By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The future of First Street is up in the air after some members of the Monticello City Council voted against setting a public hearing to consider amendments to the city’s Urban Renewal Area. This amendment would allow the city to use TIF money for the proposed downtown project.
This project would include the city acquiring both the Intlekofer and Keleher buildings and turn that ground into a green space, with access to a parking lot, which would be located along Grand Street, in the back of First Street.
The city has not invested any funds toward this project as of yet. A public hearing would allow business owners/merchants, residents who live downtown and the general public the opportunity voice their thoughts on what should happen in downtown Monticello.
After the downtown fire, it has been noted that Monticello Carpet & Interiors plans to rebuild in their original location. Keleher’s Jewelry plans to remain in their relocated building in the Armin Plaza area. Both Council members Bill Meyer and Dave Goedken voiced their opinions, saying that there is nothing on paper noting these property owners’ plans.
“I think this public hearing is a little premature,” said Goedken. “We need more background information on what we’re doing with the TIF area. There’s not enough information here, and I’m not in favor of a public hearing.”
Mayor Dena Himes explained that the whole point in scheduling a public hearing is to allow the public to voice their opinions on the matter and gain information about the downtown project.
“There might be people for and against this project,” said Himes. “A public hearing doesn’t mean you vote yes or no for this project.”
A public hearing is required by law before the city can move forward in using TIF funds for this project. The city doesn’t have to go through with TIF money; they could choose to use money from the general fund to get this project off the ground and moving.
Monticello Chamber Director Barbara Hoffman went before the Council to offer her thoughts on this public hearing. “This hearing is a good thing,” she noted. “I’ve talked about it with our Chamber members, sent out e-mails informing them of the project. You need to give everybody a chance to talk; it’s important businesses get a chance to express their opinions. I encourage you to have this public hearing.”
Council member Chris Lux added, “It’s important people get the chance to say something.”
After a motion by Council member Tom Yeoman and a second by Lux, the resolution failed 2-2, with Goedken and Meyer opposed to scheduling a public hearing.
After the Council meeting, Goedken explained his reasoning for voting against the hearing: “This project is not set in stone. What if something changes and the public has already voiced their opinions? This hearing has been postponed already. The Council needs more information before moving forward. There are too many ifs out there right now. We’re getting ahead of ourselves and need the details worked out before it goes before the public.”
Council member Meyer offered his thoughts on his opposition as well: “There is not enough information out there. We need to get the plans out to the public so they know what the public hearing is about. Things have been happening that the Council didn’t know about.”
The next Council meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.