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Village council supports DDA, TIF plan

June 04, 2014 - Ortonville- The Downtown Development Authority and Main Street program have faced challenges, particularly with a poor economy the last several years and operation in a small community, but the council showed support of the organization through both their words and actions at their May 27 meeting.

The council adopted by a 6-0 vote a resolution amending the DDA tax increment finance plan. Councilmember Courtney McClerren was absent with notice.

"I'm supportive of the DDA and the director," said Councilmember Dan Eschmann. "I've noticed a difference. I understand the frustration from some business owners, but we are a small community."

Past critics of the DDA and Main Street program have cited a perceived lack of progress in growth of the downtown business district, but DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said progress has been made even in the current economy and thanked the council for their support. No critics were present at the council meeting.

"I'm very happy with the direction the DDA is taking," said Council President Wayne Wills. "Oxford has scuttled theirs, Lapeer just got one, so communities are taking different directions with this."

Councilmember Liz Waters noted that Oxford has a larger volunteer base and more businesses.

The village's DDA was established in 1986, and the tax increment finance plan was last updated in 1994. The DDA is required by Public Act 197 to update their TIF plan, to include projects from the village master plan, as well as the DDA strategic plan. Tax increment financing does not add taxes.

All projects relating to water and sewer will be listed in the TIF plan, as well as projects for increasing walkability in the village, economic restructuring activities, and support of downtown businesses through grant programs. Project costs and construction updates are estimated within the document and the updated TIF plan will also include organizational structure of the DDA.

"Restaurants and cafes are anchors, things that cause people to linger," said Allison Brauer, DDA volunteer. "Sewers are a big deal. I want to come down here and linger, walk with my husband and spend money in shops, it's a beautiful town."

The DDA zone includes properties on Mill and South streets in the downtown business district, as well as businesses on M-15 within the village limits. The tax increment is the difference between the amount of property tax generated when the TIF district was created and the incremental increase generated after the base year. When property values go down, as they have in recent years, the DDA does not collect any money on those properties. If the money was not redirected to the DDA, it would go in the village's general fund. The DDA collected $87,000 in TIF in 2014, on average, half a percent of what is levied in total on a property. The update will extend the TIF program to 2035.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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