Tinley Park,IL. Local Officials Nix #4.4 Million Tax Subsidy for Wal-Mart
Some towns have to beat a Wal-Mart more than once.
The village of Tinley Park, Illinois defeated Wal-Mart in 2008, but the company did not give up. This week, Sprawl-Busters received a distress call from an activist in this suburban Chicago Community:
"Five years ago a developer tried to build a Wal-Mart development in Tinley Park. Our neighborhood mobilized and the development was withdrawn without comment. Here we are today and the Mayor wants to build a Wal-Mart once again. We've successfully fought him so far. He wanted our local school districts to abate the taxes while his village made the money. That got shot down. So now he's looking for another piece of land to use in town, and there are a few. We could really use a bit of help or advice in getting things in gear to oppose him in new ways. Nobody has picked up on how one-sided and shady his dealings were."
In early October, the Chicago Tribune reported that Tinley Park residents were speaking out against the project. Village officials claimed that the Wal-Mart superstore would bring millions of dollars in new revenues. But residents were not buying it.
"Nobody I've spoken to in my neighborhood has had a problem with that property being developed as commercial," resident Steve Reed was quoted by the Tribune as testifying at a village hearing. "What we do have a problem with is the type of development proposed on that land and the way it's being put together. The tax breaks alone are insulting."
The property Wal-Mart wanted was owned by the Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210, which had planned to use it for construction of a high school. Village leaders told taxpayers that the superstore would bring in $10 million in property taxes in its first decade of operation---but the catch was Wal-Mart wanted back nearly half of that money ($4.4 million) in the form of a tax abatement to pay for infrastructure development. In other words, the giant retailer was lookion for taxpayers to subsidize the development.
"The idea that Wal-Mart needs incentives to offset prohibitive development costs is laughable," Reed told The Tribune. "They are the world's largest company." He said Wal-Mart had a track rcoord of providing "substandard" jobs. "We're concerned for our homes," he added. "We're concerned for our families, our community, and we oppose Wal-Mart squarely for those solid reasons,"
Village Trustee Dave Seaman warned residents that if Wal-Mart did not get its tax break, that it would walk away from the project. "They make business decisions," Seaman said. "In this particular instance, they had a very clear package we had to make to be able to accommodate their package and it was done with the recognition that other taxing body support would be necessary to do it."
But on October 9th, Wal-Mart's plans in Tinley Park imploded. The local school district voted unanimously against the tax subsidy for the retailer. The Board President told residents he couldn't "wrap (his) head" around the tax giveaway. "Philosophically, it comes down to an issue of fairness," he explained. He said Wal-Mart was "demanding a school district give up $1.4 million dollars to help them develop a site, put up a store and make money." According to The Tribune, residents expressed concern that the deal would take money out of the district's pockets and cause increased crime at the store.
Trustee Seaman tried in vain to drum up votes for the project. "I'm going to put it right out there," he testified. "If this district doesn't give this deal, that property will probably remain undeveloped for some amount of time." But this statement was met with "whooping and cheers by the audience," the newspaper reported. Seaman said after the meeting that this vote killed the Wal-Mart.
Local activists believe that village officials are not done yet with Wal-Mart, and are now looking for new ways to help the store find a way into Tinley Park.
What you can do: Readers are urged to leave the following message for Village Trustee Dave Seaman at the Clerk's office by calling (708)444-5000:
"Dear Trustee Seaman,
You probably realize that the Walton family controls more wealth than the bottom 41% of Americans. This is not a family that needs public welfare. If the owners of Wal-Mart want to build a store in Tinley Park that can stand on its own financially---fine. But if they claim that they can't build it without a public handout, then its better to let the project fall from its own weight.
It's too bad that most taxpayers in the village, and the school district realized that the Waltons don't need welfare---and too bad that you were the last to understand that."