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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Downtown tax district at issue

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Chamber asks for city revitalization funds, gets a challenge first.

While the Storm Lake Chamber of Commerce is asking financial help from the city for a downtown revitalization project, the City of Storm Lake, in light of state budget woes, is asking the chamber to explore a downtown taxing district first.

Yesterday the Storm Lake City Council voted to support the Chamber of Commerce's efforts at getting Storm Lake into the Main Street Iowa Program, but the council decided to hold off any financial contributions to such a program for now.

City Administrator John Call said in a staff summary that the city is not obligated to financially support an application to the Main Street Program. While the city is supporting the submission of the letter of intent, it is not ready to commit the $20,000 the chamber is asking in next year's city budget.

"I would not recommend that at this time because of base budget cuts and also the lack of a Self Supportive Municipal Improvement District in the downtown area," Call said in the summary.

Call said he recommends the chamber work with downtown merchants to explore a Self Supporting Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) before the city funds a Main Street Program.

The district would include a funding mechanism to sustain the Main Street Program, as well as help finance improvements in the downtown area.

SSMIDs are districts the city designates to generate property taxes to be spent on improvements in the district. The districts can be created in any area of a city zoned commercial or industrial use or in designated historic districts. Taxes cannot be levied against residential property, except in designated historic districts.

Twenty-five percent of the land owners in the potential district must petition the city. Those petitioners must also represent at least 25 percent of the total assessed property value in the proposed district. The board of adjustment/planning and zoning must first approve the potential SSMID, then the city council would conduct a public hearing and adopt an ordinance.

Upon adoption, the ordinance would establish an annual property tax levy for property in the district up to the limit set by the petition. Collected taxes may be used for operations, capital improvements and debt service.

Chris Nolte, CEO of the chamber and Storm Lake Area Development Corporation, said there has been discussions of forming a SSMID, but it has not been readily pursued.

"It's something we have talked about for the future," he said.

Nolte said any funding from the city for the Main Street Iowa Program would not be needed until Storm Lake receives word on its application. Cities are selected in the spring.

The major goal of the Main Street Iowa program is economic development within the context of historic preservation, with focuses on business improvement, design, organization and promotion. The program does not provide direct funds, but rather technical assistance to cities in it.

"This is a proven way," Nolte said. "We can implement a program that has shown success in the past."

Main Street communities in northwest Iowa include Spencer, Sac City, Marcus and LeMars.

In other news:

* The final reading of an ordinance to close railroad crossings was approved by council members. Upon required notification, street workers will begin closing the intersections.

The three affected crossings are at Seneca, Grand and College.

* Council members listened to a number of funding requests from local agencies for next year's budget year.

* The council moved into closed session for the annual evaluation of the city administrator.

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