A wholesale meat distributor looking to expand its Industrial Drive facility will be allowed to do so without paying almost $500,000 in municipal fees. Village council members voted unanimously Monday to approve Weinstein Meats’ plans, and agreed to waive the fee that would have been used to repave the roadway. However, commissioners all but promised business owners on Industrial Drive that the village will be taking up a collection for the street repairs.
“The businesses down there should step up, especially in lieu of the fact that the village doesn’t have the money,” Commissioner Michael Curry said.
Industrial Drive, a dead-end road on the south side of town off Desplaines Avenue, has not been resurfaced since it was originally constructed some 30 or 40 years ago. Both the business owners and public officials agree that improvements are sorely needed. The question is who should pay.
Scott Weinstein, owner of the meat distribution company, is building a 21,000-square foot addition and adding new parking to his business at 7501 Industrial Drive. Forest Park required him to re-subdivide his property for the project, a process triggering $427,300 in public improvement fees. That figure was determined based on the amount of land that fronts along Industrial Drive. The entire cost of rebuilding the road, including water and sewer improvements, is roughly $4 million.
“It makes the whole project unfeasible,” Weinstein said of the proposed fee. “Second, it’s a public street. The city should pay for the work on a public street.”
In waiving the fee for Weinstein Meats, council members said the amount seemed excessive.
In a memo to council members, Village Administrator Mike Sturino detailed two mechanisms that could be used to collect additional revenues from the businesses along Industrial Drive. Under state law, Forest Park could charge each business a fee using a formula that determines the respective benefit of the project to each company. Another method would see that fee determined using each company’s assessed property tax value.
Chris Wessels was one of a handful of Industrial Drive entrepreneurs who attended the meeting. Some two years ago Wessels and others on the street unanimously rejected the imposition of any additional fees, and argued Monday that their property taxes should be enough.
“This is a public street and always has been a public street,” Wessels said. “Just because it’s a cul-de-sac and a dead end … doesn’t make it our responsibility.”
Heavy truck traffic along Industrial Drive should have been expected by the village, said Wessels, and local government has failed to plan for regular maintenance.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said it is unlikely the village has ever been able to fund such a massive road project without looking for outside funding. Grants, state money or additional taxes have always been necessary, regardless of which road is being rebuilt, he said.
Commissioner Mark Hosty said after the vote that residents continue to chip in additional money for streets and alleys through a .5 percent increase in the local sales tax for the Village Improvement Fund. Targeting business owners on Industrial Drive for additional money, said Hosty, is no more unfair.
“Bottom line is, where do you get the money,” Hosty said.