JASPER — The Jasper Redevelopment Commission established a tax-increment financing district Tuesday near Vincennes University Jasper that will fund a housing project and, ideally, subsequent construction projects for years to come.

The proposed district, which will run along State Road 162 to beyond Third Avenue near Bohnert Park, was discussed via a public hearing at the Tuesday commission meeting before being approved. Although the district is official, there will be another public hearing and final approval from the Jasper Common Council regarding the financial details.

The district will fund a University Heights project, which will involve a new apartment complex near the university’s campus that will be available to students and the public. Developer Ruger Kerstiens and several members of the City of Jasper have stated that the TIF is also meant to encourage additional construction on the southeast side of town, where construction has been lacking.

Dubois County Commissioner Elmer Brames read a letter at the public hearing representing the views of the commissioners, Dubois County Council President Mike Kluesner, Greater Jasper Schools Superintendent Tracy Lorey and Huntingburg Airport Manager Travis McQueen, all of whom represent agencies that could be affected by the TIF.

The letter expressed approval of the district, as it should spur economic growth in the area, but also expressed several requests to make the funding as fair as possible. It requested that the city begin releasing a portion of the incremental assessed valuation to be included in the tax base for other civil tax units once the housing project is funded, as well as that city officials allow the district to expire on a designated date.

Vincennes University Jasper Dean Christian Blome said those at the university are excited for the project as it will hopefully grow the student base and make living on campus more accessible. As of right now, the majority of VUJ students commute to classes.

“I see it as a real recruitment asset for us,” Blome said. “We think there’s a real opportunity to the east, moving into Crawford County and toward the Corydon region, where that part of the State of Indiana is underserved by higher education institutions. There is interest ... to connect those students with the Jasper campus, but they’re just beyond that commuting region.”

Some at the meeting expressed concern of how the TIF may hurt the property tax value of other places in the area. City Attorney Renee Kabrick said that if anything, their property value will eventually increase, as there will ideally be more area development in years to come.

“We’ve had, over the years, quite a lot of complaints about, ‘Why doesn’t anything develop on this side of town?’” Kabrick said. “This is our answer to that.”

A tax impact study for the project showed that the district would generate approximately $95,000 a year, anticipating a seven-year payback. Kabrick said that other taxing units can come to the redevelopment commission with potential projects that may serve the district.

“It would actually translate to sharing of the tax increment dollars, so you get a lot more bang for your buck, so to speak,” she said. “It’s not just this housing component.”

A Jasper Economic Development Commission meeting was scheduled for Tuesday to have a public hearing about the financial details of the district, but it was canceled. Kerstiens said financial finalization has been postponed partially because he recently met with some people who live in the district and is working to implement changes to the plan based on their concerns.

Currently, the TIF will be under a 25-year plan. Some commission members expressed concern that 25 years might be too long, considering the University Heights project is set to be reimbursed in less than 15. The commission approved the district after confirming that the plan can be amended annually.

There will be a public hearing regarding the financial aspect of the project at a future Economic Development Commission meeting. It will likely be in June, Kabrick said. The Jasper Board of Zoning Appeals and Plan Commission will have to approve anything such as plats or special exceptions regarding the project, but those details haven’t been finalized yet.

The commission also:

• Approved the transfer of $25,000 to Heart of Jasper for a pop-up marketplace in Downtown Jasper. It will give local entrepreneurs a temporary place to sell their products and services, Heart of Jasper Director Kate Schwenk said. The marketplace will have six dates of operation within the next few months, the first of which would be June 5. The $25,000 will not likely be used only for this project but for subsequent Heart of Jasper projects, as well.
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