CENTERVILLE — Just one more Centerville City Council vote to the negative, and the developer’s agreement with Trident Development for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in Block 7 would have been DOA.

As would any chance for a TIF District for Block 7 in downtown Centerville.

“I hope you have the guts to spend the money to explore (the details of the TIF District),” City Administrator/City Engineer Mark Statz told council before the vote.

The Block 7 TIF District is still kicking, thanks to a 3-2 vote (Council Members Matt Montain and Russ Koski opposed) at the Nov. 13 meeting.

By approving the agreement, council will negotiate with the developer, Trident Development, to explore the details of an agreement that could lead to the drafting of a TIF authorization. This next step forward in the TIF process will involve attorneys and cost the city $7,500.  However, these costs could ultimately be covered by the developer if the TIF district becomes reality.

“By authorizing this (agreement) tonight, we’re not saying we’re doing the 20-year TIF. This isn’t all set and done with backhoes being here tomorrow morning moving land,” Mayor Jeff Paar said.  “This (agreement) is just doing research on what the TIF costs and (doing) all that detail work.” 

At the Oct. 23 meeting, council held a public hearing about creating a Housing TIF District in Block 7.  The current proposal on the table is for $1.35 million in assistance from the city over a 20-year district lifespan.  

Earlier this year, the city received an application for TIF dollars from Trident  Development for a 53-unit apartment building that included a small retail component on vacant city-owned property located on Centerville Road between Sorel Street and Heritage Street. The $10 million project would include French architecture with dormer windows, first story retail, surface parking spaces and detached garage bays.

Trident Development Vice President Patrick Brama attended the meeting to answer questions about the TIF process and the project. He confirmed that development costs have already gone up as time has passed. Due to soil issues alone, construction costs have increased by more than $100,000, he said.

In earlier TIF discussions, council members said they preferred the pay-go method of paying the developer as it collects revenue. The city will not put up money up front. Instead, the developer finds the money, then the city reimburses $1.35 million in taxes – an amount the developer thinks they’d need to be profitable – over 20 years with interest.

Council members, even those opposed to the whole idea, were unanimous about preferring a TIF period lasting less than 20 years.

“The shorter the term, the better,” said Montain.  “Let’s look at opportunities to get that number down. (Though I’m) opposed already, certain things can make it more appealing to get the length shortened and that number down.”

Council Member Michelle Lakso said, “If or when you go to the negotiating table, anything less than 20 years would be fine. Everyone did due diligence to give a professional opinion, and that’s what I’ll take.”

Council Member D. Love said, “I really like the pay as you go aspect, which is a nice insulation to protect us from things going awry. I would love to get it below 20 years and would prefer 15 years or less. I’d give up our 5% (annual taxes) to do that. The $1.3 million plus interest that the city would pay would be lower too. And there would be other things I’d give up to do that.”

Koski said, “I’d rather see the marketplace dictate the development. If it’s a worthy opportunity for a developer, they should be able to do it on their own without taxpayer assistance.”  The TIF development would add to public safety expenses due to more police and fire calls that the rest of Centerville would have to pay for, he said. Koski also said he was concerned about what TIF would do to neighboring property values. If future land buyers also want TIF, that would defeat what the city is trying to do. “If you have TIF once, you’ll have it again,” he said.

But is there a market, wondered Love. “The developer is hopefully smart enough not to build buildings just to not make money. And why is the city doing TIF? “It’s part of our plan for many years to have high density dwelling at that location,” he said.  “We understand TIF – we just don’t like 20 years of it.”

“In doing nothing and nothing, we continue to get nothing,”  Paar said. “If the city didn’t do things to that land and give incentives and considerations, there wouldn’t be Ruffridge-Johnson or Midwest Best Water or Centerville Storage in town. “The market alone has not brought development to those particular parcels at this time.” 

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