Supes hear ‘pitch’ on TIF funds for Jefferson housing project

The role of the county in developing housing and financing for a proposed rental complex near the Jefferson water tower are once again being discussed.

Two years ago Greene County Development Corporation asked the county supervisors to apply for a forgivable loan from the Iowa Finance Authority to provide funds for J-Corp to develop rental housing in Jefferson. The supervisors declined, in part because of an extremely short deadline.

In April of 2016 the subject came back again, as a proposal that the county help pay the cost for an outside engineering/planning firm to do a study of housing needs and potential financial incentives for developers.

That time, the Jefferson city council and the county supervisors shied away from the $39,000 price tag and GCDC did its own housing needs assessment.

JCorp still hasn’t broken ground on the project, although the city of Jefferson has already replaced a water line needed for the project at a cost of $74,000, as well as agreeing to tax increment payments to JCorp up to $750,000. Those payments would act to abate property taxes for seven years.

Now GCDC is asking the county supervisors to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district covering the new MidAmerican wind turbines north of Grand Junction, and to use $130,000 of that money to help fill the financing gap that is holding up the JCorp project. That was the subject of a discussion between the supervisors, members of the GCDC board, and GCDC director Ken Paxton Monday.

The “selling points” haven’t changed. JCorp was unable to borrow enough money to construct the project because there were no comparable projects to show the rental units would be filled, generating enough revenue to pay the loan. This would be the only time the county would be asked for help because going forward, there would be a comparable project for the appraisal.

Paxton said GCDC is “beyond desperate” to have more housing available, and that a lack of available housing is holding back job growth.

GCDC past president Norm Fandel encouraged the supervisors. “Anything that’s going to move our county forward will take the work of everybody,” he said.

GCDC president Sid Jones suggested that once the county sets up TIF for this relatively small project, it would be set up for other larger projects.

Supervisors chair John Muir emphasized that he was speaking only for himself when he said, “I think the county is interested in participating in the project, but I’m not sure TIF is the way to do it. We may end up using TIF in the future, but this isn’t the project to do it for.”

Supervisor Pete Bardole, who is an ex officio member of the GCDC board, said he’d like to see the county participate, “with or without TIF.”

There are several steps to establish a TIF district, and at this time it’s unlikely they could be accomplished soon enough to capture the full increase in property valuation created by the wind turbines.

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