Editor’s Note: The following editorial was written and submitted by Frederick E. Smith, a resident of the East Bluff. The views expressed by guest contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor.
The East Bluff of Peoria is in trouble. Almost 62% of the homes are rental properties, crime is up every year for the last two years (according to a study by the Glen Oak Impact Zone committee), and now that the area has been declared “blighted” by the results of a study, property values have taken a skyrocketing decline.
The Near North Side is in trouble. Almost 86% of the property there is rental, the crime rate is one of the worst in the city, and the private buildings are in a state of decay.
The Knoxville and Wisconsin business corridors are filled with empty buildings and property left to rot while property owners scramble to fill the vacancies.
The Mayor of Peoria has an answer. Tax Increment Financing. And the Mayor wants to impose this on us, whether or not we agree.
You only have to read the EVGC Advisory Committee Charter to know this is true. The membership of the Committee consists of two City representatives, one County representative, one member of the District 150 School Board, two representatives of OSF St. Francis, and one member at large each from each of the three affected Council Districts, all appointed by the Mayor.
I sent a revised version of the Charter to Tim Riggenbach and Corporate Counsel Randall Ray over a week ago. My revisions included cutting the number of OSF Representatives to one and increasing the number of members at large to five, three from District #3 (the largest affected area), one from District #2, and one from District #1. I further changed the appointment of the members at large to the various Neighborhood Associations instead of the Mayor. My thinking here is at least there would be an even distribution of representatives for all concerned. After receiving Tim’s assurance that it would be given due consideration, I have yet to hear back from either Randall or Tim. Well, they are busy men, I am sure. (Anyone wanting a copy of my proposed revisions, let C.J. know, and he will forward the request, or if he gets too many, perhaps he can publish it.)
But this is the part that sticks in my craw: the City of Peoria wants to improve the area, but has no plan to do so,at least no plan anyone is willing to talk about.
The gentleman from Springfield who gave the first “TIF 101” presentation spoke directly to the hazards of enacting a TIF without a plan. They are currently in an “Adversarial Position” with their City Council as to the proper distribution of TIF funds. Why? Because, as noted in the current TIF Proposal, the City Council has the right to redistribute TIF funds as they see fit, without so much as a “by your leave” from the area where the TIF funds are collected. City Counsel Randall Ray confirmed this at that same meeting. The City Council of Peoria could use these funds to do other things, like pay off the debts due from the infamous MidTown Plaza TIF, or support the poorly planned Glen Oak School/Community Center. They might even use those funds to buy up properties surrounding OSF to allow them to expand their campus, enhancing the areas around the Catholic Diocese and Peoria Fire Central. And of course, there are the sewer repairs that are being done to the tune of five million dollars beneath OSF.
OSF has already stated that they want to expand their campus. Both the White School and the Irving School have been acquired, and the latest vote of the counsel has opened the door to demolishing the Irving school despite its historical properties status. OSF paid for the TIF Proposal Study. OSF has been vocal and present at every TIF meeting, even the “TIF 101” session. And one of the most vocal speakers at the City Council on the night the change was made to allow owner permission to be a prerequisite to the establishing of a historical designation was OSF.
Okay, so we know the City is wanting to ram this through, and OSF seems to have a vested interest in seeing it succeed, at least for their purposes. But how about the residents of the East Bluff?
The truth of the matter is that very few of the property owners in the East Bluff seem to care, or at least that is the impression when you start counting who shows up at the meetings. Most of the people in my area of the East Bluff are supposedly represented by the East Bluff Serenity Neighborhood Association. Jim Combs, a former member of the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, is the president of that association. I have yet to meet the man. Guess I am going to have to go knock on his door to do that, seeing as he doesn’t seem to want to be involved. Richard “Mitch” Mitchell is the president of the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association, and by all impressions to date a reasonable and honorable man. But I wonder how many people he actually speaks for. Glen Oak Flanagan and Glen Oak Park Neighborhood Associations are also present in some form, since Lisa Fischer sits on the Joint Review Board for the EVGC TIF, and is also a board member of the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services (despite earlier rumors to the contrary, I sat behind Lisa at the last board meeting).
Basically, the Mayor is going to get what he wants. Not because it is the right thing to do, and not because the project is going to save the East Bluff. It won’t.
Neither will the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, who have not made a low interest property improvement loan in the last two years, and who are currently in the business of buying and rehabbing homes in the East Bluff (they currently own four properties, including the property that serves as their headquarters on Wisconsin.), ostensibly for sale. Of course, with the area recently declared “blighted” by the TIF Proposal and those findings officially accepted by the City Council, trying to sell property in a “blighted” area might prove to be a somewhat daunting task.
The East Bluff is doomed, a victim of age, apathy, decrepitude, and obsolescence. The houses here are out of date, the infrastructure is vastly inadequate, and the median income level of the residents is near or below poverty levels, based on the number of family members per household with a median annual income level of $36,009. 50. That 62% of rental property I mentioned at the beginning is rapidly becoming too expensive to maintain, so the smart thing to do for any rental owner is to get out while the getting is good, take their profits and sell off the property for whatever they can get. If you hang on to it too long, the City will eventually use eminent domain just as they did with the MidTown Plaza TIF to snap up the land and sell it at a profit to a developer, who will build newer properties for the Doctors, Nurses, Administrators, and staff of the expanded OSF facilities. Of course, they are going to need a convenient grocery store and other retail outlets, which will open up the redevelopment of the Knoxville and Wisconsin business corridors. And they will need new schools to send their children to, so District 150 will be reborn as the new Mecca of higher education, since the tax dollars from the new residents will be several times more than is currently being collected. And Doctors, Nurses, Administrators, Lawyers and other professionals will never let their children attend inadequate schools.
Wow. Sounds like a plan to me. I wonder if they have thought of it?