Proposed Legislation Would Add Hurdle

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Byline: Ames Boykin Daily Herald Staff Writer

Suburbs will still be able to grab their powerful redevelopment tool, but it will be on a higher shelf - harder to reach.

That's how Northwest suburbs that have relied on tax increment financing districts most often are responding to proposed changes in state eminent domain law.

Under a new set of laws winding through Springfield, the burden would fall on towns to prove an area is blighted if they want to use their condemnation powers. Now, a property owner must prove an area isn't blighted to fend off eminent domain.

Activists who say towns rely too often on their powers are applauding the proposals. But others say the changes could drive away developers because they add hurdles for municipalities.

In Des Plaines, city planners are eyeing nearly 100 acres for redevelopment around the Five Corners area, where industrial buildings abut a mobile home park.

If the changes are approved by state legislators, the area that Des Plaines wants to redevelop as its fifth tax increment financing district would have to follow the new rules.

In Des Plaines, city officials consider condemnation a "last resort" and say they have made no plans to forcibly acquire property.

"It's too soon to tell how the proposed legislation will specifically affect the city's ability to obtain properties via eminent domain, but I assume that it will be more difficult," said Tim Angell, Des Plaines' deputy director of community and economic development.

A court would agree with the assessment that Five Corners is blighted, Angell said. But if the city used eminent domain, Des Plaines would have to pay the property owners for legal fees and relocation costs, putting more burdens on the city, he added.

Would the rules have blocked towns from using their condemnation muscle had the more stringent regulations been in place before?

Arlington Heights has five special tax districts. Looking back on whether the village would have been able to use condemnation the four times under the proposed rules "is really just guesswork," explained Bill Enright, Arlington Heights deputy planning director. …