EL TIF 4 expansion an idea worth pursuing

WITH GROWTH COMES PAINS – or at least new problems and challenges.

That’s the case in the village of Elkhart Lake, where growth in the two major local industries – tourism and cheese – are bringing new challenges.

One of those is a problem that the entire county is facing – a lack of quality housing for those coming here to fill newly-created jobs.

It’s especially acute in Elkhart Lake, which is a smaller village that supports a number of large – and growing – businesses.

That has led to a request from Premiere Development to be included in the village’s fourth tax incremental finance district to aid the development of new condominium residences in the village.

Village officials have been in discussion with the developers for months now on the request to utilize the TIF tool to promote development. It appears they may have found a way to make it work.

The village’s TIF 4 was created to aid the development of the Wolf Motorsports Villa development on the village’s south side – a development that has already exceeded projections as far as income and property tax value.

It has also spurred development elsewhere in the village, including a new street – Victory Lane – and new businesses and development along that street.

But as useful a tool as TIFs are for both local governments and the local economy, they do have statutory limits.

TIFs can not represent more than a certain percentage of the local total property value and can not extend beyond a certain percentage of the municipality’s total area.

Elkhart Lake is approaching both of those limitations and that colored the negotiations with Premiere Development over including them in TIF 4.

Also coloring the negotiations was a concern raised by some that tax incremental district financing should be used only for industrial, business and commercial development and not for residential development.

Certainly there’s some merit to that argument, and residential development should be a lesser priority for TIF financing. But it is not prohibited entirely by law and it should not be ruled out completely by local officials.

Other area communities have successfully aided new residential development within their TIF districts. In Plymouth, the Vintage Neighborhood residential development off Pleasant View Drive benefitted from its inclusion in the TIF district originally created for the Wal Mart development and the city has benefitted from the growth of that residential neighborhood, to cite just one example.

There is an identified need for new housing in the county, as housing growth has not kept pace with the phenomenal job growth the county has seen in recent years.

Adding jobs at the pace the county has is great for the local economy, bringing in dollars and keeping the economic wheels moving forward.

But it is even better for the local economy if the people filling those new jobs also choose to live where they work – doing business in local stores, sending their children to local schools, adding their efforts to the good work of local communities. That requires an availability of quality housing that they can move into – something in short supply here presently.

If the village of Elkhart Lake and Premiere Development can complete a mutually beneficial agreement that will allow TIF 4 to aid that residential development, both sides should work to make it happen.

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