Plans to build single-family homes at Kettle Park West took a major step forward Tuesday, Jan. 14, with the Common Council unanimously approving a preliminary plat for the project.
A plat is a legal document that divides a lot into many smaller parcels, typically used for housing subdivisions, and the preliminary plat essentially provides assurances for developers that a project can be built.
Some crucial approvals remain, however, including an agreement with Forward Development Group that would provide $3 million in taxpayer financing.
At the same meeting, the council directed the Planning Commission to prepare an amendment to the tax-increment financing project plan that covers the area (TID 7), which would enable the use of TIF.
“This allows them to get started,” Ald. Sid Boersma (Dist. 1) said.
How much of the 80 acres of KPW Phase 2 the company can build on before constructing an access to Hwy. 138 at Oak Opening Drive has been the subject of nearly four years of negotiations. Over that time, FDG has dropped its TIF request from $5 million to $3 million, reduced the scope of that part of the plan from 460 housing units to 195 and decided to wait for the state Department of Transportation to build a new intersection at Roby Road and U.S. Hwy. 151 next year.
The use of TIF for Kettle Park West – which includes a Walmart Supercenter that opened in 2017 – has been a political hot button for several years and led to a pair of citywide advisory referendums in 2014. TIF is a public financing method that is considered the primary tool for municipalities to encourage development. It involves pooling taxes from multiple jurisdictions on future development.
During the Jan. 14 meeting, alders discussed what Ald. Regina Hirsch (Dist. 3) called a compromise to restrict the construction of any homes south of what will be called Alpine Street – a main road through the middle of the development – until the 138 connection is completed.
The 138 connection would require a purchase of property FDG does not own and a waiver from the state Department of Transportation to have an access point to the highway closer to the Wal-Mart entrance than it would normally allow.
The amendment to the TID 7 project plan allows for the addition of future elements that are expected to be contained in the Phase 2.
These include the completion of the intersection of Oak Opening and Deer Point drives, park and trail improvements and the extension of a water and sewer lines.
The plat alders approved contains 19 conditions, including such standard items as requiring a development agreement, a stormwater plan and rezoning changes and more specific requirements, such as prohibiting access to certain streets and ensuring others are sufficiently wide for snow plows. It also requires there to be an agreement with the Town of Rutland to provide street access to U.S. Hwy. 51 and that the developer provide collateral equal to 120% of the estimated cost of any public improvements.
City staff began working at the end of 2019 on a developer’s agreement with FDG, the Verona firm that handled the construction of Phase I and will also be responsible for Phase II.
Though the 2014 referendums on the use of TIF at KPW showed the public was against both the use of TIF for Walmart and at the development in general, a series of public meetings organized by Ald. Jean Ligocki in November drew little response. After discussing the results of those meetings, alders then voted to begin evaluating FDG’s TIF proposal for the purpose of building a developer agreement.