Tuesday, March 05, 2013
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City votes to establish a downtown TIF district

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[March 05, 2013]  Monday evening, the Lincoln City Council voted to pass three ordinances that will establish a tax increment financing district in the downtown area of the city.

The evening began with a public hearing, with several interested businesses owners present to hear the proceedings.

To start, Mayor Keith Snyder asked John Myers of Rabin & Myers in Springfield to address the group about the district.

Myers offered a recap of events leading to the vote to establish the district. He explained that he along with Lisa Kramer of Prairie Engineers had approached the council in March last year with the suggestion of doing a feasibility study to see if the city would qualify for the district.

The TIF that Myers and Kramer were interested in researching was for a rehabilitation or revitalization program. Such a program would encourage current business owners to refurbish their current buildings. The concept was that the city could assist with certain projects based on the increased assessed value of a property once it was improved.

In August, when Myers and Kramer came back to the council, he said that the downtown area did qualify for such a TIF district. They asked for the authority to move forward with a plan.

When the plan was completed, it went before a review board from other taxing bodies within the area. Specifically, the city, county, District 27 schools, Lincoln Community High School, Heartland College and Lincoln Public Library were represented on the board.

Myers reported that the review board had approved the plan unanimously and recommended that it be adopted by the city.

The final step before passing the ordinances was to hold a public meeting. This was fulfilled Monday night. Myers said letters had gone out to all the owners of property inside the proposed district, and also to all owners of property within 700 feet of the district boundaries.

When Myers finished, Snyder asked him to have a seat and invited anyone in the audience or council to offer their comments or ask questions.

Robert Miller took the podium as a property owner in the proposed district. He said he wanted to know what the specific plan for the district was.

Myer said the plan could be a mix of work done on public infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks or sewers, but it could include plans for private property improvements such as facades, roofs and more. "There is no specific plan in mind yet," he told Miller. "That will come later."

Myers added that if someone were to come into Lincoln and say they wanted to buy, for example, half a city block for a project, assistance would be available for them to do their project.

Miller then asked what would happen if people don't want to sell their property.

Myers said in that case it would not be sold. He assured Miller that the city has no plans to exercise eminent domain. He also said that the state of Illinois has changed the laws regarding this, making it much harder for municipalities to take property.

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Myer added another comment, saying some (owners) had wondered if property taxes would rise.

The tax rate will not rise.

Myers explained that the rate will not change, but the assessed value of an improved property will change.

The city will claim the difference between the old assessed taxes and the new assessed taxes for the TIF district.

Jan Dickerson, another business owner in the newly proposed district, asked if there were any downsides to forming this TIF.

Myers said he didn't see any. He went on to explain that the normal objection to a TIF is that it takes money away from other taxing bodies, such as the public schools.

Myers said for this proposal that claim wasn't an issue. He further commented that the values of properties in the downtown area have been declining. Establishing the TIF will stabilize the values so all the other taxing bodies will receive the same amount of tax revenue they are currently receiving.

After Dickerson's question was answered, Snyder asked if anyone else wished to speak. When no one responded, the public hearing was drawn to a close, after approximately 11 minutes duration.

During the voting session that followed, three ordinances were put up for vote by Alderman Tom O'Donohue.

The first ordinance established the district. The second adopted the downtown TIF redevelopment plan. And, the third set the boundaries for the district.

O'Donohue asked that all three ordinances be handled with one vote. When the vote was taken, it passed 9-0 with one abstaining. O'Donohue abstained because he owns business property within the TIF district.

All three ordinances will be placed in the official city code book and will be available through the code section of the city website at a later date.


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