The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

January 23, 2014

No urban renewal plan means 'economic suicide'

CLINTON — While the city continues to contemplate the urban renewal plan regarding the rail park west of town, Clinton's planning committee discussed details in the 17-page document Wednesday that may have been overlooked when it was discussed by council members more than a week ago.

The Lincolnway Industrial Rail and Air Park Urban Renewal plan has gone through several revisions since it was first conceived in 2006. Part of those revisions have pertained to changes to Clinton that have taken place over the last eight years. Now, one important state-wide update has forced the plan back in front of city leaders.

"Any urban renewal planning and any use of tax increment financing changed for the state of Iowa," said City Administrator Jessica Kinser before seven committee members. "It stated that you cannot use tax increment financing for any specific project unless it is stated in an urban renewal plan."

Cities establish urban renewal plans so that outside businesses looking to locate within a municipality will have a glimpse at what the city has to offer. In Clinton's case, the rail park has 259 acres of city-owned property and 212 acres of property owned by the Clinton Regional Development Corporation to showcase. Forty-six acres were already purchased by two outside companies: RAIL.ONE and Nevada Railroad Materials. Development agreements with both businesses are in the process of being finalized.

Tax increment financing (or TIF) is a mechanism that dedicates increments of tax revenue within certain districts. This mechanism allows cities and developers to finance debt that pays for a given project.

Ever since Iowa Legislators reexamined the tax increment financing code, city's wishing to enter economic development deals such as those involving the Clinton, RAIL.ONE and NRM need to specify their intents to utilize TIF within an urban renewal area. In the case of the latest Urban Renewal Plan draft, Kinser said six public improvement plans not to exceed $25 million were also specified, although the city hasn't committed any dollars toward financing those projects.

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