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Assessor Cuts Northwest Side Tax Assessments Because Of Jet Noise

After a two-year evaluation on the impact of O’Hare International Airport’s jet noise on property values, real estate assessment-reduction relief is finally on the way.

As a result of the impact of airport noise on home values, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios said his office has granted assessment reductions of 4 percent to 5 percent to 8,096 beleaguered property owners in Norwood Park Township on the Far Northwest Side. The township is comprised of Norridge, Harwood Heights and a very small portion of Park Ridge.

Homeowners residing close to the airport will receive the 5-percent assessment reductions. The general boundaries for this reduction are: Foster Avenue on the south, Devon Avenue on the north, Canfield Avenue on the East and Pueblo/Cumberland Avenue to the west.

The properties receiving 4-percent reductions fall in two areas. The first area is bounded by Foster Avenue on the north, Irving Park Road and the Forest Preserve on the south, Harlem on the east and Cumberland on the west. The second area has general boundaries of Gunnison on the North, Forest Preserve on the South, Narragansett on the east and Harlem on the west.

The reductions were not the result of individual property owner appeals, Barrios stressed.

Property owners in Maine, Leyden and Jefferson townships also will be “eligible for consideration and review” for assessment reductions, said Deputy Assessor Tom Shaer.

The assessor’s sweeping assessment-reduction program will extend to a whopping 15,000 homes and 800 apartment buildings in Jefferson Township, 3,500 homes and about 100 rental buildings in Maine, and 2,600 homes and about 400 apartment buildings in Leyden, Shaer said.

Assessment reduction notices for properties that qualify in Main Township are scheduled to be sent the week of October 10th. Leyden Township property owners should receive notices later in October, and Jefferson Township owners will receive notices a few weeks later.

Berrios ordered the noise evaluation study in 2014, after thousands of homeowners complained that jet noise from new east-west runways impacted property values and the quality of life on the Northwest Side of Chicago and nearby northwest suburbs.

Over the past two years, Northwest Side residents have complained that jet noise keeps them up at night and makes it impossible to cook outside and enjoy their yards.

“The roar of commercial jet airplane noise over Forest Glen reminds me of fighter jets and turbo props revving up and taking off from the flight deck of the USS Midway,” said a Vietnam-veteran homeowner, who served in the U.S. Navy in 1969-1971.

Counting low-flying jets approaching O’Hare’s new east-west runways has become a summer-time gripe game for homeowners in the once quiet and sleepy neighborhoods of North Park, Hollywood Park, Peterson Woods, Sauganash and Forest Glen in Jefferson Township.

And, the noise is even worse when you visit jet-shocked suburban homeowners in Norridge, Itasca, Wood Dale and Bensenville.

Complaints about jet noise on the Northwest Side of Chicago and near northwest suburbs rose 14 percent in the first seven months of 2016, reported the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission. From January through July, Chicagoans filed about 927,000 complaints about O’Hare jet aircraft noise, compared with approximately 812,000 during the same period a year ago, the commission reported.

The reductions in assessed value per home for tax year 2016 will be reflected on tax bills issued in 2017, Berrios said. Experts say the reductions could cut tax bills by several hundred dollars for tens of thousands of homeowners.

Berrios said single-family homes and small apartment buildings containing six units or less that have been determined as having values adversely affected by airport noise will receive these reductions in assessed value.

However, condominiums are not included in the assessment-reduction plan because “review and evaluation of sales data didn’t show any discernible impact on condos,” Shaer said.

“I committed the Assessor’s Office to this thorough evaluation because every taxpayer is entitled to a fair assessment of their property, wherever they live,” Berrios said.

“We have a responsibility to serve the entire county. It would have been easy to just quietly sit out the discussion of noise impact on communities near O’Hare International Airport. But it would be wrong not to fulfill our responsibility,” Berrios said.

Using noise-contour maps overlaid on a map showing home sales in the four townships, the assessor’s office identified an adverse impact on sale prices there. The assessor’s team had access to City of Chicago and Federal Aviation Administration-gathered information, along with complaint data from the city and from Fair Allocation in Runways (FAiR), a grass-roots citizens’ group.

Valuation decisions are always based solely on actual sales data and not individual quality-of-life concerns expressed by residents near O’Hare, Berrios said.

The review began in March of 2014 and included detailed examination and analysis of new noise impact maps received from the City of Chicago, airport-impact studies in North America since 1990 and thousands of pages of environmental impact studies.

In the late 1990s, the impact of jet noise on property values near Midway Airport was studied but no assessment reductions were given.

A key for the new study was the extrapolation from past studies of findings and statistics applicable to O’Hare and Chicago. The goal was to determine possible proven effect of airport noise on market values near O’Hare, borne out by sales data.

“As a result of this evaluation and the hard work of many in Assessor Berrios’ office and elsewhere, taxpayers will receive a reduction in assessment and, hopefully, their property taxes,” said Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, whose 9th District includes all four townships evaluated.

“This is a positive result for residents subjected to increased airplane noise. We need to consistently seek to ensure that our constituents are not paying more than their fair share,” Silvestri said.

The reductions in tax year 2016 assessed values of the homes shown by data to be affected have been entered. They will stay in effect for the next three years until Norwood Park Township is reassessed again in 2019. Reductions in Maine, Leyden and Jefferson Townships will also be in effect until their next triennial reassessment.

Sales data from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016 (partial year), before and after O’Hare’s runway expansion, was examined by Assessor Berrios’ staff during this effort, unprecedented in its scope.

The evaluation was the first ever undertaken to evaluate possible effects of airport noise on homes near O’Hare. With the 8,096 Norwood Park homes completed and the homes to come in Maine, Leyden and Jefferson Townships, this is the biggest evaluation ever of its kind.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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