(ATLANTIC) A discussion and consideration of a TIF application from Sonntag Development for a $250,000 grant from the City for the construction of 10 duplexes in the city of Atlantic came to a halt when Sonntag announced that he was discontinuing his efforts with the project.
Sonntag stated that since the initial meeting with Attorney Dave Chase, his grandson Austin, City Administrator Doug Harris and himself in November 2012 to discuss the Southern Heights II project and the need for TIF funds, “it seems as if there has been a constant effort by Doug Harris behind the scenes to derail the project.”
“Members of the Planning Commission were lobbied as we went through the steps for the zoning approval. Issues about the Comprehensive Plan for the area and zoning change needed, as well as other issues were injected. City Council members have received written correspondence with talking points negative to this project. A housing study was requested, even though a recent study had just been done showing the need for additional housing and rentals. I believe conversations were made with individuals from the public who would be opposed to using TIF funds for this project and were given encouragement to speak out against it,” said Sonntag.
Sonntag also said that he believed the council agenda and attached information sent with it to the council members reflected this bias. He said even if the City Council were to recommend the TIF requested be used for the project he had a strong feeling that drafting of a TIF agreement with the City Administrator would be very difficult and suspect of major risk for them financially going forward with the project.
“I have worked hard for Atlantic for many years and have very much enjoyed doing projects here because I believe we still have one of the finest places in Southwest Iowa to live, work and retire,” said Sonntag. “I was also looking forward to one more project with my grandson, Austin, in hope that he may find this type of work fulfilling as well as beneficial for Atlantic. I do not believe our present City Administrator has the same goals for Atlantic as some of us and therefore I find the need to step back, stopping the process and discontinuing my efforts on this project. I want to mention that I deeply regret the loss of jobs that could have been created from this project.”
During his report, Mayor Dave Jones stated that he did have a problem with one of Doug Harris’ comments that “not all development is good for the city”.
“My philosophy is no development is not good for the City,” said Jones. “The City of Atlantic, we need to develop and we need to keep going ahead.”
Doug Harris was not present at the City Council meeting Wednesday night to respond to these comments or defend his actions.