Never Invest in a Property in or near a Geneva Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District (Unless the City Council Gives YOU a nice steaming order of TIF Cash with your choice of free drinks, sides, and dessert).

You automatically lose your property rights under the Geneva Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan if you invest in or own property on your own dime.

“We don’t make investments for the business, we make them for the property,” Bruno said. ”It checks the boxes for me in terms of how we use TIF monies.”

Geneva Alderman Bruno, as quoted in the Kane County Chronicle, Nov. 10, 2022

TIF Districts are financially ruinous in Tier 4 school districts like Geneva 304. Higher-tier school districts get off-setting reductions in EAV that partially compensate for the school’s funding loss via increased State of Illinois dollars. Geneva #304 is “over-funded” by the criteria of the State. But as bad as the cash drain is for Geneva #304, the free side orders that come with a made-to-order Geneva TIF gift violate basic fairness, a trait that used to be important to Genevans.

Consider the above Geneva aldermanic quote about the Great Western Flooring project at 122-130 East State Street. His boxes have been checked without any testimony from anyone. Then drive by the vacant Geneva Pharmacy a little more than a block east of the GWF site that operated for less than a year. The Geneva City Council determined, as required by the TIF statute, that “but for” their gift of Genevans’ property tax money, the pharmacy could not exist. This was a TIF gift used to create a made-to-order specific pharmacy use. The Council simultaneously made “pharmacies” a permitted use in Zone B3e JUST FOR that TIF applicant – not even a Special Use, but a full “by right” use. In other words, it was “spot zoned” for the sole benefit of one user and his specific use, neighbors be damned. Bruno’s quote is pure twaddle. GWF will also be spot zoned, and that has already been approved.

The 800-square-foot one-room Geneva Pharmacy structure will be difficult to re-purpose, and the building’s historical character has been forever lost. “But for” that foolhardy gift, everyone involved would have been better off. But the current Administration and Council worship at the TIF altar. Note that the local sales tax on prescription drugs is zero. Just a bit further east on State Street is Country Meats, recipient of about $850K in public assets, including a land “donation” and TIF gifts, plus the usual array of freebies. The total Illinois sales tax on unprepared groceries is 0.75%. The local share is de minimus. The tax on a $50 steak dinner at Foxfire is about $4 or more.

Below is a photo of the Great Western Flooring building in Naperville. No “but for” TIF gift for the Naperville building was needed. “In spite of” zero TIF dollars, somehow the building was built and taxed with the taxes going to all the taxing bodies.

Great Western Flooring, 720 North Washington Street (not an Illinois Designated Truck Route or Highway), Naperville
Schematic for Great Western Flooring, 122-130 East State Street (Route 38, an Illinois Designated Truck Route), Geneva. Notice that there is no access from State Street.

If the second building looks similar to the first, that is no coincidence, as the second building is a schematic copy of the first. The GWF folks showed up at a Geneva City Council meeting on November 7, 2022, with a less than $100 computer simulation and looking for a fast and easy loose $1.45 million. Did they bring a proforma? No. Were any data presented about how long the payback would take? No. Was the TIF money the only financial incentive? Maybe. But is there also a sales-tax kickback in the offing? Tax kickbacks are among the Geneva Council’s favorites grifts. How about utility hook-up and permit fee waivers, as per usual? Does Geneva have any other flooring merchants? The Council does not care about fair and level playing fields, despite their avowed belief in the vague principle of equity.

The Council also uses TIF as a Swiss army knife (a versatile tool that performs poorly in its every application). For example, affordable housing has been thrown into the GWF mix. What does that mean, exactly? Another “LIHTC” project that reduces property taxes even though the “I” in “TIF” is increment? BTW, no money is in the TIF3 fund in play, but with smoke and mirrors, the City Council can find some. The $1.4 million will tap out TIF3 for its duration. What about the Mill Race Inn and the Bottling Works, which were statedly the impetus for creating TIF3?

Below please find an annotated copy of the Executive Summary of the November 7th GWF sales pitch from the City of Geneva’s six-figure salaried TIF boss. I mention the salary only because Geneva taxpayers already have invested much more money in this project than the applicant has. Below is the Executive Summary. It is riddled with errors. Pay particular attention to the “possibly one or more design exceptions.” These are the under-the-table perks that come free with a TIF grant. This is how neighbors and their quality of life and property values get blindsided. “Reliefs” and “Deviations” are awarded even though these are not codified or defined in the Municipal Code. In other words, the Council dons its vigilante hat. This “posse comitatus” deputizes the city staff. The Council and staff grant “wink and nod” uncodified exceptions. They issue building permits based on specifications contained in an “approved” geometric plan. Then the applicant changes the plan. Then the building inspector does not “notice” the changes. For example, check the Malone Special Use Ordinance’s Geometric Plan and inspect how the project was built. Use Google Earth Pro to see if the lot coverage is within specifications. See if specified materials were utilized, etc.

So, with your TIF order, you can choose your zoning designation and permitted use. You get to incorporate yourself into the Geneva Comprehensive Plan regardless of how these freebies affect neighborhoods or neighbors’ enjoyment of their property and their property values. If you need a stark reminder of the futility of TIF’s look at the ruins of the Mill Race Inn, one of many failed TIF1 recipients. Notice the nicely coordinating window treatments of another TIF1 beneficiary at 10 W State. The window treatments all say, “For Lease.” Geneva Place’s highest tax bill was in 2006 ($157,600). Last year it was $114,000. How’s that for an increment? Geneva Place, an alumnus of TIF1, is now in TIF3.

This has been the “Geneva Way” for two decades.

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