The next phase of Kettle Park West took what Mayor Tim Swadley called “a major step forward” on Tuesday, Nov. 26, as council members began to work on a developer’s agreement that would include taxpayer financing.

The Finance committee had earlier in the day recommended moving forward with the project, which is connected to the Walmart Supercenter-anchored commercial center and run by the same developer, Forward Development Group. FDG formally requested $3 million in tax-increment financing in July, though it’s been established for several years this phase of the project would involve TIF.

Before turning to the recommendation, council members heard feedback from Ald. Jean Ligocki (Dist. 2) who had facilitated a series of three listening sessions in Stoughton for community members to voice their opinions on the development and the use of TIF. The city provided more than $5 million in TIF for the Phase I commercial center, something that was a major controversy from early 2013 until late 2015.

Ligocki said 18 people in total attended the three meetings, and while she had hoped to see a number closer to 25, she thought the small numbers indicated that there was less concern in the community about what would happen in this phase of the development.

“It 2015, this was a red-hot button issue,” said Ligocki, one of several alders who was elected as part of a political shift over a few years that replaced KPW supporters on the council.

But, Ligocki said, “It doesn’t appear that our community is as divided and political on this issue anymore.”

She said the main takeaways of the listening session were advocacy for bringing more families with students for the city’s schools and concerns about what the next phase of the project would ultimately cost the community.

After hearing a walkthrough of the general development plan, the council went into closed session to discuss with the city attorney how it should begin negotiating a developer’s agreement with FDG. Part of that would involve a fiscal analysis of the project and an evaluation of whether it meets the state’s “but for” test, that it would not happen without the use of TIF.

Renee Hickman can be contacted at renee.hickman@wcinet.com.