LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) is throwing his support behind an effort to create a new taxing district known as a special service area on Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue.
“People will go to Andersonville, Lincoln Park, Downtown and say, ‘Why is everything so clean? Why are there garbage cans on every corner?’ ” the alderman said.
“If we want to see similar beautification efforts in Logan Square, given the challenges of the city budget, the way to accomplish that is through an SSA.”
A special service area levies a special tax on property owners within specific boundaries for communal services such as trash pickup and snow removal. Neighborhoods across the city use special service areas for beautification purposes, to attract new businesses and to spur economic development.
The effort to establish one on Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue is in the “very early stages,” according to Jessica Wobbekind, executive director for the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce. Specific boundaries have yet to be determined.
Like Ramirez-Rosa, Wobbekind supports the plan.
“Having an SSA on Milwaukee Avenue would be very helpful in funding the maintenance of our public spaces along the street,” Wobbekind wrote in an email.
“As it is currently, we are relying on limited City resources and volunteers to pick up garbage, weed[s] and generally keep an eye on things at Fireman’s Park, Woodard Plaza and other community areas.”
Fireman’s Park at Milwaukee and Kimball avenues made headlines earlier this month after a resident told CBS2 about the park’s trash and rat problem.
The resident said the park, honoring three fireman who died fighting an arson in 1985, needs to be cleaned more consistently “so it’s not knee high and there’s not rats frolicking through it,” CBS2 reported.
Ramirez-Rosa said he and his staffers have been actively working with the city and community leaders to keep the park clean. But he acknowledged those efforts are “not enough.”
“It doesn’t provide longterm beautification,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
“Ultimately, if we want to see daily maintenance, one of the only ways to accomplish that is to designate Fireman’s Park as part of an SSA.”
Establishing a special service area on Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue is still a long way off. The plan is currently in the “feasibility stage,” Ramirez-Rosa said. The lengthy process requires a series of public meetings, a tax study and an interest survey of business owners and residents.
Community meetings on the subject wouldn’t be held until at least mid-2020, Wobbekind said.
Ramirez-Rosa said he’d like to see all of his portion of Milwaukee Avenue as well as parts of Fullerton, Diversey and Belmont avenues included in the map. He said Wobbekind is looking to submit the application by November, when all of the 2020 applications are due.
There are currently a total of 53 special service areas in Chicago, according to the city’s website.
In Roscoe Village, the average annual cost to property owners, based on a .25 percent tax, was estimated at $184 for residential, $366 for mixed use and and $412 for commercial.
Special service areas have drawn plenty of criticism over the years, not only because they cost already burdened taxpayers more money, but also because they don’t require elected official oversight.
A group called Chicago View ran a special service area in Lakeview for years and caught heat for using the extra cash on bizarre projects and marketing campaigns like when it tied “sad, hulking” Christmas trees to street poles or when it released 50 paper airplanes with $50 bills attached in a parking lot, hoping the money would be spent in nearby shops and restaurants.
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