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Hazel Crest begins process that could lead to annexation, redevelopment of Calumet Country Club

The Hazel Crest Board of Trustees approved a contract on Jan. 10 with a consulting firm that will explore the feasibility of establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) district on Calumet Country Club.

The property is currently in unincorporated Cook County after Homewood was forced to disconnect it from the village in 2021. To create a TIF district there, Hazel Crest would have to annex the property.

That step could be coming soon.

On the agenda for the village’s administrative meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, is discussion about a proposed ordinance that would annex the property into Hazel Crest. The measure is not on the Board of Trustees regular meeting agenda.

At the Jan. 10 meeting, a number of residents, including members of South Suburbs for Greenspace (SSG), spoke out against forming the TIF district and redeveloping the property.

SSG was formed early in 2021 to protest the first attempt to rezone and redevelop the property. Homewood elected officials declined to approve the zoning request and development plan.

Several SSG members accused Mayor Vernard Alsberry and the board of reversing a stance they took in February 2021 when they announced they would not support the industrial development project that was proposed while the property was in Homewood and would not work with the developer and property owner, Diversified Partners, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Now you’re potentially going to go back on the promise you made two years ago and I hope you won’t,” said Michelle Yates of Homewood. “But I’m here with SSG to hold you accountable to that promise.”

After the public comment portion of the meeting ended, Alsberry responded to the speakers, and he attempted to differentiate the proposal coming forward now, which has been presented by Catalyst Consulting, a firm apparently working for Diversified Partners as the face of the project, from the previous version.

“I do hear what everyone of you are saying,” Alsberry said. “I think a lot of stuff you’re saying is really not true. You’re talking about a development of 130 acres of trucking. We’ve never talked about that in Hazel Crest. Diversified is talking about doing something different than they did in Homewood.”

The plan, in the form of an animated video posted on the Catalyst Consulting website, does differ from the plan considered by Homewood. The earlier plan would have led to a warehousing complex taking up much of the property.  

The new plan would include a variety of uses around the perimeter of the property, including hospitality, recreation, agriculture and retail. The center of the development still would be warehousing. According to a memo from Hazel Crest Village Attorney John Murphey, dated in July 2022, the warehousing aspect of the plan could be 50% larger than in the earlier plan.

Speakers also questioned the value of creating a TIF district for the project, noting that TIFs can have an impact on property tax revenues for schools, libraries and park districts. TIFs establish a base level of property valuation and for the life of the district any increase in property value goes to the TIF fund for use to support economic development, while taxing districts receive revenue calculated on the base valuation.

Alsberry defended the village’s interest in the project. 

“We’re taking some steps for the village of Hazel Crest for the future of our communities,” he said. “Taxes are killing us out here. We have to find a way to bring economic development that’s going to sustain the Southland because right now people can’t live here because of the tax burden.” 

SSG has questioned whether converting the golf course to commercial uses would be worth the loss of greenspace, citing concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed uses.

“People elected you to protect them from environmental threats such as cancer caused by diesel pollution and to protect their property from flooding caused by removing grasslands wetlands and greenspace,” said Erika Schaefer of Flossmoor.

She also questioned whether the village would realize the kind of economic boost Alsberry hopes for, citing the memo from Murphey that expressed skepticism about the viability of the businesses in the plan. 

Alsberry did not directly address environmental concerns, but he invited the speakers to stay involved as the project moves forward.

“I want you to continue to come to the meetings, continue to see what we’re talking about, continue to ask questions. We do appreciate the questions,” he said. “We are not afraid to bring this forward to the people and to have conversations about it as we move forward.”

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