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Tinley Park officials weigh in on Cook County beverage tax

The Cook County Board of Commissioners sought input from the Village of Tinley Park on the recent enactment of the sweetened beverage tax.

The controversial measure – which was discussed by the Board of Trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting held Aug. 8 – puts a penny-per-ounce tax on beverages like soda, flavored water and sports drinks.

That Wednesday evening, trustees came to a consensus to draft a resolution opposing the tax, as they saw it to significantly affect a large portion of Tinley Park’s retailers and customers. The sweetened beverage tax was also met with opposition in the courts, but the ruling upheld and went into effect Wednesday, Aug. 2. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association continues to pursue further appeals.

As with any tax, the Village must weigh the costs of implementing a measure like this one and the effect on Cook and Will counties’ taxpayers.

“One of the challenges we always have whenever we have a tax in one county is that it kind of sets up two playing fields: one for the businesses in Cook County and another one for Will County,” Niemeyer said.

Village Attorney Patrick Connelly made it clear that unlike the way officials voiced concerns on Cook’s minimum wage increase earlier this year, they do not have the authority to opt out of this tax.

“Simple answer is it’s taxation,” Connelly said. “It’s different. No town — not only Tinley — no town, no municipality has the authority to opt out of county taxes.”

TIF options discussed

At the same meeting, Tinley Park officials considered to improve its downtown area by establishing a new Main Street South TIF District.

The recommendation of this particular TIF is meant to capture the increment over a period of 23 years and pay for redevelopment incentives, as well as provide funding for other public improvements.

“The unfortunate thing is that we lost time, and that is the whole basis of how the TIF is created,” said Paula Wallrich, interim community development director.

Wallrich explained that “lost time” refers to the recession, and at this point, “all we’re trying to do is sort of step back in and take those steps and make some great plans, like everybody did 10-15 years ago [when the downtown TIF was first created].”

Representatives from the Boulevard at Central Station, an apartment complex projected near the Oak Park Avenue Metra station, had approached the Village for incentives regarding their development.

At that point, Tinley Park officials reviewed the request and determined that time limits the Village’s ability to recuperate the costs.

The Main Street South TIF is to expire in nine years. Ehlers & Associates recently presented the Village with a proposal to perform the work needed to establish a new TIF.

Several people at the meeting spoke in support of the measure, including Boulevard developer Dan McMillan.

“We’ve been working on this for about 10 years,” he said. “We brought it together, and where we’ve come up short a number of times trying to obtain financing is where we were trying to put a TIF together with the financing package.

“We haven’t been able to do it. We now have a bank that’s working with us, but it’s essential that we have a TIF put into place in order to help revitalize or in order to make the cash flow where we can get the financing.”

Trustee Michael Pannitto said he is not convinced that creating a new TIF is the best solution and would like the Village to “think outside the box.”

Ehlers & Associates’ contract and a reimbursement ordinance was reviewed by the Village’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, Aug. 14, and placed on board agenda to be discussed on Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Other matters of business

To support the Village’s effort in attracting more and retaining full-time employees, officials discussed the prospect of eliminating the residency requirement and instituting a 30-mile radius as a new rule.

The measure would require staff members to adhere to the municipal code within 12 months of their employment date. Those exempt from the rule include the police chief, fire chief and village manager.

In a 5-1 vote, Tinley Park officials decided to place the matter on the agenda for the Aug. 15 village board meeting. Trustee Michael Glotz was the lone dissenting vote.

Also addressed at the meeting, the Board of Trustees looked to review the Village’s rules on chickens as pets. The ordinance currently stipulates that poultry must be kept 100 feet from schools, churches and residences.

In 2016, the Village was approached by local group Hens for Tinley Park, who expressed interest in seeing the code relaxed to encourage the ownership of chickens as pets. During public comment, a number of supporters offered suggestions on how to govern households in which the code applies and shared the benefits of caring for chickens.

The matter is to be reviewed again by the board members at a later date

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