PEORIA, IL -- Foes of the sale of six acres of Riverfront Park gathered on July 30 to issue five questions to Peoria City Council members, at a news conference.
Here are the five questions, with my commentary:
TIF: Would the City consider returning a small portion of the Tax Increment Financing District funds to School District 150 from the River Trail TIF, to help with District 150’s financial situation? Without the TIF the School District tax share from a successful River Trail Apartment complex, over 20 years, has been estimated by the City at over $ 2 million dollars. Even a small portion of this money would help our financially strapped schools. If this development were to occur outside of a TIF district, our schools would see a benefit from the project. Peoria taxpayers would not have to make up the difference between development inside a TIF and development outside of a TIF.
Other communities have devoted a percentage of the TIF revenue to schools.
If the complex was built on land for sale on nearby Jefferson or Adams Streets, a TIF district to build infrastructure would not be necessary. It's already there. The city and the schools would benefit from increased property taxes from the project immediately instead of 21 years later.
FINANCES: Will the City make public the financial health of the construction development company in order to prevent the need for any last minute public loans, as occurred with the Louisville Slugger development project? The City responded to a Freedom of Information Act request with the statement that there has been no financial background assessment of the development company.
I have filed a Freedom of Information Request to get this information, and as of July 29, the city claims not to have it. Outrageous!
SAFETY: Will the City take the needed steps to guarantee the safety of the Riverplex users by relocating the Water Street roadway away from the front of the Riverplex building or eliminating the roadway extension entirely? An estimated 1000 people cross the proposed roadway every day and the Peoria Park District Trustees have unanimously opposed the roadway extension as currently designed. The Park Board has asked that a traffic study be completed for safety. In addition to concerns about the Riverplex visitors, the existing plans call for an active roadway within ten feet of the relocated and heavily used volleyball courts. This close proximity will endanger volleyball players, their children and other spectators of the sport.
Watch the volleyball video on YouTube or the Facebook page if you have not already seen it. Links on posts below.
LAND SWAP: Will the City develop a comparable public park with Illinois River shoreline views equal to what has been sold to the developer of River Trail Apartments and allow public comment on how the new park is developed? The current proposal endangers primarily 166 mature specimen trees planted over 30 years ago, over 1.5 acres of reconstructed prairie that provides excellent storm water retention as well as a historic railroad turnstile.
There's no comparable place.
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Will the City use its own Comprehensive Plan in evaluating this development, which calls for open green space at Riverfront Park, surrounded by industrial area? The City is actively promoting the Warehouse District and the Tracy Cross Plan for downtown residential apartment buildings. The proposed Riverfront Park River Trail Apartments would be an isolated residential development without any of the surrounding retail businesses, sidewalks or infrastructure that have been developed in the Warehouse District.
The news conference in Riverfront Park revealed the park to be lovely and people were using it. I saw children arriving at the park running straight for the river and beyond the trail, to get a better view. They were supervised by an adult.
But this calls to mind the tragic drowning recently of a three-year-old in the river when caretakers were not watching. This is not the place for an apartment complex where children will likely be living.
The news conference, at 10 am, was promptly drowned out by a passing train which took more than six minutes to get by. That train -- reportedly six daily -- also is a reason not to build the apartments next to the tracks.
-- Elaine Hopkins