Proponents of the park district’s proposal to raise taxes and purchase a 2.5-acre parcel of blight that sits next door to the gorgeous park district campus don’t have much time to convince voters. The referendum authorizing this bold but logical move will appear on the Feb. 2 ballot – less than three months from now.
Factor in the lousy economy, the recent property tax bills and voters’ rejection in April of a scant $1 a month tax to improve the 911 system and it appears the odds of getting this approved are long. No one enjoys paying more in taxes, and that goes for boom times as well. But what we hope voters keep in mind as they consider this plan is that, despite all those things we just rattled off, there may not ever be a more opportune time for the park district to grow.
This is the moment.
The Roos property, at the corner of Harrison and Circle, was supposed to have been redeveloped into a massive and dense residential community by this time. Instead, the housing market tanked and the property is in foreclosure. At the same time, the bank holding the property, Amcore, is getting squeezed by federal regulators to unload some of its liabilities and grab some cash. From a buyer’s standpoint, the situation doesn’t get much better.
The park district isn’t yet sure what the selling price might end up being, but voters are being asked to support the idea of spending $6 million to purchase and renovate the site. From a taxpayer’s standpoint, this amounts to an extra 12 cents in property taxes for every $100 of assessed value, according to the park. Built into that figure is money to cover maintenance and operating costs once the property is rehabbed.
Preliminary drawings on how the parcel could be used show an attractive addition to the community. These specific plans, however, are less important. This property is going to be developed someday. Today’s the day we decide whether that development serves a public or private interest.