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Unknown project development prompts TID expansion plans
Proposed amendment boundaries, marked in orange, to Tax Increment District 9 were prompted by the interest of a company which approached the city about possible development just south of the 98 acres currently part of TID 9, created in October. The added 72 acres outlines land along Wisconsin 11, 2nd Street North, 6th Avenue West, 8th Street, 4th Avenue West, West 6th Street, 1st Avenue and 3rd Street. (Image supplied)
MONROE - Secrecy surrounding a possible project in the northwest region of the city was a point of contention among members of the Monroe Common Council during a meeting May 1 as aldermen discussed whether to incorporate 72 additional acres into Tax Increment District 9.

Currently 98 acres along Wisconsin 81 and County N, the city established TID 9 in October.

Financial advisory company Ehlers, which was hired by the city to establish the TID, conducted a study to determine the feasibility of expanding its boundaries. Greg Johnson, an Ehlers senior municipal advisor and vice president, presented its findings during the meeting at City Hall Annex. The city was recently approached by an entity for a potential project just south of TID 9, prompting the evaluation.

The possibility of outside investment in the area by an unknown company was discussed first during a council meeting March 6, which prompted Alderman Michael Boyce to ask why the council was not allowed to know the identity of the company. At the time, Boyce said he wasn't necessarily opposed to the proposal but disagreed "with the method by which the council is being asked to vote on it."

Boyce said last week he feels the city should not be making decisions without knowing details about the company.

"A project hasn't been identified to council, so we don't really know what we're voting on," Boyce said, noting both Walmart and Shopko are included within the proposed boundaries. "I really don't think they need a handout to renovate their properties."

He added that secrecy had proven unpopular with the public by the state agreement with Taiwanese technology company Foxconn.

Alderwoman Brooke Bauman said the amended area is not meant to benefit just one entity.

"I think it just makes sense to have that ability out there if something arises," Bauman said of creating more space for possible development incentives.

City Administrator Phil Rath said the company chose to remain anonymous until project plans can be more fully realized, citing a need for confidentiality against competition. Rath did not specify where the project may potentially take place within the newly proposed TID parcels.

Mayor Louis Armstrong, Rath and other unnamed city officials met with company representatives in March, Rath said. He did not disclose details of the meeting. Rath said more information may be made public in the near future

The original 98-acre property was purchased from the Daniel Dolan Trust in December with a trust fund loan from the state. The city borrowed $1.85 million to be paid over 20 years. Administrative fees for the extension of TID 9 are roughly $14,500, which Rath said could be paid for by just under $25,000 in city revenue gained by the rental of the empty TID for agricultural use.

Portions of the proposed amendment area currently have development in place, or infrastructure, like Wisconsin 11. The vacant Harley-Davidson dealership and acreage extending east would be enveloped in the proposed area, as well as nearly 8 acres of land between 6th Avenue West and 4th Avenue West and the parcels where St. Vincent de Paul, Wisconsin Cheese Group and Wisconsin Pallet and Storage operate within the city.

Two 3-acre parcels west of Walmart stand empty as well. Rath said the lots could be used as development for businesses commonly found near the retail behemoth, like restaurants. With the proposed amendment, the city would add 13 parcels to TID 9. By state law, parcels within a tax district must be whole and connected.

While the TID could be used by the entities currently in place, the businesses would still need to meet requirements to be eligible for finance incentives, Rath said. The incentives provided by TIDs are on a case-by-case basis and can either be given upfront to motivate developers or can be provided as incentives based on tax value and performance once development has been completed. The latter is referred to as a PAYGO or pay-as-you-go plan, which was utilized in the city's recent agreement with Monroe Clinic as it established TID 10.

Johnson explained that providing $3 million in development incentives could also be achieved through borrowing but said the PAYGO option is "preferable" because incentives are directly tied to revenue and that borrowing shifts more risk onto the city rather than paying incentives out as tax revenue is generated.

Council members approved phase two, which allows Ehlers associates to proceed with creating the expanded TID. Aldermen Rob Schilt, Donna Douglas, Mickey Beam, Chris Beer, Richard Thoman and Bauman voted in favor of proceeding. Fellow council members Ron Marsh and Boyce voted against it. Jeff Newcomer was absent.

Final approval is still needed before the new outline could be certified by the state. The proposal will be brought to the city Plan Commission for a public hearing and possible approval before being considered once more by council. The Joint Review Board would then make a final approval, and the outline would be submitted to the state for certification.