Oak Forest has no plans for eminent domain: Oak Forest IL Star, 7/15/07

By Michael Drakulich

Oak Forest's attempt to extend a tax increment financing district to make way for new development cleared another hurdle last week.

At the same time, though, city officials found themselves having to assure residents living within the district near 159th Street and Central Avenue that any planned development would not force them out of their homes.

The city held a public hearing on the district's TIF extension before last week's city council meeting. Such a hearing is a legal requirement for creating such a district or amending its conditions, giving residents a chance to voice their concerns.

Residents living on Carol Belle Trail, which lies within the district, wanted to know how they would be affected.

Kim Oboikovitz asked specifically whether the city would possibly use eminent domain powers to force residents out and bring new development in.

City officials said there were no plans to move residents. The city is targeting development for the vacant land now used for Oak Fest, and perhaps part of the church property, Mayor JoAnn Kelly said.

The city wants to extend the life of the district for 12 years, but there was some debate among officials as to when the current TIF district expires.

Some said the current TIF had four years remaining on it, but city administrator Steve Jones said he believes it expires in 2009.

The district lies near 159th Street and Central Avenue. It is occupied by Food 4 Less, Midlothian-Oak Forest United Methodist Church, the Oak Fest site and a residential subdivision.

The city is seeking an extension to attract potential developers to the site. Officials have said without it, finding a developer for the site would be much more difficult.

The revenue generated from the TIF district could be used for continued infrastructure improvements.

Jones said there are two steps left before the extension can go into effect.

First, Gov. Rod Blagojevich must approve the extension. Then the city will have to approve a series of resolutions, officially adopting the extension and a revised redevelopment plan.

Jones said among those resolutions is declaring a surplus for local taxing bodies.

He said tax revenue generated by developments built since 1986, such as the homes on Carol Belle Trail and a portion of Oak Forest Commons, would be declared a surplus in the TIF fund.

Those surplus funds would then be distributed to local taxing bodies, such as Bremen High School District 228 and Arbor Park School District 145, among others.

Jones said he expects the matter to come before the city council no earlier than next month.

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