Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 22, 2014

TIF motion tabled

Development group to decide between Washington and Oskaloosa
By David Hotle | Nov 21, 2013
Overland Property Group partner Brett Johnson discusses a potential project with the Washington City Council Wednesday.

While a motion to allow a Kansas-based developer to build a 32-unit, two-building apartment complex in Washington was tabled during the Washington City Council meeting Wednesday, all the council members seemed willing to provide any help to move the project forward.
After the motion was made to approve a resolution of intent to provide about $315,000 of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funding to Overland Property Group for the project over 15 years, council members Fred Stark and Bob Shellmyer asked for the vote to be tabled until the Dec. 4 meeting. They said they wanted a chance to look into the company and get feedback from constituents on the project. According to a memo from city administrator Brent Hinson, Oskaloosa is being approached with a similar request and Overland will make the decision on which project to pursue prior to the Dec. 9 application deadline.
“It is a substantial investment in the community, but there is a lot of moving parts when it comes to affordable housing,” said Overland partner Brett Johnson during a presentation to the council.
Johnson explained that each state has a federal tax credit program that administers credits to developers. He explained how the Iowa Planning Authority scores the credit program, showing that Washington — specifically the area in the 900 block of West Monroe Street where the complex is planned — would have a high score. In the memo, Hinson said the last tax credit apartment project built in town — Woodridge — had TIF assistance.
During the discussion, he stressed that the apartments were going to be affordable housing, which is many times confused with Section 8 housing. He said that wage thresholds were high for the Washington market. Rents would be in the range of up to $650. He also said that there would be criminal, credit and rent history checks of prospective tenants. Johnson said in other communities the apartments were popular with first-year police officers and teachers.
Johnson showed a video of several properties the Overland group owns, including properties in Pella and Storm Lake.  A layout of the proposed Washington site can be found online at <http://vimeo.com/78373407.>
“It is something that generally when it is built ends up being the nicest apartments in town,” Johnson said. “I say that confidently, because we turn away renters who make more than the 60 percent of area median income, which is the cap.”
During discussion, council member Merle Hagie said that attracting this type of project to Washington is a strong part of the city’s comprehensive plan. He said the project is just moving forward with something identified as a need in the plan. Council member Mark Kendall made the motion to approve the resolution of intent and council member Bob Shepherd seconded.
“This project falls perfectly into our comprehensive plan and I think it is a great use of tax credits,” Kendall said. “This is a great use of TIF financing.”
Both Stark and Shellmyer said that they were not opposed to the project, but that they wanted to do more research before approving the motion. Stark said that he was sure that constituents wanted to know more before the motion was approved and to let the community in the project area know in case they had any questions.  
“I want to do some homework on it,” Shellmyer said. “Two hours after we meet this gentleman, we are involving ourselves in a three-year TIF? I’ll have to take it home and look at it and study it. I am for it 100 percent, but I won’t be pushed.”
Kendall said he didn’t mind if the vote waited, but he wanted to send a message to Overland that the city supports the project.
In other business, the council:
• approved engineering services agreements for three projects;
• approved a resolution certifying TIF debts and making annual appropriations;
• approved a resolution authorizing assessments to the Washington County Treasurer; and
•  did not approve an ordinance amending the makeup of the Washington Airport Commission.

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