured and improved.
Money for that project came from the downtown tax increment financing district, established in 1986 to improve the downtown as a whole.
In the district, property values are frozen for taxing purposes but taxes are assessed as the value increases as improvements are made.
That additional amount, known as the increment, is set aside in a special fund.
Libertyville's TIF was to expire in 2009, without meeting the goal of providing parking on both sides of Milwaukee Avenue.
To finish the job, the village in a move that required the approval of the state and all affected taxing districts, extended the TIF for 12 years.
Instead of taking all the increment, the village each year refunds 70 percent to the taxing bodies.
That fund is projected to have a balance of $2.9 million as of April 30, 2015, the end of the village's budget year.
The Lake County Board this week became the most recent party to approve the change. Village Administrator Kevin Bowens said all the taxing districts have or will approve the change.