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By CAROL THILMONY
Rantoul Press correspondent
FISHER — Fisher is one step closer to creating a third tax increment financing district. The village board hosted a sparsely attended public hearing on the new district Thursday night.
The proposed area consists of 40 acres, mostly farmland, north of U.S. 136 and immediately west of the Heritage Estates residential subdivision that lies within TIF District I. It also includes what would be phase five of the current subdivision and land to the south of the highway where the school district athletic fields are. The latter two parcels have been moved from TIF I to the new district.
Resident Liz Pfeifer has closely watched the creation of the new district. She owns a home and 11 acres just west of the new district that she plans to have someone else use to run cattle. She expressed concern that the land to the immediate north of the highway could be used for commercial development, most likely retail.
Mayor Milt Kelly said the land won’t be rezoned until there is a reason to do it, but that the village’s comprehensive zoning plan allows for commercial development there.
Pfeifer said she hoped any such development would occur farther east, closer to the town’s business district.
“I think growth is great, but we shouldn’t do too much too fast in this economy,” Pfeifer said.
TIF attorney Dan Walker said businesses decide where they want to be. He said with the TIF “you try to make fertile ground.”
Kelly said the primary purpose and objective of the new district is to create new residential areas.
“We still have strong demand for residential lots,” Kelly said.
Lots in the first four phases of Heritage are all sold and building is ongoing in the fourth phase.
The Fisher school district owns 18 acres in the proposed district, but the school district hasn’t yet decided to request annexation of the ground to the village. The extra land is what the school board purchased when it remodeled an existing building there for a new bus garage.
At a school board meeting last month only three of seven board members were ready to request annexation. The village will move ahead on the TIF district whether or not it includes the school district land. The proposed TIF district includes another 20 acres of farmland that could be used for residential development.
Superintendent Barb Thompson said then that securing an agreement with the village on what flat amount or percentage of TIF proceeds come to the school district is important. She said talks will need to be ongoing. The school board will meet early next week with village trustees to further discuss the proposed district.
Thompson said the formation of the TIF is different from the creation of the first one.
“Then we needed students in the seats,” she said, and the creation of the Heritage Estates subdivision brought more students to the district and along the way the building in 2003 of the new grade school.
But proceeds from the TIF district can only be used for capital projects, not to pay salaries, and it is in the education fund where the district has spending deficits the past two years.
Board member Mark Hortin has long favored annexation and the ultimate sale of the land. We hold “the key piece to the puzzle where Fisher is to grow,” said Hortin.
Board President Lesa Lammle also favors the annexation, noting that the TIF district will be created whether school district land is included or not. “It happens with or without us,” she said.
The third board member who favors annexation, but not necessarily sale of the land, is Todd Cotter. But he and board member Mike Rice reminded the rest of the board that the reason to hang on to the land is to allow for school expansion if ever needed.
Rice said, “I see no advantage doing this now. I want to see what they’re willing to do for the schools.”
Before the TIF can come into being, the school ground and several other parcels must be annexed by the village. But the village can’t do that until the property owners request the annexation.
Dan Walker, the attorney who works with the village and its tax increment financing districts said the village would have until January to get the annexations done and the boundaries of the new district set.
The village board and school board will meet Monday, Nov. 5, to further discus the TIF district and annexation.