An auto mechanic with a long history in Forest Park may receive tax money to offset his investment in building a new garage along Harlem Avenue. Rod Nunley, owner of Elite Tire, is almost finished constructing his shop and has approached the village with a request to dip into a municipal account established for the purpose of rehabbing that specific neighborhood.
“By and large, his project does qualify,” Village Administrator Tim Gillian said.
Nunley’s business is located at 7201 Franklin and is within the village’s Brown Street TIF District. Tax increment financing districts are created to siphon a portion of tax revenues that would otherwise go into the general fund. This separate pool of revenue is then used by the municipality to encourage redevelopment within the district. Offsetting a company’s expenses and making infrastructure improvements are among the more common ways TIF money is used.
On Nov. 23, the village council voted unanimously to authorize the potential release of money from the Brown Street fund. Exactly how much Nunley could receive is subject to negotiations. The business owner confirmed his interest in accessing the public subsidy, but said he isn’t sure how much he may be eligible for.
“I know what you can apply for, but what you get might be entirely different,” Nunley said.
The TIF district fund has a balance of about $2 million, said Gillian. The district was created in 2000. According to the 2008 municipal audit, the most recent village audit available online, the balance stood at $2.31 million as of April 30, 2008. It is not the village’s intent to spend down the entirety of the account on any single project, said Gillian. The village council is technically authorized to release amounts as large as $5 million. But that amount, said Gillian, is simply a procedural hurdle that allows the village to make any future payments that may be deemed appropriate.
Nunley declined to say how much money he hopes to receive, or the amount spent on constructing his new garage. According to Gillian, no firm figures have been proposed and the initial request was “discussed in very broad terms.”
That Nunley could be a beneficiary of the municipally-controlled fund may be something of a surprise given the lengthy battle over whether his project should be allowed in the first place. For decades, he operated his business from a building located immediately north of his new facility, but the site was one that he rented. The area is best suited for high-density, multi-story developments, according to Forest Park’s comprehensive plan, which outlines long-term development strategies in the community, and an auto repair shop doesn’t exactly fit that vision.
For months, village officials and Nunley’s former landlord attempted to persuade him to sell the site he had purchased and build his garage elsewhere. Those efforts were unsuccessful, but Nunley designed his shop to be compatible with potential projects in the area. In the meantime, the facility Nunley had rented since 1986 has been leased to Pep Boys, a national chain that offers direct competition to Elite Tire.