Monday, April 27, 2015

What you may not know: Week of April 27

This is the first committee week of the new council year, and with a new year comes a new set of appointments and schedule. You may already have seen this on my Twitter or Facebook pages, but here are my assignments for the year ahead:

  • I'm honored to have been selected by my colleagues to serve for the first time as Council Vice President. The position is a little light on official responsibilities but I'm looking forward to working with new president Jeff Jirschele to help improve our council processes and the way we share information with each other and our constituents.
  • I'm also honored to be a committee chair for the first time, having been selected by the Mayor to head the Safety & Licensing Committee. My first meeting as chair will be on Thursday.
  • Mayor Hanna also reappointed me to the Finance Committee for a second year, and to the Transit Commission for a third year.
And now, on to business. Here are some of the items I'll be watching this week:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

Efforts to add on to the Emerald Valley subdivision will likely take another step forward on Monday evening when the City Plan Commission will be asked to recommend approval of a Final Plat calling for 27 lots to be subdivided between E Rubyred Dr and Providence Avenue, north and west of the intersection of County Highway JJ and French Road.

This is the third step in an extended process, as council approved a rezoning to move this property from agricultural to R-1B single family on February 4 and a preliminary plat for the subdivision was approved on March 4. The subject property was annexed into the city in 2004.

On top of adding to the city tax base, this subdivision addition also resolves a known safety issue in the already-developed area nearby. The current subdivision connects to French Road in two relatively nearby locations, but the fact that those exits are close together and power lines run overhead creates the risk that the subdivision could be completely closed off to the outside in the event of a major windstorm, which has already happened once. This plat calls for the subdivision to be connected to Providence Avenue on the south and should eliminate that concern. 

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

The Municipal Services Committee will be busy on Tuesday with no less than eleven action items on their agenda, including a revision to one we've discussed previously.

Back in early March I mentioned a request to install a new sign outside Bazil's on College Avenue, a large beer bottle that extended out into the street right of way and made some of my colleagues uneasy. That request narrowly passed at the committee level, was referred back by council and was eventually held so a new proposal could be developed. The new proposal will come before the committee this week.

The new sign doesn't extend quite as far into the right of way as the previous proposal (five feet instead of 8.5), but little else appears to have changed. At this point I don't know if that adjustment will be enough to alleviate the concerns of some of my colleagues.

Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) is one of the powerful tools local governments have in their arsenals to help spur development in certain areas, improving the vibrancy of areas that may otherwise stagnate and helping increase the tax base over the long term. On Wednesday we'll celebrate the success of one such district as the Finance Committee is expected to recommend approval of a resolution closing TIF district #5, an area north of College Avenue between Gillett and Bennett streets.

For those interested, here's a very simplified crash course on how TIF districts work:

  • Areas that may otherwise become blighted or be left underdeveloped can be designated as a TIF district and targeted for improvements that will make them more likely to be improved going forward. To date the city has designated ten areas this way, and this district will be the fourth to successfully close.
  • Payments made to the four taxing entities (the city, county, school district and Fox Valley Technical College) by properties within a TIF district are held flat for a period of time. At the same time, money is borrowed to help finance the needed improvements that have been identified.
  • That debt is paid off using the "increment," which is the increase in tax revenue received as property values in the area improve. The hope is that new development in the area or a revitalization of existing development will create a relatively rapid improvement in assessed values.
  • A TIF district remains "open" as long as outstanding debt from the improvements is still being paid by the increment. Once the debt has been repaid the district is closed and the full value of the property returns to the tax rolls.
The final debt service payments on TIF district #5 were projected for April, so we're ready to close the books on this one. 

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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