Pictured is part of the crowd in attendance at Summit ...
October 14, 2013
Despite a unanimous vote from the Summit Hill District 161 Board of Education, a deal between the Village of Tinley Park and Walmart isn't dead, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said.
But it does mean that the site at 191st and Harlem could remain as is for the foreseeable future.
Walmart and Sam's Club officials were looking to build a 323,000 square-foot shopping center on the 72-acre site, but because of wetlands and other restrtictions to the land, Walmart officials asked the village to put together an incentive package worth about $5.4 million to make the investment worth it. The package included a 100 percent property tax abatement for 30 months from both District 161 and 210, according to village documents.
The D161 board voted Wednesday, Oct. 8, not to approve a tax abatement for the superstore that expressed interest in developing land currently owned by Lincoln-Way. The land was purchased as a possible location for Lincoln-Way North High School. With that vote, Tinley Park trustee Dave Seaman said the deal won't move any further.
"If the school district doesn't do this, the property will remain undeveloped for some amount of time," he told board members during a question and answer session at the meeting.
Zabrocki said in a later interview that officials and Walmart will be looking at other possible locations in Tinley.
"We're certainly going to pursue the concept," he said.
At the Wednesday, Oct. 8, D161 meeting seven people spoke opposing the development during the public comment portion of the meeting. District 161 board President Sean William Doyle said the board had also received a number of emails overwhelmingly opposed to a Walmart and Sam's Club at the site.
The major point of disagreement between board members and village officials who were on hand at the meeting to answer questions, was the additional revenue that Walmart would bring. Board members argued that the development would cause property values of nearby homes and businesses to drop, placing a more burden on the taxpayers in Frankfort Square and Mokena.
"I understand your focus is Tinley Park, but my focus is not. My focus is [district] 161," said Rich Marron, board vice president, addressing Seaman and Tinley Director of Economic Development Ivan Baker.
Seaman responded by disagreeing with Marron that property values would decline as a result of the development.
"I believe there will be more business in that area, and it will push the values up, not down," Seaman said. "You're coming out of a recession as well, so that's going to help my argument. [Estimated assessed values] will go up as we recover as an economy."
After more than an hour of discussion and public comments, the board voted unanimously not to approve the incentive package. Board member Richard Ward called for an ammendment to the motion not to approve the package unless the village could provide better supporting evidence. No other members seconded the ammendment, so it died.
Wednesday's vote elicited cheers, back slapping and hand shakes from the crowd of about 100 people who packed the board room to hear the board's decision.
"I'm very, very happy that our school board listened to what the community wanted," said Jennifer Vargus, a parent in the district and resident of Tinley Park who has been outspoken in opposing the proposed development.
The vote means that Lincoln-Way will lose out on $7.2 million, the sale price for the land, as well as the additional revenue that would have been generated by the development, Zabrocki said. According to village documents, the land generates roughly $740 annually in property and sales taxes; the development would have generated more than $1 million in new property and sales tax revenue, with D161 being the largest beneficiary with more than $4.5 million in new revenue through 2025 after accounting for the tax abatement. Lincoln-Way also would have benefited from the development to the tune of $2.5 million through 2025, according to village estimates.
"I'm disappointed from the standpoint that the school board didn't see the economic advantage," Zabrocki said of the D161 vote. "Whether you like Walmart or not, you cannot dismiss the economic impact it can have on taxing districts."
District 210 Superintendent Scott Tingley said he had no reaction to the board's vote or the village's subsequent decision not to purchase the property for the Walmart and that the property is still for sale.
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