More than 30 suburban mayors, law firm representatives, real estate brokers and economic development professionals implored Cook County Commissions not to change a popular long-standing property tax incentive program because they say doing so would kill the best tool collar communities have to attract new jobs.
County Commissioners are considering imposing new restrictions on the Class 6, 7a, 7b 8, L (Landmark) & C (environmental remediation) Property Tax Incentive program that will require property owners and tenants to hire only construction workers that earn an Illinois "Prevailing Wage" which in many cases is even higher than "union scale." Business leaders say the mandate would add so much cost to a redevelopment project that investors and employers will take their money to Lake, DuPage or Will Counties, or Wisconsin or Indiana where no such requirements exist.
"Promoting economic development is an appropriate objective and necessary task for the County," said John Nyhan, a partner in the law firm O'Keefe Lyons & Hynes who has played an active role in mobilizing real estate professionals and trade associations. "We believe, however, that the proposed amendment will in fact impede such activity due to the added costs and administrative burdens it imposes on those seeking assistance through the County Incentive Programs."
John Coleman, an experienced commercial real estate veteran and Vice President of the Association of Industrial Real Estate Brokers (AIRE), last week told commissioners, "The incentive program does exactly what you want it to do -- grow the tax base by stimulating investment in local communities. It doesn't make sense to change a program in a way that has no chance of making it better."
Coleman said AIRE opposes the measure, as does the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, because it will force investment and jobs from Cook County. Broker members from AIRE and SIOR direct nearly 90 percent of all industrial transactions in Cook County and the greater Chicago Metro Area, and Coleman said his property owner and occupier clients and joining in the fight.
While the March 1 meeting provided the opportunity for live testimony by real estate professionals before the Cook County Finance Committee, Nyhan noted that a decision on the proposal may not be made until March 13 or 14. Given that timing, and the importance of the matter to the real estate community, Nyhan urged commercial real estate brokers, owners and economic development officials with interests in Cook County to continue efforts to make their feelings known to Cook County Commissioners.
In emails distributed to both AIRE and SIOR, the associations are urging members to continue to make their opinions known in writing.
"Our hope is that with a concentrated and coordinated effort that includes mayors, managers and their development staff as well as property owners, brokers, occupiers, attorneys and others closely linked to the industry the Cook County Board will not approve this proposal," Nyhan said. "Our collective efforts can make a difference."