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Riverdale City Council

Residents file into Tuesday's Riverdale City Council meeting in which the city voted to create a tax-increment financing district for the Welch Family Farm.

The residents of Riverdale spoke, but the City Council did not listen.

The topic of approving a tax-increment financing district for Welch Family Farm has been a lightning rod for criticism and once again residents expressed their displeasure at Tuesday's Council meeting for what was about to come.

Prior to the meeting, protestors marched up and down City Hall property with yellow 8.5- by 11-inch pieces of paper with the words 'NO TIF' before packing Council Chambers with so many people that attendees spilled out into the hallway just to participate in the process.

Despite the public outcry against the TIF, which was objected to by the Scott County Board of Supervisors and the Pleasant Valley Community School District, the Riverdale City Council approved the creation of a TIF district and to enter into a development agreement with Woods Construction by a 4-1 vote.

Woods Construction intends to use the land for residential development.

The agreement itself still needs to be written, but the Council approved drafting it to include a maximum of $1.5 million in rebates.

"I think we're doing what we need to do and we've had a lot of information and I feel 100 percent confident in this," Councilwoman Linda Hupp said.

The process itself is not finished as the agreement still needs to be drafted and a public hearing will need to be held before an ordinance is enacted.

Before the discussion began, Mayor Sonya Paddock read a statement in which she said some residents feared for their safety if they supported the TIF, which drew incredulous looks and comments from the crowd.

For the vast majority in attendance, they let their displeasure known before and during the meeting, believing the City Council had let down its constituents.

Mark Griswold, a Riverdale resident who created the 'NO TIF' signs, frequently badgered Paddock and the Council with questions.

The interactions intensified to the point that Paddock threatened to have an officer throw him out of the meeting, to which Griswold told her to after he said his piece.

Besides asking why the meeting wasn't moved into a larger venue, former Mayor Jeff Grindle spoke against the TIF because of its impact on the school system and tax payers.

"We're not in a position where this financially is going to save us," Grindle said. "We're doing better than just about every little town in Iowa so there's no reason for that.

"Yeah, I'm against the TIF, and I don't believe we should be take money from the schools, the county, Scott County and Pleasant Valley. When the money is taken from them, you know what they do? They raise taxes and they will not lose one dime."

Neither the developer, Woods Construction, nor representatives of the Welch Family Farm were present, but Joanne Welch did send a letter into the city stating the farm wasn't large enough to support one family and did not justify investment for equipment.

Councilman Dean Halsey cast the lone dissenting vote against the TIF and at times held his face in his hands at what he was hearing.

Halsey said that moving forward with an agreement was premature, especially since the Council was going to discuss later whether to place a question on the ballot of whether the community wanted to see a TIF.

"I'm not that intelligent about this stuff and I kind of look to what other people tell me and so far, the pulse of what I've heard, except that we've been all through this, is people don't want this TIF," Halsey said. "I hate getting started on a project that there's going to be such bad vibes in the city."

The Council voted by a 3-2 margin to still hold that poll despite approving the TIF minutes before.

Hupp and Cheryl Channon cast the dissenting votes.

"It's not going to make one difference what that survey said to me because what I found, people don't understand this," Hupp said.