Posted Online: July 09, 2013, 11:07 pm

Geneseo takes steps to further new subdivision

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By Lisa Hammer,

GENESEO -- Aldermen on Tuesday took two steps to further development of Mel Foster's Maple Leaf Farms subdivision on the north side of the city.

The firm bought the land in 2005 with plans to build 244 single-family homes on the 121-acre property.

The subdivision had been held up in part because of the state's requirement for a left-turn lane from Illinois 82, which is estimated to cost up to $600,000.

With Tuesday's actions, the city set in place an intergovernmental agreement with seven other Geneseo taxing districts to forego property taxes from any individual new home for which a building permit is issued for a period of seven years to pay for the turn lane, with the overall agreement in place until Dec. 31, 2023. The agreement would expire whenever the bank loan for the turn lane is paid in full.

Jim Hughes, consultant to the city, explained that if three houses were built per year, the turn-lane loan would be paid off in year nine of the agreement. He said if six houses were built per year, the loan would be paid off in year five. He said at the six-house rate, by year 15, the subdivision would be generating more than $1.6 million in property taxes for the various taxing districts.

Mr. Hughes said support from the other taxing districts -- the school district, township, road district, park district, library district, Hammond-Henry Hospital and the fire district -- was overwhelming because they know the project would otherwise sit idle like it has since 2008.

According to the development agreement with Mel Foster, if not enough houses are built to generate revenue to pay off the loan, the city would guarantee up to 50 percent of the loan amount, or $300,000. If that should ever happen, Mr. Hughes said the money would come from cash reserves from sales tax and the capital improvement fund already on hand. If the cost of the turn lane exceeds $600,000, the city and the developer have the right to nullify the agreement.

Mr. Hughes said two years ago, when the city first started talking about the project, Mel Foster CEO Rob Fick was "not real excited," but he is now because the market is better.

Two citizens questioned city dollars still being at risk now, considering Geneseo voters rejected general obligation bonds to pay for the turn lane in a February 2010 referendum. (Mel Foster proposed having the city pay up front, but repaying the city with $2,000 from each lot sold.)

"How much have we collected since 2008? That's what you've got to kind of look at," responded Mr. Hughes. "What do we have in the future? We have a lot of increment."

Mr. Hughes said Mel Foster has 180 days from when it receives a permit for the turn lane to begin work on it. He said work on the lane also would depend on when enough infrastructure work has been installed inside the project.

He said he hopes the infrastructure goes in before the fall and perhaps "a couple basements" in to permit construction this winter.

Voting yes for the development agreement were First Ward Alds. Carl Freeman and Justin Snodgrass, Second Ward Ald. Robert Wachtel, Third Ward Ald. Keith Kennett and Fourth Ward Ald. Derek Betcher. Fourth Ward Ald. Doug Crow abstained. Third Ward Ald. Howard Beck and Second Ward Ald. James Roodhouse were absent. All the aldermen present voted to approve the intergovernmental agreement with the seven other taxing districts.

The council also:
-- Tabled an ordinance vacating a portion of Sommers Avenue to create additional parking for First United Methodist Church to look into comments and discuss the issue further.
-- Approved a new facade program for commercial parcels in certain TIF districts to pay up to 25 percent grants for various types of exterior work, up to a maximum grant of $25,000 per parcel.
-- Honored the seventh-grade boys' track team for earning second place in the Class AA IESA state track meet, the first championship trophy won by any Geneseo middle or high school track team.
-- Proclaimed Aug. 7 through 11 to be "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Week" in Geneseo, with the Vietnam Traveling Memorial.
-- Ratified a new agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police. Terms were not available on Tuesday night.