The Evanston Economic Development Committee voted unanimously tonight to redraw the boundaries of the special taxing district that supports EvMark to exclude residential properties.

Plans to expand the area covered by the district brought howls of protest from condo owners who said they don’t benefit from EvMark’s operation any more than other city residents do.

EvMark promotes downtown businesses and providing some downtown maintenance and beautification work that the city doesn’t cover in its own budget.

Only three aldermen are on the committee, but two others were present and said they favor the change, so it appears the measure has the five votes needed to win full City Council approval.

City attorney Herb Hill said the plan is to effectively slice the district vertically — taxing ground-floor retail uses in condominium buildings, but excluding condo units on the upper floors.

State law requires that special taxing districts be contiguous — that every taxed parcel be adjacent to another taxed parcel, Mr. Hill said, but it otherwise permits creation of “donut holes” and other excluded areas within a district’s overall boundaries.

The committee also agreed to recommend to the full council that the city directly pay to EvMark over $100,000 a year in tax increment finance district and economic development funds to cover the hole the loss of the residential properties would create in EvMark’s proposed new $475,000 annual budget.

Some condo owners objected to the proposed increase in the EvMark budget, which would roughly double under the plan, but aldermen on the committee said that, while they want to carefully review the costs, they’re generally convinced the organization has provided a much-needed service to the city that helps increase sales tax revenue and improve the city’s tax base.

Related story

Legal snafu delays EvMark tax hearing – Jan. 23

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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