Over the past five years, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has come to a proverbial head in Iowa, especially Davenport. Davenport's controversial track record in applying TIF within its economic development policies has brought the debate to the City's public arena, where TIF is now, and has been, greatly challenged by various citizens groups, including Citizens United for Responsible Vision (CURV), QC Interfaith (QCI), and 1,000 Friends of Iowa (TFOI).

Today's news feature is about Davenport's proposed "west- end library," including where exactly to locate it. Much controversy surrounds the potential condemnation of a small parcel of farmland owned by an elderly couple, who have made it known to public officials that they don't want to sell their farm.

You would think the minute the Davenport City Council heard the word TIF (tax increment financing), their little ears would perk up and their brains would start quaking. When the recent news of the proposed TIF to subsidize Sentry Insurance's move to Davenport came to their attention, the City Council should have been on it like ducks on June bugs.

For nearly four months, a mayor's ad hoc committee made up of several members of the Davenport community (including myself), along with various aldermen and city staff, has struggled with what to do with 220 acres the City owns as part of the failed 53rd Street Mixed-Use Development project.

Public meetings are being held this week to get citizens' input on what to do with the 220 acres at the corner of 53rd and Eastern Avenue that the City of Davenport currently owns. The Ad Hoc Committee, appointed by Mayor Phil Yerington, has as its mission to study various land use scenarios and present its final recommendation to the City Council for an alternative use for the property?alternative to the Mixed-Use Development project that was initially presented in 1997. Thanks to the exhaustive efforts of CURV, citizens were able to challenge the financial feasibility of the City's project and eventually stopped a $25 million dollar bond issue from occurring (to fund the project) that would have crippled Davenport and left virtually no room for all the capital improvement projects being considered today. Davenport has yet to show CURV their gratitude for the remarkable rescue operation they successfully executed on behalf of this community. To add insult to injury, the current City Council completely abandoned CURV once they were elected.


The ad hoc committee has given a rudimentary evaluation of six distinct land use options for the public's consideration. Brief narratives will accompany each plan, along with a very broad comparative financial analysis to give citizens an overview upon which to comment and offer their suggestions, perspectives, and so forth. No decision has been made as to which land use option should be presented to the City Council. In fact, there is some debate within the committee on whether we should present all six scenarios to the Council and let them take it to the next level for refinement and more specific revenue/cost analysis to determine the best plan.


The ad hoc committee requested an appraisal of the 220 acres to help evaluate the options. There was disagreement within the committee over the values given for approximately three separate parcels within the property area?namely that the values were too low ($35,000 for the frontage property on 53rd Street; $17,000 for the majority of the remaining property; and $11,000 for the areas where the topography was deemed unsuitable for most types of development). The aggregate highest appraisal was $4.5 million for the entire parcel. I am betting at that price, buyers will fall all over each other lining up to purchase the land.


Of additional concern is how dramatically this low valuation impacts upon the different land use scenarios. At this valuation, the price averages at 47 cents per square foot, alarmingly low considering neighboring properties are selling between at $4-$6 per square foot unimproved. (The parcel of unimproved land where the new 53rd cinemas are located sold for $3-$4 per square foot several years ago.) That is but one example of many. The most recent sale of an improved lot at Waterford Place, according to the owner, was sold for $7.50 per square foot. If the rule of thumb for the cost of infrastructure improvements is $1-$1.50 per square foot, do the math. The net on the sale of the property would be $6 per square foot, even higher than in previous years.
If we used those values, or even a value somewhere in the middle (so as to average various land values throughout the parcel), such as $2-$3 per square foot, the land value would calculate at $19,166,400-$28,749,600. That is a dramatic difference, and it changes the impact of each land use plan. Reality probably dictates that at those more competitive prices, all the land would not sell as quickly, so that would need to be accounted for. Still, it is a difference so significant that to ignore it would be thoroughly irresponsible.


