Lebanon city council approves TIF district expansion

EDR Project Manager Daniel Schmidt shows the Lebanon City Council the additional 116 acres of property that were deemed able to use TIF development funding. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Lebanon City Council gave a final approving vote to the amendment to the TIF eligibility study. Economic Development Resources (EDR) Project Manager Daniel Schmidt made a presentation before the vote detailing just what the amendment would cover, and gave the results of the eligibility study that he conducted. 

The area originally voted into the Lebanon TIF District was between South Fritz and South Madison streets along Route 50, and contained seven parcels. The new area would be a significant expansion to 49 parcels, four of which are vacant. 

The part of the 116 acres inside the new TIF district that’s developed include “38 buildings, according to St. Clair County with more than 50 percent, something like 60 percent, being of the age of 35 years or more. That allows us to look to qualify the area as a conservation area,” Schmidt said. 

He explained undeveloped parcels have been subdivided and meet the definition of vacant land. EDR’s study led Schmidt to work hand in hand with the city to find things like asbestos and clay piping in utilities, lack of sidewalks, improper subdivision of parcels, low light levels and other issues that fall short of current development standards.

“The final factor that we have is a lack of growth and equalized assessed value,” said Schmidt, noting that similar conditions existed in the vacant land. He concluded his presentation by suggesting that the council consider expanding to include the newly analyzed areas to help with redevelopment before they became blighted. 

The vote to accept the study was unanimous, meaning the city can seek TIF redevelopment funds to help develop the area. Mayor Rich Wilken announced that he had spoken with Mike Elbe, and the grocery store project was in the hands of architects and engineers, and the store is still slated for a September 2019 opening. 

In Other News:

• Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Fairlie spoke to the board about the difference between Residential Design Districts (RDD) and Planned Unit Developments (PUD) after a recent vote by the council to have a subdivision development by Jeff LaDriere fall under the guidelines of a PUD. The planning commission had previously recommended adopting an RDD ordinance to allow the development to move forward.

Fairlie said adopting an RDD ordinance, which would be the first of it’s kind in the area according to Attorney John Long, “could be a shiny new penny” and “a draw” for the city. “We would have a new avenue and a new vehicle form to use. We also believe the guidance could be written in clear, new language that will best allow Lebanon to drive the community in the direction that we want to go,” Fairlie said. 

He reaffirmed that the planning commission reaffirmed their original recommendation of adopting an RDD, but that under a PUD, the commission agreed to allow the minimum size to be reduced from five acres to three. He added that the commission wanted to allow LaDriere to move forward with the development as soon as possible. 

The council voted to amend the PUD ordinance to reflect the acreage changes. LaDriere said he just wanted to “dig in the dirt and build some houses.”

• Planning Commission Member Don Burgett needed to step down. The council voted to appoint Jeremy Corbett to take the open seat. 

• The council unanimously voted to put Phase I of the Roger Drive project out for bid. Resident Noel Harpe thanked the council for taking a step forward. Harpe’s property has been subject of severe flooding and sinkholes for over two decades. Due to the hardships of Harpe and her neighbors, the council wanted to move forward with that part of the project first.