Corcoran decides not to do downtown TIF study

The Corcoran City Council, Thursday, Aug. 24, decided not to invest $20,000 in a study that would have been a first step in assessing whether the city should create a tax increment financing district in the downtown Corcoran area.

At the meeting, the council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.

TIF DISTRICT

The City Council has had ongoing discussions on ways to attract businesses and other development to Corcoran. On July 27, Mike Fischer, of LBH, Inc., described two reasons to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. One reason would be to replace blighted properties with more valuable new development. The second would be to bring buildings up to date with current building codes and to attract new development. TIF subsidies could spur development that might not happen otherwise.

On Aug. 24, City Administrator Brad Martens asked the council whether it wanted to hire a consultant at a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 to review conditions of existing buildings in the area of a potential TIF district. If a review finds that sufficient conditions exist for a TIF district, the City Council could pass a resolution with findings of fact that would preserve the authority of the council to create a TIF district.

Martens said the most likely reason for a TIF district in Corcoran would involve bringing properties up to date with current building standards. A TIF bubble could stretch from the area with substandard properties to the area of Corcoran’s future extended downtown.

Mayor Ron Thomas said a big reason that Corcoran is installing downtown sewer and water improvements is to facilitate improvements of properties in the area. A TIF study would help the city make decisions about the future of the area.

He noted that Fischer had described Edina’s success with TIF in his July 27 talk. The side of France Avenue that was located in a TIF district experienced a large growth in property values, and, as a result, growth in the district’s tax base. The tax base on the side of France Avenue that was not in a TIF district remained flat.

City Councilor Jon Bottema said he was not sold on TIF. He had heard anti-TIF presentations, and he had noticed that some cities have gotten into financial trouble with TIF.

City Councilor Mike Keefe said he did not think TIF was a great idea. The downtown Corcoran area does not have the infrastructure to support a large amount of development.

Councilors Brian Dejewski and Tonya LaFave said they would rather focus on talking with businesses rather than on TIF.

The discussion ended when Mayor Thomas said he did not see council support for a TIF review at the present time.

URBAN LAND INSTITUTE INPUT

City Administrator Martens asked the council whether he should work with the Urban Land Institute to schedule a panel discussion during which developers and other interested parties would offer their thoughts on likely development patterns in Corcoran. There would be no cost to the city for the session.

Mayor Thomas said he would want the panel to provide ideas on what Corcoran could do with the area west of County Road 116.

City Councilor Bottema said he had researched political contributions made by Urban Land Institute Board members. Only a small fraction went to Republicans. The bulk of the money went to Democrats. If the ULI set up a panel for a Corcoran discussion, he would want a “counterweight” to offer alternate views.

Thomas said he did need to know the biases of panelists, but he would like information about potential development.

Councilor Keefe asked why Corcoran was not talking with landowners in the city to find out why they had not yet developed their properties. “We haven’t asked the right questions of the right people,” he said.

In the end, the City Council decided not to have city staff set up a discussion panel via the Urban Land Institute.

GMACH FARM SUBDIVISION

The City Council approved a preliminary plat for the subdivision of Gmach Farm at 22525 County Road 117, contingent open approval of variances for lot width for the two smallest lots.

City Planning Consultant Kendra Lindahl said Corcoran had published the preliminary plat request and it subsequently got a planning commission review. The variance request was not published. This will happen soon. The planning commission and city council both will look at the variance request in September.

The Gmach property is located in the rural residential zone. George Gmach proposes to subdivide the property into a 31.7-acre lot containing the farmstead, a 2.43-acre Lot 2, a 2.37-acre Lot 3 and a .76-acre outlot. City staff recommended combining the outlot with neighboring property at 22600 Oakdale Drive to create a new Lot 4. This lot would meet ordinance requirements for lot dimensions.

MOTLEY LOT LINE ADJUSTMENT

The City Council approved a lot line adjustment and variance requested by Steve and Stephanie Motley for property at 6620 Pioneer Trail. The lot line adjustment increases the size of one lot from 1.09 to 1.67 acres and makes the existing barn part of this lot rather than the 47.68 acre neighboring parcel.

ST. JOHN’S LIQUOR LICENSE

The council approved a temporary liquor license for an event at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 9141 County Road 101, Corcoran.