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ALGONQUIN, IL-This quaint suburb along the Fox River northwest of Chicago will be able to offer commercial property owners in its Downtown business district low-interest loans to fix their building facades. However, some property owners fear the new Downtown business improvement district may be the precursor of eminent domain proceedings against some of them.

Sensitive to those concerns after hearing from property owners at two public hearings, the ordinance passed by trustees Tuesday night contained to reference to eminent domain. Village officials contend that while the new improvement district gives them no additional eminent domain powers, they already have some by virtue of state law.

The sole benefit of the improvement district, village officials say, is the ability to provide low-interest loans to commercial property owners, primarily along Main Street, the main north-south thoroughfare in the suburb. Community Development Director Jeffrey J. Mihelich tells GlobeSt.com the village is working with a handful of local banks on a program that would provide loans up to $50,000 at an interest rate “two to three points below prime.” The village would buy down the interest rate on the loans, which would be payable over five to 10 years, he adds.

“This is our effort to try to help out these businesses,” says Trustee Robert M. Smith. “It doesn’t do anything more than that.”

Village officials received a petition with 100 signatures in support of the Downtown business district in addition to supportive e-mails.

Property owners’ fears stem from a recently accepted comprehensive plan for Downtown prepared by Teska Associates. Some business owners mentioned specific items in that plan in objecting to the business improvement district. However, trustees say the comprehensive plan serves as a guideline, allowing them to “pick and choose” specific recommendations.

“I think there’s some general confusion about the revitalization plan,” says Trustee Constance R. Donner. “It has not been adopted. It has been accepted. That means we can pick and choose from it.”

“There has to be a certain amount of trust that we’re going to be able to work together,” Smith adds.

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