A rare Sunday public hearing drew about 40 Moline residents, eager to hear about and question plans for a Genesis Health System development southeast of Moline High School.
Genesis representatives already have made presentations at previous Moline City Council meetings for the project planned for an open area south of 26th Avenue along 41st Street. Councilwoman Lori Turner, who represents the ward where Genesis Medical Park, Moline, could be built, wanted more public input.
Genesis has asked the city for a tax increment financing, or TIF, district to assist with the first phase of the development that would include a medical office building, a parking lot, infrastructure and road improvements.
Turner kept the meeting to the scheduled hour in length, even though some in attendance raised their voices, rolled their eyes and shook their heads. She recognized every raised hand, some more than twice.
Several Moline council members and Mayor Don Welvaert also attended. The council is scheduled to vote again Tuesday night on the final reading of the TIF. Previously, the council voted 4-4 on the proposal, with Welvaert casting the deciding vote in favor of the TIF.
Genesis’ Ken Croken, vice president for corporate communications and business development, said the multi-phased campus, focusing mainly on “wellness,” with doctor’s offices, walking trails and exercise stations, will not be a hospital.
The first phase of the project would go forward without a TIF in place, but the rest of the project would be delayed or eliminated if the TIF is not approved. Some of the public amenities, such as walking trails, are among the parts of the project that would be affected.
Taxpayers complained about the previous TIF districts and quality-of-life issues.
“Previous TIF districts haven’t worked,” resident Kim Lazenby said. “They’re vastly overused.” Moline has seven TIF districts.
TIF is a way communities help create new developments or restructure old ones, said Ray Forsythe, Moline’s planning and development director. In a TIF district, property taxes are paid on the existing assessed value. Taxes on value created by the development then pay for improvements, such as infrastructure, in the district.
It is a way to reduce costs for developers because the city forgoes tax revenue from the project for a period of time, he said.
Taxpayer John Smith complained, for instance, that part of downtown Moline is in a TIF district and that “the city isn’t gaining the tax money it should.”
Resident Sam Moyer lamented, “41st Street is, basically, one lane in each direction and deadlocked each day when (Moline High) school lets out.
“And you’re talking about bringing in a large medical facility, 700 parking places?”
Several residents expressed concerns that the 48-acre plot used to be a private landfill and before then, a mine.
Genesis expects to develop “a little more than half that so we can preserve the existing woodlands,” Croken said.
Croken said that Genesis has spent 14 years and “a million dollars” keeping the visible property in good shape while also keeping contaminated soil beneath a 3-foot clay cap.
Most complaints, however, revolved around TIFs, with residents fearing their taxes will increase.
One of Renew Moline’s founders, Gerald Butts, said “TIFs are not subsidies,” and claimed that the city has done so well with TIFs that “developers are coming to the city instead of vice versa.”
Resident Sandy O’Neill said she continues to be frustrated by the city’s reliance on TIFs.
“I feel that we’ve been using TIF districts since 1996, and for all they’re touted to be, the investments aren’t paying off.”
She added, “In the meantime the cost of city services is going up, and the taxpayers have to make up the difference. We won’t get any new taxes from Genesis for, maybe, 20 years.”
Moline also is considering a TIF proposal for the 121-acre SouthPark Mall Redevelopment Project Area. Such a district would be used to induce “significant” private investment there, which would also induce spillover investment into neighboring areas. That idea, however, has been tabled until April.