Eminent domain concerns are raised: Chicago (IL) Tribune, 6/29/06

By Rebecca Little

Des Plaines [IL] residents and business owners expressed concerns about eminent domain this week as city officials discussed the proposed "Five Corners" tax-increment financing district.

More than 200 people turned out for Monday's public hearing, most speaking out against the district that would encompass 90 acres.

Officials proposed the district last year to attract large retailers. The main concern of the residents and business owners was that the city might use eminent domain powers to make way for development.

"I am against potentially forcing a property or business owner to sell their property," said Eugene Cohen, owner of Maine Scrap Metal, 1274 Rand Rd. "Complete the previous TIFs that have been started and fill in those vacant stores first."

Many of the residents who spoke said they felt condemnation was an abuse of government powers.

"It feels threatening to me," said David Abrudean, who owns property in the proposed district.

Gabriella Marquez, who lives in a townhouse in the area, said her home is among the most affordable in the city. "If we had to move, we would not be able to stay in Des Plaines," she said.

City Manager David Niemeyer said before the meeting that forming a TIF does not necessarily mean the city would use eminent domain.

Resident Scott Olsen said that by relocating businesses and offering the property to outside retailers, the "City Council is giving the upper hand and better locations to big-box owners," Olsen said.

Ninety-one residents and business owners have filed with the council to be removed from the proposed district.

Four residents hired an independent consultant to counter the city's claims that the area qualifies for a TIF. Allen Kracower of Kracower and Associates noted that the language in the study was taken directly from a study that the City Council's consultant, Kane McKenna and Associates, also did for Oak Lawn.

"These are two totally different communities," Kracower said. "How can they have the same findings?"

Phil McKenna, president of Kane McKenna and Associates, said municipalities often have the same qualifying reasons for a special taxing district. But Ald. Dick Sayad said it appears as though the firm had a "canned system."

The next public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.

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