TIF funds turned down for DMH project

The Monticello city council on Monday voted down a Tax Increment Financing agreement that would have netted a developer up to $22,000 for their work on the former Pizza Hut property.

“I’m just getting a little disappointed,” said Simone (Beazly) Demirjian of 777 Bridge Development, saying that her ties to the community have made the experience seem like the council was “kind of slapping us in the face for wanting to do something for the community.”

Despite the refusal of TIF funds, the property has been purchased, the former restaurant torn down and work will continue on a $1.2 million effort that will bring a Decatur Medical Hospital clinic to town by the holidays.

That was one fact sited by some aldermen in their reluctance to allocate TIF funds – that the project would go on with or without them.

“It’s going on regardless. I don’t see the small amount we give would make a difference,” said Alderman Jeremy Jones, admitting he had gone “back and forth” on the issue.

Council member Cochran Keating also had trouble fitting the property into the “blighted” condition as spelled out in TIF eligibility requirements, but City Director of Community Development Callie Jo McFarland said there are up to 15 factors that can be considered when compiling TIF agreements.

Alderman Joe Brown cited six of those criteria and found the project hit on enough of them to vote in favor of the TIF agreement. He considered factors of improving health, safety and welfare; preventing a spread of blight, encouraging investment, enhancing city tax base, increasing employment and enhancing future tax revenues.

Brown thought the 777 Bridge Development work fit the final three, and possibly a fourth if it encourages other investment.

“So it’s three yes’s, three no’s and a question mark for me,” said Brown, who was one of just two aldermen to vote “yes” on the TIF redevelopment agreement.

Alderman Seth Melton, serving as mayor pro tem for the meeting, once again questioned the timeline of 777 approaching the council just weeks before work started on the property.

“You were looking prior to, and my point is if we’re going to be doing TIF projects, you need to be working with the city with those during the developmental phase,” said Melton, claiming the project had been in discussion months before the council was brought in.

Demarjian responded that, although they had started discussing the project with DMH before the TIF agreement first came to the council on Aug. 14, she first needed to know it would be in a TIF district and that the hospital was committed to locating there.

“You can talk a project around forever but there is no point in coming until you know the tenant is willing to make that move,” said Demirjian.

The council also:
–was informed of a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 to discuss the Monticello Airport; and
–was told by Police Chief John Carter that officers would be available for voluntary car seat and vehicle window tinting checks at Saturday’s Monticellobration.

 

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