By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
It’s been discussed for many months, but action Monday night by the Imperial city council will likely move forward the start of infrastructure development in the Cornerstone Commercial Park.
On a 3-1 vote, the city will start the process toward development of 2nd Street in the city-owned Cornerstone property from Holland St., east to Highway 61, using Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
In order to begin the process, a general redevelopment plan would have to be drawn up first for the entire Cornerstone property.
The plan would give general direction on what TIF-funded projects would be allowed in the area, such as streets, parking areas, lighting and other development as city officials see fit.
City Clerk/Administrator Jo Leyland explained how TIF in this scenario would work.
After the general redevelopment plan was approved, the city could begin development of a street or other infrastructure.
Then, as soon as a tax-paying entity, such as an apartment complex, is built, the property taxes from it could be redirected to the TIF fund to help pay for the infrastructure. Those property taxes could be redirected for a 15-year period after a building is up and operating.
Leyland said the city probably would have enough sales tax funds (economic development) to pay the bonds for development of 2nd Street.
But, there would not be enough money to complete further infrastructure development in the Cornerstone property which is platted for commercial and residential.
“The questions before you tonight are do you want to begin the infrastructure development and, if so, do we want to use TIF to do that,” Leyland said.
As other projects are built in Cornerstone, that new construction’s resulting property taxes would continue to be redirected to help with further infrastructure development, as well as incentives for individual businesses or large residential efforts that can show public benefit.
Each project when finished would have its own 15-year “time clock” for the redirection of its property taxes to TIF, Leyland said.
The Citizens Advisory Committee, which forwarded to the council the recommendation to proceed with the street development, favored a dual approach to use the TIF funds—both for the infrastructure costs and to provide incentives for development of individual properties in Cornerstone when it would be beneficial to the public, said Leslie Carlholm, community development director.
Use of TIF would be overseen by the Community Redevelopment Authority, which would make recommendation on use of the funds to the city council, which has final say.
According to discussion at Monday’s meeting, a developer has approached city officials about putting in an apartment complex at Cornerstone.
Other commercial interest there has also come up, Carlholm said.
There has been some interest in construction of spec homes there, as well, but Carlholm couldn’t say whether that will proceed or not. Some housing developers, she said, will not proceed with a project until paved streets are in place.
Commercial and light industrial property in other parts of the city is getting hard to find, Carlholm noted.
“That lapse will come to be an obstacle to the growth of the community,” she said.
Carlholm added the delay in the Cornerstone development may have helped along the “filling in” of other commercially-zoned areas in Imperial with some “creative thinking” on business construction.
“But, we are running out of those options,” she said.
Council member Chad Yaw said he believes it’s time to move on the development there.
“We took the initiative to buy this property and if we don’t start developing the property it will sit there forever,” he said.
“I think the time is right to come up with some building out there. If we put the street in that will spur a lot of building,” he said.
The approval did not come on a unanimous vote. Council members Yaw, Doug Gaswick and Sue Moore voted to proceed. John Arterburn voted no.
Arterburn suggested they instead consider the development of 3rd Street in Cornerstone, one block north.
He said potential business owners he’s talked with don’t need the larger lots that border 2nd Street. Paving 3rd Street would also provide streets in front of residential lots, as 2nd Street does, but gives access to the smaller commercial lots platted between 3rd and 4th Sts., he said.
Carlholm said opening 2nd Street provides more options by providing access to both commercial and light industrial lots.
Arterburn also said he didn’t favor developing streets in Cornerstone “when there are other streets with houses on them not paved” in Imperial.
Yaw noted those property owners can petition the city to have their streets paved if they wish.
Estimates for the overall general redevelopment plan in Cornerstone would be $12,000 to $15,000, with additional fees of about $10,000 for each individual project development.
If the street development happens, Carlholm said it would involve curb/gutter from Holland to Orsa along a 40-foot wide paved street, then crushed rock from Orsa to Highway 61.
Water, sewer, natural gas, electricity and drainage development for that area would also be included.