Over the objections of two of the three private property owners in the newly created Harlem Avenue Business District, Riverside village trustees on Aug. 17 voted 4 to 1 to impose an additional 1-percent sales tax on retail purchases made in the district.

The Riverside Village Board created the business district earlier in an attempt to entice development of four properties along Harlem Avenue near the Longcommon Road gateway to the village. 

The properties include a vacant title loan business at 2704 Harlem Ave.; a vacant former dry cleaning business at 2710 Harlem Ave., owned by the village of Riverside; the small strip mall at 2720 Harlem Ave., which has been recently updated and is home to a new dental practice; and a Citgo gas station at 539 Longcommon Road.

Trustees voted to impose the special sales tax to collect money that can used only for redevelopment activity within the business district for the life of the district, which is 23 years. For example, the funds could be used for assembling property, public infrastructure and or as incentives for renovating or constructing new buildings.

Apart from the dental practice and gas station, the only other business operating in the district is a take-out Chinese restaurant, so presently the district’s ability to collect sizable sales tax revenues for such purposes is limited.

Dr. Milad Nourahmadi, who bought the strip mall in 2016 to house his dental practice, Shining Smiles, said the imposition of the sales tax at this time would more likely make it harder to lease vacant storefronts in the business district.

“It’s a tough sell for new businesses coming to the area,” Nourahmadi told trustees at a public hearing on the sales tax prior to board meeting where trustees voted to approve it. “If the goal is to spur business, I think the thinking should be, how can we make it easier for businesses to come into the area instead of stifling it?”

The owners of the gas station had objected to the idea of a sales tax prior to the creation of the business district. The owner of the building that formerly housed a title loan company has not stated a position publicly. That owner is still collecting rent from TitleMax, which abandoned its lease.

Nourahmadi pointed to the small size of the business district, intimating that its ability to collect significant revenue was limited, saying the detriment to business outweighed the benefit of the tax to the district.

“It’s not a significant space we’re talking about, so the effect is going to be felt by the tenants in there,” Nourahmadi said.

Trustee Joseph Ballerine was the only trustee to vote against imposing the tax. Those in support were Doug Pollock, Wendell Jisa, Michael Sedivy and Elizabeth Peters. Scott Lumsden was absent from the meeting.

The former dry cleaning business at 2710 Harlem Ave., meanwhile, was slated for demolition beginning Aug. 21. The demolition is expected to take about a week to complete.

Riverside paid $78,425 for the property and the board allocated $81,210 for asbestos abatement and demolition. Earlier in August, the village board awarded a $44,020 contract to R.W. Collins Co. to remove soil contaminated by dry cleaning chemicals at the site.

Once that work is completed, the village hopes the property could be used for part of a larger commercial development by its northern or southern neighbor.

Last week, Nourahmadi said he was still interested in acquiring the property to expand his parking lot. It’s unclear whether the owner of 2704 Harlem Ave. has a redevelopment plan in the works.

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