Could Morris become a resort town?
During a joint meeting of Morris Elementary District 54 and Morris Community High School District 101 finance committees Tuesday evening, Mayor Richard Kopczick and a pair of developers presented a plan to put a hotel, condominiums and cottages at the marina in Morris by creating a Tax Increment Financing District.
“It would take an area that’s been a tough area for years and bring it to life,” Kopczick said. “I think it’s an opportunity to bring an affluent group to the community that would help the local economy.”
Headed by Edgewater Resources, Morris RiverPlace would be home to a 70-room resort-style hotel with a restaurant and conference facility, condominiums, cottages and townhomes.
There would also be storage facilities for boats and houseboat slips in the marina.
“We want to have a resort look and resort feel,” said Ron Schults, one of the owners.
The development comes with a projected $70 million price tag — a “conservative estimate,” Schults said.
The parcel of land the development area sits on is already within a TIF zone that was created in 1986, Kopczick said, as part of an older plan involving the marina.
The TIF 2 currently being sought would “not increase the footprint of the TIFs we currently have today” since it is already within the previous TIF zone, said Kopczick.
The second TIF would have a 23-year lifespan.
Developers would receive 50 percent of the TIF, while 30 percent would be a surplus distributed to the taxing bodies involved (including the two school districts). The final 20 percent would go into a TIF fund for future projects, such as improvements to roads, sewers and utilities.
The “50-30-20” TIF is a common set-up, according to District 101 Superintendent Pat Halloran.
“That’s a familiar increment sharing agreement,” Halloran said.
The districts would see a “minor” increase in tax revenue as a result of the project, Kopczick said. The districts would jump to in equalized assessed value.
What role the districts would play in creating the TIF is currently unclear.
Kopczick said he will be meeting with Attorney Herb Klein, who specializes in TIFs, who will advise a direction forward.
District 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw said the plan is still in the “evaluation stage” for the district, but indicated the marina development could have a positive impact on the community.
“We’ll see where it takes us,” Shaw said. “At this point, I don’t see any obstacles that would disrupt the forward momentum.”
Halloran also suggested support, saying it would be a “win-win” if the district could help bring revenue to the community.
The property does not impact Saratoga District 60C, which is why it was not represented at the meeting.
According to Schults, an estimated 300 to 350 jobs could be created by the project.
A third would be construction jobs, a third would be jobs at the development, and a third would be indirect, Schults said, noting that a more-detailed analysis would be forthcoming.
Because the TIF has yet to be created, an exact timeline on construction has yet to be determined.
“We’d like to get going on this soon,” Schults said. “To move the project forward, we’re going to have to put the TIF together.”
Schults and the other owner, Dick Wallach, are based in Michigan and own projects all over the Great Lakes.
Schults said Morris is an appealing spot for this type of development because of the community.
“You want to be in a good community, that’s number one,” said Schults. “The downtown is beautiful.”
Wallach noted the “abundance of outdoor activity” in the area, such as bike trails and state parks.
“There’s a lot out there,” Schults said. “The idea of living on the water... the market for that is huge.”