BLOOMINGTON — Normal's plan to continue offering property tax incentives for uptown development remains on track despite reservations from some McLean County Board members and their constituents.
The board signed off Tuesday on a proposal to add 12 years to uptown's tax increment financing (TIF) district — a tool that lets local governments use property tax increases in a specific area for nearby infrastructure and private incentives — though some questioned not only the length of the extension but whether TIF incentives should still be used in uptown at all.
Town officials have said the extension is necessary to negotiate incentives for a few planned developments north of Uptown Circle that otherwise would not happen. They've promised to exclude every other development from the TIF's impact after the district's planned expiration in 2026.
"I believe, more than anything, that the officials in the town of Normal have earned our trust," said board member David Selzer, one of 12 who voted yes.
The town hopes all the bodies that tax uptown will sign off on the proposal this month — signaling community-wide support to the Illinois General Assembly, which has the power to approve or deny the changes.
Seven board members voted no, and three other county residents who addressed the board agreed.
"From here to 2026 isn't very long. Another 12 years past that in one fell swoop strikes me as perhaps making some assumptions," said board member George Gordon, who voted no.
"TIF districts are primarily for blighted areas," said board member Laurie Wollrab, who also voted no. "Uptown Normal really has gone beyond ... being a blighted area, and I just don't see how this applies."
Resident Adam Heenan told the board his experience with TIF districts is that they take money from other local taxing bodies like schools that sorely need it. Resident Michelle Hunt noted the county is already facing money problems that forced officials to offer early retirement to 21 employees last year.
"Does taking this risk make sense in the face of our current budget issues? No, it does not," said Hunt. "This may make sense for the town of Normal, but for McLean County residents and government, it's a losing proposition."
Board members Josh Barnett, Jacob Beard, Bill Caisley, Randall Martin, John McIntyre, Scott Murphy, Erik Rankin, Carlo Robustelli, Susan Schafer, Paul Segobiano and Jim Soeldner also voted yes. Don Cavallini, Chuck Erickson, Catherine Metsker, Ryan Scritchlow and George Wendt also voted no.
Normal City Council signed off on the proposal last week although two residents said they're concerned the proposal doesn't address the dearth of affordable housing in uptown, a problem exacerbated by redevelopment that makes the area more desirable for rentals and drives up rates as a result.
Mayor Chris Koos noted affordable housing is part of the town's ongoing plans for uptown, but not for the area to be redeveloped north of Uptown Circle.