The Atlantic City Council, Wednesday, discussed, but did not take action on a policy addressing Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The Council tabled action on a draft policy during their meeting two weeks ago, because of changes made over the summer by the Iowa Legislature. Councilman Shaun Shouse spoke about one of the changes, which primarily applies to businesses looking to relocate within the State of Iowa.
The City currently does not have a TIF policy in-place for commercial and industrial development. The result has been inconsistencies in how the funds have been awarded, and complaints about how those funds are distributed for some projects and not for others. City Administrator Doug Harris has said without a TIF policy, the use of TIF funds are subject to abuse and waste.
A TIF Task Force put in place by Mayor Dave Jones, met several times with local developers, business leaders and others, to create the draft policy, along with the City Administrator and City Attorney Dave Weiderstein. The Council was asked by local economic development officials last night, to take a more pro-active role in the TIF process, in particular, as it pertains to new housing developments. Cass/Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO) President Hal Gronewald said there is a housing shortage in Atlantic, not only in rental properties, but in owner-occupied units.
Gronewald says with federal and state funds becoming harder to come by, it becomes incumbent on the local communities to step up. He says the reality is that potential rentals in relation to current construction costs are not sufficient to attract private capital, without some sort of public assistance. Gronewold said he was pleased to hear the City is getting closer to getting a TIF policy in-place, and he says CADCO has some recommendations they strongly urge the Council to consider, without attaching too many conditions or qualifications. One of the recommendations pertains to tax abatements. He said the City should adopt a uniform policy of tax abatements for both housing and commercial construction.
CADCO also recommends the City seek proposals from outside developers, and devise a credible plan for the city owned property in the 300 block of Walnut Street for some type of downtown housing complex. CADCO says the TIF issue is “Too urgent and pressing to engage in time consuming studies,” and that they are ready to offer as much assistance as necessary.