First reading of Jax enterprise zone expansion passes, but not without discussion

By Gary Scott on June 28, 2016 at 9:07am

Jacksonville aldermen voiced concerns about expanding the city’s enterprise zone, but unanimously agreed to expand it Monday night.

Two businesses on Walnut Street want the expansion. One is for Fitness World the owners of which, as we first reported yesterday, want to add a 20-thousand-square-foot gymnasium, walking track and field house.

The second request comes from the owner of the former Modern Care nursing home, who purchased it about six years ago and now wants to renovate the building and re-open it as an assisted living and memory care facility.

Fitness World’s plans did not get much discussion, but aldermen did have some comments about the Modern Care facility. They included concerns about a lack of artistic renderings and not enough detailed planning. However, aldermen ultimately passed the first reading of the expansion 9-0.

Alderwoman Lori Large Oldenettel.

“I think in general, all of us are in favor of wanting to support the enterprise zone and bringing new jobs to the Jacksonville area and enhancing properties. I think the discussion tonight, which caused some hesitation among some of the aldermen, was that one of the proposals that we got was very vague in what their intentions were for future enhancements to the property,” Oldenettel says.

“We just want a little bit more information to know what their intentions were and how the enterprise zone enhancement is going to enhance that property and the future of the business.”

Alderman Bill Scott spoke in favor of the Modern Care expansion request during the workshop session, saying he hated to lose 30 to 40 jobs for the city.

Businesses in an enterprise zone get a freeze on property taxes connected to improvements made.

Bonni Waters, who represented the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, notes the city’s enterprise zone is going to expire at the end of 2020.

“All benefits, property tax abatements, sales tax exemptions, all those benefits go away. And, we will have to be making application to the state for a brand new zone,” says Waters. “We’re in June of 2016, and we only have until 2020. So, there’s very limited benefits available.”

As for Fitness World, co-owner John Rohn, says the vision since the business was purchased two years ago was to expand.

“Include more kid activities, some adult sports leagues, kids sports leagues, things of that nature. An indoor golf center is something that would be unique to the whole Central Illinois area, which is kind of a passion of mind and something that’s needed,” says Rohn.

“Really just as a service to the community, there are a lot of things that communities around here, there’s a lot of things that people from Jacksonville are driving to Springfield to do. We want to give them a reason to stay here in town and do them,” he adds.

Also last night, aldermen passed the second reading for zoning amendments for property in the 800 block of South Main and at 6 Clarke Drive.

Aldermen approved a bio-solids management program start up at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

City Clerk Skip Bradshaw asked aldermen to set up a committee meeting to hear a request by officials with Buster Sanitation for an increase in recycling fees. The company is requesting a two percent increase on the current monthly rate of $57.40, according to Bradshaw, due to a “dramatic slump in recycling values.”