Council OKs pharmacy TIF, tree grant application

T-R PHOTOS BY ROBERT MAHARRY — Dirt work has begun at 211 W. Main St., the future site of a downtown pharmacy to be operated by Marshalltown native Doug Niedermann. During Monday night’s meeting, the city council formally approved a $160,000 Tax Increment Financing agreement with the development company behind the project.

During one of its shorter meetings in recent memory, the Marshalltown city council unanimously approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement for the construction of a new pharmacy on West Main Street and an application for a Trees Forever grant to plant 140 new trees in the northeast part of the city.

The council took two separate actions related to the pharmacy project, one amending the current urban renewal plan and another formally authorizing the development agreement with Betty’s Properties LLC for TIF payments not to exceed $160,000 over a 10-year period. According to the terms, the company will be required to invest a minimum of $815,000 into the project. Dirt work at 211 W. Main St. has already begun in the last several weeks.

When the public hearing was opened, Councilor Gary Thompson asked City Administrator Jessica Kinser about wording in the minimum assessment agreement that referred to a “higher level of risk of things not working out,” and she described the struggle to bridge the gap between the appraised value of the property and the expected construction costs.

Thompson then asked if a three-year tax abatement paired with a seven-year grant would make more sense, but Kinser did not wish to combine the two.

“What that does is it really pushes the TIF farther down the road where it does have a tendency to get lost if you’re not reporting it right away or starting things the first year,” she said. “There’s such a delay that it’s easier to keep it as one item moving forward together rather than trying to co-mingle those two different tools.”

Marshalltown Public Library Director Sarah Rosenblum spoke briefly at Monday night’s city council meeting in recognition of the library’s 125th anniversary.

Thompson then asked if a precedent would be set for TIF payments going forward, and Kinser said it would ultimately be up to the council to decide on a case-by-case basis but hoped the city would reach a point where less financing was needed to make projects viable.

“If this really is a precedent, does this help us get where there’s plenty of room in that urban renewal zone? Is this a marketing tool? We need to be out there pounding the pavement telling people that this is something we’re willing to do to spur that development downtown in addition to historical grants and everything else,” Thompson said.

Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO John Hall again came forward to offer his thoughts and spoke of the challenges with the appraisal gap in making projects “bankable.”

“The big selling point is (that) we came with a plan, with an expectation of what we thought we could accomplish utilizing a tool that existed. We ran into some roadblocks and we were able to pivot and still meet the need in order to see the development continue forward,” Hall said. “So I think that speaks highly of the city and our willingness to come up with solutions in order to see those projects come through because oftentimes that’s the biggest sticking point for projects… It can become hard to navigate through that, but our willingness to navigate through that is in fact a big testament to our city staff and city leadership.”

Mark Eaton was the lone public commenter and reiterated previous criticisms of TIF, arguing that it takes money away from other taxing entities like the county and the school district. He instead urged the council to utilize tax abatement.

“I know (the school system and county) aren’t here fighting for those things, but I’m a taxpayer and a shareholder in all those entities. So you don’t have to do TIF grants and loans. You have a tax abatement tool you can use that comes out of your own pocket, our own pocket, the city’s own pocket and not the other entities, negatively impacting them so they have to raise taxes to offset your gift to a private entity,” Eaton said.

He also called the city “discriminatory” in its use of TIF. Kinser responded that tax abatement “doesn’t go on the tax rolls for anybody” and depresses the value for the city, county and school district for the time that it is utilized. Conversely, she said, TIF allows those entities to collect on their debt service and Physical Plant and Equipment (PPEL) levies. Returning to the podium again, Eaton contended that while what Kinser said was good, TIF requires the vote of a majority of councilors while abatement simply requires the applicant to fill out a form.

Two separate motions to approve the urban renewal amendment and the development agreement carried unanimously.

In regard to the tree grant, Kinser explained that the trees would be planted in the right of way in the highest low-to-moderate income census tract, and Parks and Recreation Director Geoff Hubbard put together a map of where they would be located from Bromley to Woodbury and Fourth Avenue to 12th Avenue.

“We felt that this was the important area to really focus on,” Kinser said.

She added that Trees Forever had done outreach to residents in the area previously, and at the time, they were not interested in planting trees in the right of way. The program requires 10 different species of trees to be planted and to have no more than 10 percent of each tree represented.

“It would be a very diverse planting,” she said.

Calling the application “an awesome thing to come before us,” Councilor Gabe Isom asked about how the locations were chosen and if they could potentially be more spread out in the final plans. Thompson asked Kinser if permission was required from the homeowners, and she said it was not because the trees would be positioned in the right of way.

He also inquired about whether the planting would be hired out or done internally, and she said it would most likely be an internal job with some in-kind volunteer work.

A motion to move forward with the application carried by a 7-0 vote.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the third and final reading of the new speed limits along Lincoln Way from 12th Street west to Highland Acres Road. Thompson introduced an amendment that would have moved the limit to a uniform 35 miles per hour in the area, but it died for lack of a second. The original motion carried unanimously.

• Approved a resolution providing for the vacation of the east-west alley north of 328 S. 3rd Ave.

• Approved a resolution providing for the conveyance and transfer of the title to a portion of vacated but unconveyed alley in the 900 block of South 11th Avenue to abutting property owners.

• Approved a proclamation recognizing the 125th anniversary of the Marshalltown Public Library.

• Approved a 20-year service award for Joel Chandler in engineering.

• Approved the consent agenda as listed.


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or



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