Public input scheduled for big plan at routes 21/60 in Vernon Hills

  • Melody Farm will soon occupy the vacant land on the northeast corner of routes 21 and 60 in Vernon Hills.

      Melody Farm will soon occupy the vacant land on the northeast corner of routes 21 and 60 in Vernon Hills. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/19/2016 5:30 AM

The framework to bring a $200 million landscape-changing mix of stores, restaurants and apartments to routes 21 and 60 in Vernon Hills is taking shape, and the public will get a chance to weigh in.

A recently completed report determined the area would qualify as a special taxing district, should the village choose to go that route, as a way to provide $20 million in incentives to a developer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The designation of the vacant 53-acre site as a tax increment financing district is not official, but a redevelopment plan and eligibility study -- key steps in the process -- have been completed.

Regency Centers wants to develop the last of the Cuneo holdings as Mellody Farms, a mix of higher-level businesses currently unavailable in town, and is seeking an incentive. The village's comprehensive plan identifies the property on the northeast corner of the busy intersection as a potential "crown jewel" for the community.

Creating a TIF district is governed by state regulations, and criteria must be met. The report determined the parcel would qualify as a blighted, vacant area that could not be developed without the special designation.

Also as part of the process, a joint review board that includes representatives from the taxing bodies within the area, is scheduled to meet March 9. A public hearing on the proposed area has been set for April 19 before the village board meeting.

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And the village is creating an interested parties register to allow residents and organizations to receive updates and information related to the TIF district, Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said.

The study by Kane, McKenna and Associates Inc. found the district met "a number of different factors" to qualify, such as declining land value, the need for environmental remediation and chronic flooding, he added.

Two-thirds of the property is being farmed, and the other third is wetlands or woods. The report said the most recent value is $263,115. Depending on market conditions, the value could increase to as much as $32 million after 23 years, the typical duration of a TIF district, according to the report. The report also noted there are partially buried 55-gallon drums, construction debris from the Route 22 project and a former household waste landfill on the site.

In a TIF district, property values are frozen for taxing purposes, and taxing bodies receive nothing in new taxes. However, as improvements are made, the added value is taxed and that amount (the increment) is put in a special fund for various projects and expenses, such as land acquisition, utility installation or road improvements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In this case, the proposed TIF district also includes Route 21 for the length of the property and Route 60 on either side of the intersection.

The village also used the TIF designation to prompt development at routes 45 and 21, which now is known as the Vernon Hills Town Center.

Using tax increments, the village has repaid $7 million of the $16 million in costs it incurred from that project, which was hampered by the economic downturn.

@dhmickzawislak

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