Crowd gets passionate at Collinsville tax hearing
When the city solicited public input for the last time on the proposed plan to create a new tax increment financing district and overlapping business district, the concern that most residents expressed was that their property might be acquired through eminent domain.
City Manager Mitch Bair emphasized during Monday night’s public hearing on the plan there were no plans for the city to use eminent domain. At least 100 members of the public attended the hearing to learn more about the proposed plan and speak directly to City Council members before they make a final decision later this month.
The proposed TIF and business districts would include portions of St. Louis and Collinsville roads, from Fairmount Park Racetrack on the west to Jefferson Avenue on the east and along Bluff Road north to Interstate 55/70. The area includes commercial and residential properties, as well as schools, public utilities and parks.
Other concerns about the TIF and business districts noted during the hearing include:
▪ That while the city states it will not increase tax rates as a result of the TIF district, other taxing bodies might.
▪ That the city has largely given TIF money to bars and beer gardens in the past.
▪ That other taxing bodies in the proposed area will be able to ask for TIF money.
▪ That if developers wanted to invest in the proposed area, they would have already.
▪ That the city had not made clear a business district would result in a 1 percent increase to sales tax in the proposed area.
Those who spoke in favor of the TIF and business districts noted that the visitors to Cahokia Mounds, the racetrack and sports complex had to pass through the proposed area for the districts. Several people, including Collinsville Chamber of Commerce representatives, spoke about needing to clean up the area through improvements to streets and sidewalks.
Resident Mary Drumm said during the hearing she believed the number of visitors to Cahokia Mounds had been overstated by many advocates of the plan.
Some, like Planning Commission Chairman David Jerome, argued that Collinsville needed TIF to be able to compete with other communities that offer incentives to developers.
“Amazon just added 1,000 jobs in Edwardsville,” Jerome said. “That warehouse was TIFed.” Collinsville lost out on that potential investment, he said.
Jerome urged the City Council to create the TIF district with “safeguards” in place. He suggested protecting Collinsville Unit 10 School District, which the city has taken steps to do through a preliminary agreement to give schools a share of revenue from the TIF.
Jerome also suggested limiting TIF to infrastructure.
“It’s not something that the developers get to take the money and run,” he said.
Bair noted several times during the hearing that the city’s main priority with the districts should be to improve infrastructure.
Mayor John Miller said sidewalks and streets needed improvement in the area, which he called the western entrance to Collinsville.
“We don’t have the funds to do that without raising property taxes,” Miller said.
The city stated in handouts distributed during the meeting that homeowners would benefit from the proposed districts in three ways: increased property values; certain public improvements paid for by TIF rather than through the general revenues; less money from property taxes required to provide essential services like police and fire.
Previously, a majority of the taxing bodies that would be affected by the creation of the TIF, including the school district, came out in support of the plan, along with representatives from the chamber of commerce and some business owners.
Collinsville Unit 10 School District actually changed its stance on the plan after recently signing a memorandum of understanding with the city.
Creation of a TIF district would normally freeze property taxes for schools and other taxing bodies for 23 years, but Mayor Miller signed the memorandum stating that schools would get a percentage of the TIF’s incremental property tax revenue if the districts are created.
Three City Council members have previously voted in favor of moves to create the districts, including Miller, Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich and Councilman Jeff Stehman.
Council members Jeff Kypta and Nancy Moss do not support the creation of a TIF district.
None of the council members addressed the proposed plan during Monday’s hearing.
Among the city’s stated goals for the TIF and business districts are to support existing public service entities within the district, including the two schools.
“I believe the No. 1 policy should be an investment in infrastructure, and it should not be viewed as ‘this is a gift to developers,’” Bair said earlier this year.
A number of public improvements are planned, including streetscape, repair and reconstruction of streets, extension of sidewalks and flooding mitigation on some vacant properties, among other potential projects.
The city is also hoping for major commercial and industrial development along Bluff Road and Collinsville Road, property improvements along St. Louis Road and “spillover investment” in neighboring areas.
I believe the No. 1 policy should be an investment in infrastructure, and it should not be viewed as ‘this is a gift to developers.’
City Manager Mitch Bair on the proposed TIF district
There are more than 400 housing units within the proposed TIF district area. The city, through a PGAV representative, has acknowledged that some housing units may be acquired over time for specific projects, but that the city would not be acquiring property by eminent domain.
According to the redevelopment plan, the proposal may result in the “removal” of 418 existing residential units, 412 of which are occupied. Relocation assistance would be provided to low-income residents.
“...The city shall make a good faith effort to ensure that affordable replacement housing for any qualifying displaced residents whose residence is removed is located near the area,” the plan states.
The area has experienced a “gradual decline,” according to the plan, specifically suffering from age and physical deterioration. Of the 363 buildings within the proposed area, a PGAV study found that 282 are 35 years old or older and that 207 are deteriorated.
Want to go?
- June 27: The City Council will vote on whether to adopt the proposed TIF and business districts during the City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Gateway Center.