Monday night, Columbia City Council voted 5-2 against a plan for a tax increment financing district that City Manager Mike Matthes had been promoting. The TIF would’ve paid for infrastructure projects in the downtown area.
Council member, Ian Thomas, had been hearing a lot of concern about the TIF the week prior to the meeting. He says people did not fully understand it and that they felt it was not constant with community plans. He says this concern was echoed in the meeting.
“The way it came out, it felt like it was very much as if it was being rammed down people’s throats, that the process was being pushed through as fast as possible, that there was not adequate opportunities for public input or discussion,” Thomas says.
Deputy City Manager, Tony St. Romaine, says he hoped this would solve the problem for downtown funding but after Monday night, says the council will be looking at other options.
“Certainly listening to the council comments last night, you know, I think, that they would want to possibly explore potential ballot initiative that could be approved by the voters, potentially an increase development or impact fees, maybe a trip generation model,” St. Romaine says.
Council member, Karl Skala, says that it is a government function to fund infrastructure improvements and to figure out a way to pay for it. But he says TIF’s are not the only option.
“One is an impact fee. It’s in conjunction with a user-based fee. We’re probably talking about a private contribution to the infrastructure that directly affects the impact of the development in question. And based not only on the size of the development, but the impact, the use,” Skala says.
Thomas says that there is no rush to make a decision and that the investments won’t go away just because developers have to wait a little bit longer.