If you live along Maquoketa’s entryway corridors, you may qualify for possible future funds to improve or clean up your property.

Such improvements could be part of the city’s proposed amended urban renewal area. City residents are asked to share their thoughts on the plan during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4, in the Maquoketa City Council Chambers.

The proposed expansion would add the pocket neighborhood near the Sunshine Early Learning Center as well as the city’s entryway corridors — Main, Platt and Summit streets — to the city’s urban renewal area, where specified funds could then be used to make improvements to those areas.

Urban renewal areas, commonly referred to as TIF (tax-increment finance) districts, were developed as a fiscal tool to give cities money to find funding for development projects, according to Phuong Nguyen-Hoang, associate professor of the University of Iowa School of Urban and Regional Planning and Public Policy Center.

Towns must first establish TIF districts based on slum, blighted, or economic development areas. Once established, the assessed value of taxable property within the designated area becomes the base value.

If assessed property values in that area increase, the difference (increment) between the base and the increase is diverted for projects or activities within the urban renewal area, Nguyen-Hoang explained.

Maquoketa’s current urban renewal area generates slightly more than $2 million per year, according to information from the city’s financial planner. The city can use that money to reimburse itself for money it spends on qualifying projects such as street repairs, design plans, and promoting economic development, provided those activities are within the urban renewal district.

If unused by the end of the year, TIF funds return to taxing entities such as the county and school districts.

In November, Maquoketa recouped qualifying debt of more than $714,600 from the past year as well as the last four years, a practice that had been overlooked for quite a while, Smith said.

“We were giving our fuel away, our fuel to promote economic development,” Smith told the council, explaining that the city is the economic engine driving development in the community and needs fuel, in this case, money, for such development.

“We need to be more aggressive” in use of TIF funds, Smith advised.

Part of that aggressiveness includes the proposed extension of the urban renewal district. If approved by the city council, the district would include the city’s entryway corridors — Platt, Main and Summit streets. Visitors and prospective new residents see those areas first when they enter town, and the city needs to make the best first impression it can, Smith said.

“This [could be] the beginning of the property maintenance program,” the city manager explained.

Homeowners in that area would not pay into the TIF, Smith said, but they could qualify for grants or other property improvement projects.