Prospect Heights approves 69 townhouse units near Muir Park
A controversial proposal by Lexington Homes for 69 townhouses north of Muir Park in Prospect Heights narrowly got the green light earlier this week with a 3-2 vote.
Council members Michelle Cameron and Kathleen Quinn voted against the development on the site of the former Jolly Fun House Academy at 1001 Oak Ave.
The proposal had met with resistance from neighbors as details became public during 2020, but no residents spoke during Monday's meeting before approval was granted.
Nevertheless, Quinn on Friday explained that her vote had been at least partly an acknowledgment of those neighbors' feelings.
"I felt it would be a slap in the face to them to vote for something they didn't want," Quinn said.
She added that she also disliked the use of a tax-increment financing district for a development that wouldn't generate tax revenue.
Cameron shared Quinn's feelings about the TIF district and said she also understood neighbors' dislike for the project itself and its density.
"It's not a development that needs to go in that kind of area," Cameron said. "That's way too much for that little area."
The development plan also involves an approved land swap with the Prospect Heights Park District that would lead to upgrades at Muir Park.
Cameron and Quinn also cast dissenting votes on the otherwise approved intergovernmental agreements for Lexington Homes to pay impact fees to the park district and Prospect Heights Fire Protection District.
Under the agreements, Lexington Homes will pay the park district $13,000 per unit for a total of $897,000, and the fire district $1,522 per unit for a total of $105,018.
The impact fees acknowledge not only the delay in collecting the first property taxes from the new residents but also that the TIF district approved for the project will affect the amount local governments receive for up to 23 years.
A TIF district freezes the amount of property taxes local governments receive at the level of the first year. As property is improved and values go up, the increased tax revenues go to a municipally held fund to pay for public improvements related to the development area.
The use of TIF districts is debated even when they're intended to lure major commercial development. But that debate grows stronger when they're used for residential development, which often increases the demand for services on local governments.
Prospect Heights officials and their consultants have cited two mitigating factors with the Lexington Homes project. Not only would school and library districts get a share of annual TIF funds as new residents move in, they said, but the Jolly Fun House Academy site previously generated no property taxes at all.
Prospect Heights Building and Development Director Dan Peterson said Lexington Homes anticipates the project could be built over 3½ years.