Though several steps must follow, a preliminary report shows a key vacant property in Vernon Hills would be eligible to be designated by the village as a special taxing district.
Financial consultant Kane McKenna & Associates has determined the northeast corner of routes 21 and 60 would fit the criteria for a tax increment financing district, which is considered an essential element in a proposed $200 million retail/residential project at the site.
The 55-acre parcel is among the last large pieces of developable land in the village, but only 33 acres are usable and it has been on the market for years because of a price estimated at $30.5 million, according to ongoing discussions. The developer, Regency Centers of Oak Brook, is seeking a village incentive that could amount to $25 million.
"From what Regency has told us, the project doesn't really work unless" the property is determined to be eligible for the special designation, Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said. He'll update the village board at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. today.
The designation, which eventually would require board approval, involves a detailed process that would include input from the public and affected taxing bodies. In a tax increment financing district, property values are frozen for taxing purposes but are assessed a value as development proceeds. The difference in value between the original and improved land, known as the increment, is put in a special fund and used to pay for a variety of costs.
"It's a very affirmative step," Matt Hendy, vice president of investments for the Oak Brook-based firm, said of the preliminary finding.
Village officials in November approved a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Regency that prompted the company to proceed with detailed work on various aspects of the project, known as Mellody Farm.
"We're excited. On our side, we've got a lot of things going on," Hendy said. "The deal continues to progress."
For example, engineering is underway to create documents for village review early next month to be followed by public hearing before the village's planning and zoning commission.
The company also has erected signs on the site and this past weekend launched www.mellodyfarm.com to provide information about the plan for close to 260,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, anchored by a leading organic grocer.
"We're very keen in understanding what the community wants in terms of tenants," Hendy said. None have been announced.
Regency also needs Lake County approval to change a restriction on the land that does not allow residential uses.