Barrington Unit School District 220 proved the only dissenter Wednesday among the taxing bodies that will be affected by proposed economic incentives for the massive redevelopment of the former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates.
The local governments voted 6-1 to support a tax increment financing district covering the 150-acre onetime corporate campus, which a New Jersey-based developer wants to replace with new homes, offices, retail space and restaurants.
The District 220 representatives who cast the only "no" vote at a joint review board meeting Wednesday emphasized that their concerns about the residential portion of the development could be resolved before the Hoffman Estates village board votes on the creation of a TIF district on or after Jan. 21.
"We just didn't believe we had enough information yet to feel comfortable enough for a yes vote," District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said.
The removal of the residential component from the proposed TIF district was a huge relief to the district, he said.
"Our (school) board is not opposed to redeveloping this property at all," Harris said. "We have no concerns about the TIF, just to make it clear."
A TIF district works by freezing the amount of property taxes local governments receive at the current level. Additional taxes generated as property values rise go to a fund earmarked for the redevelopment. A TIF district expires after 23 years or when all improvements have been paid for, whichever comes first.
Somerset Development has said redevelopment of the 1.6 million square feet of office space on the site is unlikely without a TIF district. But company President Ralph Zucker said the anticipated $115.75 million redevelopment project can be done with the residential component excluded from the TIF.
"It works," Zucker said. "If it didn't work, we would have had to have more conversation."
Somerset's plan calls for the redevelopment of the former AT&T buildings into 1.2 million square feet of offices, 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 80,000 square feet of conference space. The residential component would include 375 apartments and 175 townhouses.
Harris said school board members need to know that the cost of educating the students from those homes won't exceed the additional tax revenue District 220 would receive.
If the final details of the project design, the TIF district and Somerset's purchase of the property are all approved this winter, construction could begin as early as May, village officials say.
Besides Hoffman Estates and District 220, other members of the joint review board included representatives of the Hoffman Estates Park District, Barrington Township, the Barrington Area Library and Cook County, as well as Hoffman Estates Village Clerk Bev Romanoff serving as the citizen representative. Harper College did not send a representative.
If a majority of the joint review board had voted against recommending the TIF district, it would only have forced a supermajority vote for the village board to approve the TIF district.