Council discusses, approves TIF districtApril 23, 2021
By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
JASPER — The Jasper Common Council passed a resolution Wednesday allowing a tax-increment financing district near Vincennes University Jasper to be established.
The proposed district, as well as TIFs in general, were discussed at length by the council before the resolution passed 5-1. Some council members expressed concern because TIFs have been contentious in the past.
The district was discussed in relation to a University Heights project, which will involve a new apartment complex being built near the Vincennes University Jasper campus. However, the TIF would also provide funding for future construction projects, as well.
“The area is something that needs to be discussed more, but that area in the southeast of town has been lacking in development and needs some kind of stimulus,” Mayor Dean Vonderheide said at the meeting. “Abatements are good in the right place and time ... But abatement scoring in this case wouldn’t give the same opportunity to make this happen.”
The apartment complex, which will have 80 units consisting mostly of studio apartments and some two-bedroom and one-bathroom units, will be built with direct access to the university campus but will only be partially designated for students and otherwise open to the public.
Jasper Developer Ruger Kerstiens, who presented the project to the council, said the project will provide more affordable housing in the area. He also said it will be a place where interns and temporary workers can be housed for a few months at a time.
Kerstiens said that ultimately, the project is not feasible without a TIF district. The proposed district would run along State Road 162 to beyond Third Avenue near Bohnert Park, he said.
Both the Jasper Redevelopment Commission and Plan Commission had already seen and approved of the project before it reached the council, and now that the council has passed the resolution, it’s back in the hands of the RDC.
Councilmember Chad Leuken voted against the resolution. He said he’s heard concerns about TIFs from residents in the past. Other councilmembers approved the resolution but said that there needs to be more discussion about the district and that the public needs to be fully informed about it.
The council also invited Jasper resident Adrian Engelberth, who was present at the meeting, to give his thoughts. Engelberth said he is not opposed to the project but is concerned about how the TIF could hike up property taxes for decades and potentially negatively affect funding for entities such as the schools, which are partially funded through property taxes.
“We’ve got to be careful about what we do to the schools,” he said.
Engelberth has publicly opposed TIFs in the past, stating also that citizens don’t get enough say and that too much power is given to the RDC. He said he wasn’t aware the council was going to vote to approve the district Wednesday evening and that many people who would be affected by the district probably don’t know about it at all.
Vonderheide agreed with Engelberth in saying that schools are the No. 1 priority in Dubois County, but said that the housing shortage is a big problem and that this project would hopefully spur more development on the southeast side of town.
Although the council approved the resolution, the district is not set in stone. The public will still have opportunities to voice their opinions about the district. There will be a public hearing at the next Jasper Economic Development Commission meeting. That meeting is set for May 4 at 10 a.m.
Kerstiens said he has talked to neighbors near the proposed district and will continue to communicate with them throughout the process as more details are finalized.
The council also:
• Considered tax abatement compliance for Kimball Furniture Group and Kimball Hospitality, Inc. The council found the companies in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Considered tax abatement compliance for Meyer Distributing Inc., Braun Family Properties LLC and Transit Properties LLC. The council found the companies in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Considered tax abatement compliance for Jasper Chair Company Inc. The council found the company in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Considered tax abatement compliance for Cash Waggner & Associates P.C. The council found the company in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Considered tax abatement compliance for German American Bank. The council found the company in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Considered tax abatement compliance for Jasper Engine Exchange Inc. The council found the company in substantial compliance with their statement of benefits for the abatement.
• Passed an ordinance adopting an economic development rider incentive with Indiana Municipal Power Agency. Larger customers who reach a certain kilowatt requirement will receive a discount to incentivize growth in the IMPA service territory.
• Passed an ordinance approving of a public utility and drainage easement between Cathy and Terry Lanes for Meyer Distributing.
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