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A drone photo taken Wednesday shows the east side of Alliant Energy’s expansion of its power plant in the town of Beloit.

Anthony Wahl

TOWN OF BELOIT

If some recent development deals play out as expected, the town of Beloit could see a boost in housing starts that could bring nearly 400 new homes and an influx of 1,200 residents over the next decade.

Town Administrator Ian Haas said the town forged a slew of residential developer’s agreements in 2017 and is rolling forward on new ones for up to 381 new condos, duplexes and single-family homes—$76 million worth of development over 10 years.

Those housing starts are planned in three town-owned residential subdivisions, including Blackhawk Run off Inman Parkway. Haas said the development agreement there eventually might add 179 condo units and 36 single-family homes.

The other subdivisions are Courtney Condos, a planned condominium development just east of Beloit Turner High School, and Heron Bay, a 24-lot subdivision along the Rock River south of Alliant Energy’s complex.

A jump in new residential starts would help address what officials say is an emerging housing shortage in Rock County.

For the town, it also could be one of a few catalysts for future commercial and industrial development, Haas said.

Under new housing development deals, the town’s population could grow as much as 20 percent in the next 10 years, jumping from about 7,000 residents to about 8,200, Haas said.

“We didn’t get to pick what people will pick us for, but it looks like residential is the name of the game for the time being,” Haas said.

“Development is cyclical. You could also have a major uptick in commercial where you have an uptick in development, which we’re poised for also. And when you’ve got an emerging increase in workforce, it makes sense we’d have interest in industrial” developments.

The town began marketing lots at Heron Bay in mid-2017 for just $1, and since then, the subdivision has landed 11 homes under contract, including three starts last year. Those homes, Haas said, will cost $250,000 and up.

The town acquired Blackhawk Run in late 2016 for about $200,000, buying the subdivision out of foreclosure, Haas said. It’s an example of a new subdivision that got hit hard by the Great Recession.

Haas said the subdivision was a relative bargain for the town. He estimated its value at about $1.3 million.

Much of the growth projected at Blackhawk Run and the Courtney Condos will be within the Beloit Turner School District boundaries. The new housing will be within walking distance of many of Turner’s schools—including a proposed new elementary school that’s the subject of a referendum this spring.

Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the prospect of housing growth is “exciting.”

“Any time any school district sees the potential for growth, I don’t know any school district that would see that as anything but a positive,” he said.

Turner schools currently pull in about 25 percent more students through open enrollment than they lose through students leaving, McCarthy said.

He said a significant increase in housing would expand the tax base and likely boost the student headcount. That would increase state aid, meaning the district could hold the line on its tax levy more easily. McCarthy said the district then could begin to slow the rate at which it accepts open-enrollment students.

The town of Beloit this week filed a legal petition in Rock County Court to incorporate part of the town as the village of Riverside.

City of Beloit officials have said they believe the incorporation effort is partly a money grab. Incorporation would protect the town from annexation attempts by other municipalities, and tax payments the town now gets from Alliant Energy’s power plant would double if it became a village.

Alliant will begin ramping up operation of a $750 million expansion to the power plant in 2019. That expansion is now under construction.

Haas said “everybody talks about Alliant” in conversations about the town’s incorporation effort.

Yet Haas said the potential of more residential development—along with the possibility for a related uptick in commercial and industrial developments—are “part of the impetus” for incorporation.

Over the next few years, the town expects to see several million dollars’ worth of new commercial development and redevelopment along Inman Parkway—a major road with increased traffic, thanks to improved access to Interstate 90/39.

In addition, Haas said, the town is in talks over a potential “$50 million” agricultural business development along the South Walters-South Duggan roads corridor south of the Alliant plant. He wouldn’t give details, but he said the development could start to gel as Alliant’s expansion nears completion.

Currently, the town has “limited” use of tools such as tax-increment financing, Haas said. TIF is one example of an economic development incentive villages and cities can use for industrial, commercial or even residential development.

Haas said incorporation would give the town—the third most-populous community in Rock County—more access to such tools as tax-increment financing.

“When you get down to the bones, having access to economic development tools (is important),” he said.

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