Riverside board not contemplating eminent domain resolution: Riverside/Brookfield Landmark, Oak Park IL, 12/09/06

No TIF referendum seen for now

By Bob Uphues

Riverside is unlikely to add language to its proposal for a downtown tax increment financing (TIF) district that would eliminate the possibility of eminent domain as a way of acquiring property. In addition, it appears that the village board will not seek a village-wide referendum on the TIF issue, despite a request to do so.

Village President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr., while reiterating his opposition to the use of eminent domain for acquiring property, said he was reluctant to take that option away from a future village Board of Trustees.

"I think the marketplace will drive the needs of Riverside and I can't see anything [that would require the use of eminent domain]," Wiaduck said. "But maybe a future board will see a need for it."

Wiaduck's response to the eminent domain issue came as a result of a question at Monday night's village board meeting from Riverside resident Catherine Love. Love asked Wiaduck if the board had considered passing a resolution "to foreswear the use of eminent domain for the TIF district."

Wiaduck was the only member of the village board to respond to Love's request. Resident Mike Jebb later suggested that such a resolution be passed by the village board, even if it were only a symbolic move. Any resolution, he said, could be overturned by a future board. Passing such a resolution, Jebb said, would give residents who live within the proposed TIF boundaries "a way emotionally to feel what you're saying is what you're doing."

"All you're saying is that you're putting in writing that this is our intent," Jebb said. "It's almost meaningless, but at least you're putting down in words what you're saying."

With respect to a possible advisory referendum on the establishment of a TIF for downtown Riverside, Wiaduck said such a decision could be made in the future, although there was no consensus on the village board for such a move now.

In the past week, TIF opponents in the village have begun a push to get signatures on a petition asking village officials to put the TIF to a vote. A copy of the petition has been posted on the www.riversideinfo.org Web site, which has been set up by anti-TIF residents.

Resident Mark Shevitz asked Wiaduck why, if he believed a majority of residents supported a TIF, he wouldn't put the matter to a vote.

"I guess that might be a thing to talk about, but I'm certainly not going to commit to that tonight," Wiaduck said. "If the issue becomes significant enough, it might be a decision we have to make."

But Trustee Kevin Smith was adamant in his opposition to a TIF vote.

"Do you elect people to lead or to follow?" asked Smith. "What kind of trustee would you be if you needed a referendum to solve every issue. It'd be fine if you could guarantee 100-percent turnout, but the way elections work is that you don't get 100 percent or even 50 percent. So you're not much better off than you are in the first place."

Shevitz argued that the TIF was not just another issue.

"We're talking about a $20 million project over 23 years that's going to affect every taxpayer in the village," Shevitz said. "You're also elected to listen."

Wiaduck did clarify at Monday night's meeting that the board would not be making any decision regarding the establishment of a TIF at its Jan. 8 Committee of the Whole meeting. While the trustees will use that session to discuss the issue and perhaps map out a plan for involving and educating the public and winning the public opinion battle, there would be no action taken at that time.

Riverside/Brookfield Landmark, Oak Park IL: http://www.rblandmark.com