The Atlantic City Council meeting was held before a large crowd Wednesday evening, most of whom came to discuss a proposed Urban Revitalization Plan (URP) and related tax breaks on both commercial and residential rehabilitation and new construction. While the majority of those who spoke were in favor of passing a URP, there was one written and one spoken objection. Atlantic resident Charles Griffen wrote a letter to the Council, dated June 26th. The letter was read by Mayor Dave Jones, listed the reasons the plan should be rejected as drafted.
Griffen claimed it would benefit a limited number of citizens at the expense of the rest of the citizens, in that “For every dollar that is forgiven for developers, other tax dollars must be raised from taxpayer compensation.” He also argued if passed, the ordinance would allow the City to condemn any property to make way for private development. City Zoning Administrator John Lund said he was caught off-guard by the number of citizens who fear the City would use “Eminent Domain” to acquire properties as part of the URP to rid the area of blight.
He said “The Urban Revitalization Plan has absolutely nothing to do with Eminent Domain. When it comes to the acquisition or condemnation of properties, these are usually abandoned and the public is usually coming to the City begging us to tear these down.” He said also, that when the City is looking to acquire property, it is not looking at those occupied by individuals, and added “We have never had any interest in evicting anyone from their home.”
A Housing Assessment conducted in August 2013 by SWIPCO (The SouthWest Iowa Planning Council), indicated 54.7-percent of the houses in Atlantic were in Fair-to-Poor condition, with most having been built before 1960. The study found that meets the criteria for blight funding. SWIPCO Community Development Team Leader, Courtney Harter, said any tax abatements the City chooses to offer would be for qualified applicants.
In order to be eligible for tax abatement, the increase in the actual assessed value of the property must be at least 10%, and existing electrical must be brought into conformance with current code. All qualified real estate assessed as residential property would be eligible to receive an exemption from taxation on the first $250,000 of actual assessed value added by the improvements, as determined by the Cass County Assessor’s Office.
If approved, URP tax abatements would be retroactive to January 1st, 2014. Multi-residential properties classified as commercial as of Jan. 1st, 2014 would not be included. They will instead be reclassified beginning in January, 2015. The Council took no action on the proposal Wednesday. If 10-percent of the public feels there is a need for more discussion on the matter before the Council approves an Urban Revitalization Plan, they must sign a petition calling for another public hearing within 30-days.