Local business, county official object to city’s Urban Renewal Plan

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY - Marshalltown resident Mark Eaton is shown speaking during a public hearing on proposed expansion of an Urban Renewal area at a special noon city council meeting Monday in City Hall.

A special noon City Council meeting Monday only required 17 minutes, but could generate a lot more time for discussion on the topics at next week’s regular meeting.

Central to Monday’s meeting was a required public hearing on a council proposal to expand the Urban Renewal Plan for Area number three.

Local businessman Mark Eaton said he owns property in the area and is opposed.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser identified the area as the south side commercial area. The boundary starting at Olive Street, coming around to South Center Street, and then expanding to Iowa Avenue.

“The portion to be added is from basically the west city limits to what would be the west edge of this border near South 12th Street. It is not a large area we are (propose to) adding.”

Kinser said if approved by the council, the council would be able to consider a development agreement for a storage unit facility.

Eaton said the council wants to add the area specifically to give a local business money to expand an existing self-storage facility business.

He said that creates a bad precedent.

“I am concerned the reason to expand this district is to give a person money (from Tax Increment Funds) to build or expand a business that does not create any jobs,” Eaton said. “TIF is used by cities and counties to attract people and businesses for jobs. TIF is used by governments in competition with other cities and counties who are using their TIF money to compete for those jobs. There is not competition in this instance. If this passes, it opens the door for me to ask for money to expand my business. I don’t think it should be passed.”

Assistant Marshall County Auditor/Recorder Whitney Hunt who said she works with TIF in her job, also objected to the plan.

Among other issues Hunt cited was lack of notice, and that Marshall County objects to the legal description of the area shown by the city.

“We still have that issue,” she said. “We have asked multiple times for pending legal descriptions to be done by somebody that is qualified, such as a surveyor. We still do not have an accurate description. And, I think it is a bad use of TIF to give money to somebody so they can meet code for a storage facility that will not create any jobs. It is within 1,800 feet of another self-storage unit facility. You are planning on giving money to someone who is in competition with another business that has been there for 28 years. I do not think that is right. We have seven mini storage facilities in Marshalltown. There are good uses for TIF and bad uses for TIF. This is not a good use.”

Kinser said a city employee had prepared the legal description, and she and other city officials believe it to be correct.

Kinser also said TIF could be used to add “taxable value,” and the storage unit developer’s proposal may do that.

However, she stressed nothing has been finalized, and the city’s desire to expand the area is but one of many steps.

“There are a lot of other things that have to happen,” she said. “This is just the first step in the process.”

There were no other objections or comments of support received.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com