GLEN CARBON — The village is considering a new sales-tax business district along Illinois 157 to fund a road improvement project.
The owners of property around the Hampton Inn -- known collectively as Premier RE Inc. -- want the business district so they can pay to widen the state highway past their properties.
Widening Illinois 157 south of I-270 has been a priority for years, but funding has never come through from state or municipal sources.
Kevin Jones, part owner of the Hampton Inn, said he and the other property owners are in a Catch-22: They can't attract retail and restaurant development without a wider road, and they can't get a wider road unless there is development.
"It's the only way we could find to get these improvements in place," Jones said.
The ultimate goal, Jones said, is to see commercial development around the hotel that would go well with a hospitality district: restaurants, retail and entertainment primarily. For years, the Hampton Inn has stood alone in what seems to be mostly empty land.
"Obviously the hotel would appreciate some neighbors," Jones said.
Unlike a proposal of two years ago for the same area, this project would not include residential development and would not call for STAR bonds, a proposal that failed at the legislature after strong opposition from neighboring municipalities.
Under the proposed agreement, Premier RE Inc. would acquire bonds for approximately $2 million in order to fund the road expansion. The village would create a business district in that area for an additional 1 percent sales tax, which would reimburse Premier for the bond payments.
Once the bonds were repaid, the village could use any remaining sales taxes to do additional infrastructure improvements in the area.
But Premier RE takes all the risk, Jones said. If development does not occur, it's the developer on the hook for the bond payments, not the village.
"It is not an obligation of the village," said Keith Moran, president of Moran Economic Development, a consultant firm working on the project. In fact, the village benefits, Moran said, because they will get safety improvements that have been a concern of the village for some time.
"It's a very expensive proposition for us," Jones said. "But it's the only way to get it done."
Some village board members were concerned that the improvements did not include a turn lane for Glenwood Estates, a nearby subdivision. That turn lane would add another $150,000 to the project, Moran said.
The village board voted Tuesday to set a public hearing on the proposal, which will take place on Sept. 11.
The vote to set the hearing was 5-1, with trustee Bob Buehler voting no. Buehler said he felt the village was "going too fast" on the project.