The Caledonia Village Board voted 6 to 0 to approve the water main portion of a larger $10 million project at a special board meeting held Tuesday, but the decision didn’t set well with some Caledonia residents.

Caledonia Village Board member Ed Willing was not at the meeting because he was working.

The sore spot: eight Caledonia property owners between the Caledonia line and Highway K will collectively pay $456,009. Charles Kuiper, who received a bill for $227,000 for the 89 acres he owns on Highway V, said he doesn’t believe the eight property owners should have to shoulder the burden for a water main project that will improve Caledonia’s overall tax base.

The sewer and water project — which is part of a 764-acre tax incremental financing district (TID) — is to be completed in two phases. Phase I includes putting in a pump station on Highway V and Highway K, which will pump to Mount Pleasant down Highway 20. The water lines will also be installed along the same path. That part of the project will cost $761,000.

“We’re farmers,” he said. “We’re outside the TID (tax incremental financing district) and it’s unfair for us to be assessed for the cost of a project that we are not a part of and for a water main that we have no need for… the developers should be the ones that pay because they are bringing it in special for that development.”

A TID is a special growth tool communities can use to increase their tax base by freezing property taxes at current rates. Any taxes generated by development over a specific amount of time – typically about 20 years – are used to pay back the monies borrowed to put in the necessary infrastructure like sewer, water and roads. Once the loans are paid in full, property taxes from the new business tenants turn to the municipal budget and other taxing bodies like Racine Unified, the county and Gateway.

But Kuiper acknowledged that the Village has come a long way in trying to work with the eight property owners.

“They took the interest away and deferred the payment until we develop, which has no time limit… so I’m grateful for that,” he said. “But this benefits the whole town…as these businesses grow in this TID, the tax base increases and the town gets more money and that goes on for  100 years… 200 years.”

John Bjelajac, Caledonia’s attorney, explained to the village board that property owners will only have to pay the assessments if their property is sold or leased under certain conditions. If one of those conditions applies, the property owner has 60 days to pay the special assessment with 4 percent interest. If the property owners want to hook up to the water service for their existing properties, but if there is a new construction the water hook-up is mandatory.

“We tried to make exceptions and exclusions to make life better for the property owners,” Bjelajac said.

Following the public hearing, the Village Board discussed the provisions made in the resolution. Lee Wishau wanted to see a provision put into the resolution that the money received should be earmarked to offset the cost of the special obligation bonds use to pay for the project, but Bjelajac said that should be done in a separate resolution.

The project is expected to begin in January and completed in the fall.

But Kuiper pointed out that the project doesn’t include the cost of the sewer lines the village will want to put in, which he was told will cost about as much.

“Am I happy about it? No,” he said.”Am I going to have to accept it? We’re going to have to live with the decision and hopefully it increases the value of our property, but we don’t know that… that’s the question.”

 

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.