With this information in mind, please attend the public meetings Thursday evening, from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. There are two simultaneous meetings, at Hayes Elementary School and Central High School. Public input is needed and wholeheartedly welcomed.


On a final note, the information on this issue printed in the QC Times Tuesday, September 12, was inaccurate. The data was taken from the comparative financial analysis before all the figures were in place. It is unreliable data and should be disregarded.

All of the Quad Cities are facing a federal mandate to fully implement citywide stormwater management systems by 2007. Moline just approved a utility fee to cover the cost of its system, and that will be the path most likely taken by the other area municipalities because there is no room in current budgets for such a substantial expenditure.

Many citizens believed the well was poisoned long before briefs were submitted on the Davenport School District's (DSD) Motion for Summary Judgment (SJ) to dismiss the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission's (HPC) suit to prevent the demolition of the historically significant Crawford's Sugarbowl.

The Davenport School District (DSD) has a problem with its memory.
The DSD and Davenport's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) appeared at a hearing last Wednesday, August 18, to present arguments before Judge David Schoenthaler for the DSD's motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss the HPC's lawsuit against the DSD for not acting in good faith to agree to a suitable reuse of the historic Crawford Sugarbowl.

Editor's Note: The Davenport City Council is considering adopting the following procedural rules. The council will discuss the draft proposal at a meeting at 7 p.m. August 9 at United Neighbors, 808 Harrison Street, Davenport.

The Scott County Community Jail and Alternatives Advisory Committee will meet on Wednesday, August 9, from 4:00-5:30 pm at United Neighbors (808 Harrison Street, Davenport?parking lot is just north of 8th Street). The public is welcome to attend and participate in discussion of items on the agenda that include : current jail population, jail population profile, overview of the criminal-justice system in Scott County, progress report of the Court Compliance Office, the Substance Abuse Targeted Capacity Expansion Grant, and more. It is an important discussion for the public to have with jail officials and other concerned citizens. Public safety has been identified as one of the main concerns of our community, and we should show Scott County our support and willingness to participate in efforts to achieve overall community safety. It is also an opportunity to voice our personal concerns and contribute our individual perspectives.


Later in the evening, at 7pm, another public meeting will take place at United Neighbors to discuss the draft version for the revised "Rules of Order" being proposed by Davenport's City Council. (See page 4 of this Reader issue for a draft of revisions for "Rules of Order" to be discussed at public meeting.) Rule #21 governs the Mayor's authority to form standing and special committees. There is some debate on the council whether to revise this rule to make the mayor's appointments to the five committees less flexible in the future. This action is stemming from the mayor's threat to remove several aldermen who have been "uncommunicative" about the various activities of the committees, more specifically the Community Development Committee. But, supposedly, all that discord has been settled, so the next logical step would be to drop the discussion about changing Rule #21. It would be very "unfriendly" of this council to pursue any further action that would diminish the mayor's authority in this matter, especially after he extended the olive branch and rescinded his decision to remove or reorganize the Community Development Committee. The public needs to ensure that several members of this particular council get past personal animosities and vindictive motives for directing city business by keeping a close watch and holding them accountable for their actions.


Another important item being discussed relative to the "Rules of Order" is the rule concerning public input during meetings. This is so important that the public really needs to turn out to debate this with the city staff and aldermen who will be present at the discussion. This is our opportunity to let the city know our expectations for how business is conducted at City Hall. Please attend if you can.


Attendance at the meetings, whether they are regular council meetings, committee meetings, or public hearings, acts as a barometer, so to speak, on how the council and staff should prioritize the issues at hand. If the public is absent, it sends a message to our leaders that the issue(s) aren't very important versus a large public attendance, where the message sent is that the issue(s) matter very much. Support for or against civic issues is critical to creating change. Otherwise, a handful of special interests are getting all the attention because they are always present and accounted for. It is the "squeaky wheel" syndrome at its best...or, worst, depending on who's getting the grease.

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