Annexation, zoning of some land in TIF area approved

PAXTON — The Paxton City Council approved the annexation of eight parcels of land surrounding Interstate 57 and zoned them for commercial and residential use Monday night, with expectations to include the properties in the city’s proposed tax increment financing district.

Meanwhile, none of the parcels are owned by Joe Warner, the Rantoul developer who has submitted to the city a lofty proposal to build hundreds of new homes, a senior-living community and a variety of restaurants, retail stores and manufacturing facilities around the highly traveled interstate.

Upon the advisement of the city’s TIF consultant, Springfield attorney Dan Schuering, the council delayed action Monday to annex and zone several Warner-owned parcels that are considered key to the success of the TIF district and its development. Schuering said Warner has signed an annexation agreement with the city, as have the other property owners, but the text of Warner’s agreement is not finalized.

Schuering told aldermen to expect to be ready to approve the zoning and annexation of Warner’s land during next Monday’s regular meeting, set for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 145 S. Market St.

Schuering said the council should then be prepared to adjourn the meeting to a later date to approve a series of ordinances to implement the TIF district. Aldermen tentatively scheduled the adjourned meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13.

The city has a self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to implement its long-awaited first TIF district — initially proposed in August 2007 when Warner presented his plans to the council. City Attorney Bob Martensen advised the council Monday that failure to implement the TIF district by the end of 2012 would mean another one-year delay in new property tax revenue being generated from the development or improvement of property within it.

The urgency of implementing the TIF district became part of the discussion following Monday’s action, when Alderman Alan Meyer brought up the neglect and apparent misuse of some buildings in the downtown business district. Schuering told Meyer that TIF districts are specifically meant to help address such issues, and he said the extension of TIF into the downtown will allow the city to “very strongly encourage” property owners to improve their properties’ appearances through various incentives.

The TIF district would include areas on Paxton’s southwest border around the I-57 interchange, extending east along Ottawa Road before following the curve north to Market Street and through the downtown. The proposed redevelopment project area involves 600 acres, 362 parcels and 294 property owners.

The city’s plan commission voted 5-0 last Thursday, with three commissioners absent, to recommend the council approve the proposed zoning of 17 parcels that will be part of the TIF district.

Nine of those parcels are owned by Warner. Of those nine, three appear to already be in city limits, according to an analysis of tax records accessible at Ford County’s website, www.fordcountycourthouse.com, and would not need to be annexed. Two parcels are located at 600 W. Ottawa Road, where the Prairie City Trailer Park once stood; the other is at 392 W. Ottawa Road.

The six other Warner-owned parcels are outside city limits and must be annexed to be in the TIF district. 

The Warner properties would be zoned for a mix of residential, commercial and manufacturing developments and  through annexation would expand the city’s boundaries on all four quadrants of the interstate interchange.

Schuering told the plan commission that the zoning proposed for each parcel to be annexed reflects the land’s intended use as seen on a zoning map created several years ago to help the city plan its growth. The only exception is some parcels are “down-zoned,” meaning they are to have “less-intensive” zoning than listed on the map, Schuering said.

Martensen said the map reflects the fact that the city had zoned much of the land immediately surrounding its boundaries years ago. The city later revoked that zoning when the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the law allowing it, Martensen said, but kept the map as a resource.

Annexation agreements have been successfully negotiated between the city and each property owner, Schuering told the council and plan commission. Annexation agreements were approved Monday for the properties that were annexed during that night’s meeting — owned by Dwight and Chrstine Bender, Timothy and Ann Kulow, Dwain and Pam Sanders, James Polen, Mark aand Donna Garrell and the Mary C. Woolridge Trust. Warner’s agreement will be approved next week when his property is annexed, Schuering said.

The annexation agreements set various conditions under which the annexations are allowed. With the exception of the Warner agreement, all of the agreements are nearly identical, with each granting the city various easements and granting property owners tax breaks on real estate taxes paid to the city.

Once implemented, the TIF district would generate revenue as properties within it are developed or improved. Over the TIF district’s 23-year life cycle, all of the new property tax revenue created following development would be placed into an account under the city’s control, which could then be used to reimburse developers’ costs.

Taxing bodies, which would receive no increase but also no loss in their property tax revenue from land in the TIF district for 23 years, could also be given a portion of the tax increment to address needs that result from development in the TIF district. The city has negotiated revenue-sharing agreements with the PBL school district and Patton Township.

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