Geneva council ready to OK new TIF district

  • The former Geneva Bottling Works is in an area the city wants to make a tax-increment financing district to spur property maintenance and economic development.

    The former Geneva Bottling Works is in an area the city wants to make a tax-increment financing district to spur property maintenance and economic development. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva school district officials have pointed to this block of shops and restaurants on the 0-100 block of East State Street as an example of why a proposed tax-increment financing district is not needed.

    Geneva school district officials have pointed to this block of shops and restaurants on the 0-100 block of East State Street as an example of why a proposed tax-increment financing district is not needed. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/19/2016 8:48 AM

Geneva appears likely to create a tax-increment financing district to spur redevelopment in the eastern edge of its downtown.

And aldermen are rejecting the Geneva school district's request to have all the tax money from 13 parcels there continue to be distributed to it and other taxing bodies for the 23-year life of the TIF district.

 

Meeting as a committee Monday night, aldermen voted 6-2 to accept the study that said the Geneva Fox River Redevelopment Area was eligible to have tax-increment financing, agreed to create the district, and authorized the financing plan for it.

Aldermen Dean Kilburg and Tara Burghart dissented. Aldermen Jim Radecki and Don Cummings were absent.

The measures are scheduled for a binding vote Monday, July 25.

And July 25 is the deadline for the Geneva school board to decide whether to take the city's original offer of compromise to have two properties designated as surplus, so the schools and other districts can receive the full property taxes from them.

If the school board doesn't vote at its meeting that night, the city will withdraw the offer, Mayor Kevin Burns said.

The district includes parcels from Woodward Avenue to the Union Pacific railroad tracks to First Street to Stevens Street, across the river to School Street.

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It excludes the condominiums at River and Hamilton streets.

About a third of it was in a TIF district that ran from 1982 to 2005. In a TIF district, property taxes paid to governments are frozen at the beginning level for up to 23 years. As the value of the property increases, the additional tax paid by the owner goes into a city-held fund for public improvements on the site.

The school district wanted the taxes from properties from Route 31 east to Route 25 excluded. It contends the properties are not blighted, and that private investors have been able to build and improve the properties without receiving public help. The stretch includes the popular Buttermilk restaurant site, a law office, several stores, the School of Rock and an insurance agency.

The city is offering to declare the taxes from the Geneva on the Dam and the Geneva Place retirement community as surplus.

Burghart noted she read in a local newspaper that the owner of Geneva Cycle at 12 E. State said Shodeen Inc., which owns the adjacent Mill Race Inn, has contracted to buy his store site for $300,000 to $400,000 more than more than anybody else offered. But the developer doesn't have to execute the contract until December 2017 at the earliest and has until December 2020, according to the owner.

Burghart suspects that means the developer will ask for TIF district money to help pay for the site.

"The only time I don't worry about what something will cost is when somebody else is picking up the check," she said.

She said the TIF-eligibility study was flawed, including characterizing things such as cracks in driveways and "protruding weeds" as deterioration and blight. Seventy percent of the decline in equalized assessed valuation for the proposed district over the last five years came from just five of the parcels, she said.

There are two large vacant parcels: the former Geneva Bottling Works, closed since 2007, and the Mill Race Inn, closed since 2011.

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