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Oswego to adopt historic preservation tax break program

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:07AM

Oswego Village Trustees this week voiced their support for a preservation program aimed a residents who want to restore their historic homes.

Under the Illinois Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program, those who both own and live in a home of historic signficance who make substantial rehabilitations to their homes, would qualify for an eight-year freeze on the assessment of their home.

The program is designed to give homeowners in historic homes or historic districts a tax break that would encourage them to restore their homes.

Because Oswego does not have a historic district, only two landmarked homes would potentially qualify for the program currently, but, according to members of the Oswego Historic Preservation Commission, up to 60 homes in the village could potentially be named landmarks, which would then make them eligible for the tax break.

For Oswego to adopt the program, Village President Brian LeClercq needs only to send a letter to the state in support of the program.

“We’re not changing anything and we’re certainly not deciding on any historic districts at this point,” said Trustee Scott Volpe. “We’re just effectively having the mayor send a letter.”

That would make the program considerably less controversial than the village’s facade improvement plan, which was approved contentiously later that night for Firehouse Pizza, 63-65 W. Main St. Trustees approved reimbursing the developers of the property for their improvements in a 4-1 vote.

Trustee Gail Johnson cast the lone dissenting vote, citing complaints from other businesses in the village who said the developers of Firehouse Pizza were getting an unfairly good deal with a $1 lease and $130,000 loan, despite not following village procedures for turning in plans in a timely manner, and going over budget on improvements that the village reimbursed Tuesday night.

“I’ve probably had more calls on this than anything else since I’ve been on the board,” Johnson said. “My concern is that we are not holding a business accountable. My vote on this will be no for the hundreds of businesses that follow our rules and procedures.”

Village staff confirmed that developers of the business had turned in plans and other paperwork late and paid fines throughout the project.

But several trustees supported the developers for filling a vacancy in a downtown Oswego building.

“We’ve got tax dollars coming in, this building has sales tax coming in,” said Volpe, citing the need for downtown redevelopment. “We’ve taken care of two of the three vacant properties right now we own....We’ve got more people coming downtown than we’ve ever had before.”

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