Franklin board backs creating U.S. 31 district

Members of the Franklin Redevelopment Commission agree that setting up a new TIF district is the best way to get the money needed for new sidewalks, crosswalks and more trails along U.S. 31.

The commission is moving forward with establishing a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district along U.S. 31 in order to build more sidewalks or paths for residents to walk to businesses, restaurants and other neighborhoods.

The TIF district is larger than initially proposed and has more than doubled in size from the initial plan. It would collect money from new development that will be built along U.S. 31, including Kroger off Mallory Parkway and Meijer at the Commerce Drive intersection. The redevelopment commission passed a resolution Tuesday to jump start the process of putting the TIF district in place.

Now, Franklin’s plan commission and city council have to approve creating the TIF district, and a public hearing would have to take place.

If the plan commission and city council both approve creating the new district, the redevelopment commission will have to vote again to establish it.

Property tax dollars from new development, such as the stores, that would normally go to the county, city, Franklin school district and the county library instead would be set aside in the TIF district to improve infrastructure along U.S. 31. The TIF district would be in place for 24 years, until 2040.

Creating a TIF district along U.S. 31 would bring in potentially $632,000 per year, or $15 million over 24 years, according to initial estimates calculated by Franklin officials. The money collected could be used along U.S. 31 from Knollwood Drive to Jefferson Street to attract more economic development or improve the area with projects such as sidewalks or trails.

But the land that would be included in the district is larger than initially discussed. City officials previously considered including only the sites of the future Kroger and Meijer stores, about 36 acres total. But now, another 50 acres of neighboring undeveloped land will be included, according to the redevelopment commission resolution.

About 25 additional parcels could have taxes collected and set aside in the TIF if the land is developed, the resolution said. All four parcels between Kroger and U.S. 31 will be included in the tax collection, as well as another eight parcels north of the grocery store property.

In addition to the 25-acre Meijer property, a dozen other undeveloped parcels would be eligible for tax collection if the TIF district is approved, according to the redevelopment commission resolution. Most of the undeveloped land is on the north side of Commerce Drive, but other properties south of Meijer are included.

City officials agree that pedestrians need a safer route to walk to restaurants and Walmart along U.S. 31 but don’t have the money to pay for it, said redevelopment commission and city council member Richard Wertz.

“It all started when Walmart moved up there,” Wertz said. “Now I wish our forefathers had some foresight to install a sidewalk along the road there.”

With the TIF district in place, the money collected would create long-term solutions to make it safer for residents, Wertz said.