JANESVILLE — The Janesville City Council voted to increase the membership of the city’s Economic Development Authority along with a final vote on a continuation hearing of potentially rezoning property at its most recent meeting.

The council unanimously voted, with Councilor Ron Cummins absent, to extend the EDA membership from five to seven at the regular Monday, Dec. 9 meeting.

This increase would allow five residents to serve on the board along with two councilors.

The increase will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020 with members having staggered terms. These members are selected by the council and before the official vote City Administrator Clinton Rogers spoke of having more than enough people interested in filling the seats.

Before the EDA membership increase was approved some discussion took place.

In the past with five members there have been some issues of reaching a quorum, prompting the need to reschedule meetings. Some of the board members hoped this increase would help with attendance as well as allow more community input.

Community member Roxanne Goodrich shared her concerns of reaching a quorum with more people when five members couldn’t always reach quorum. She also pointed out the EDA would be larger than the city council.

“Adding enough voices to hear from the community sounds more like adding more people to reach a quorum,” Goodrich said. “I’m all for having more people speak for the community, but I’m speaking for more community involvement than government involvement.”

Councilor Melissa Kopachek spoke up in agreement with Goodrich of wanting to reach more community members.

“I agree with her 100 percent, and I don’t know if there is a way to reach out to the community of what the EDA does and there might be other avenues to get more people involved,” Kopachek said.

Rogers mentioned that Goodrich did make a good point about the EDA being larger than the council but as Mayor Mike Santo said, it would also address quorum at the head.

Councilor Russ Wiebold spoke up about the boards over the years being filled with the same people who would keep their term and the increase would allow for new people with new ideas. He went on to say if they increase the board membership there could be more discussion on the community and get more people involved.

The increase passed unanimously.

Following the hearing for the EDA member increase was a continuation hearing from an August council meeting.

The council unanimously denied the request for a tax rezone.

At the Aug. 26, 2019 council meeting, the Janesville City Council held a public hearing concerning a tax dispute for a parcel of 70.4 acres of land on the west end of town.

Tim Burke represented his family and the land acreage they are requesting be removed from industrial taxes to be set as rural service tax district.

As the first hearing continued the council had more legal questions and tax impact questions along with what kind of precedent the change would set for other properties looking to do the same thing, causing the continuation hearing that took place Monday.

At the previous meeting Burke shared they are looking to change the tax rates because it’s currently being used as farmland and always has been. He also mentioned the family is looking to sell the land in the future with some inquiries from farmers, though he was not against selling it to be developed.

If the tax district was changed it would not have gone into effect until 2021 taxes and there would be several steps that could cost the city at least $5,000 due to having to go to several hearings in St. Paul. The other main point discussed was the precedent it would set for others wanting to do the same thing in the future causing the continued shrinking of the city.

Wiebold said he talked to the zoning department and the land is still considered agriculture meaning there is no logical reason to make the change and to shrink the town.

“I don’t think that’s fiscally responsible for a majority of our residents,” Santo said.

If the parcel had been rezoned that would not only cost the City money to do but cost tax dollar revenue.

Kopachek was also against the change due to the precedent reasoning and if the parcel has to be rezoned in the future the council would have to go through the same process to change it back.

The continuation hearing Dec. 9 began with Burke absent. He was aware of the time of the hearing, and he arrived to the meeting after the council had voted down his request and closed the hearing. They did take time to recap, offering the tape for him to listen to the discussion, what they discussed during the public hearing and their reasons of why it was voted down.

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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