• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Tiffin a "growing community under development"

Population growth triggers revision to Tiffin’s Comprehensive Plan
The City of Tiffin water tower. The city, which was the fastest growing city in the State of Iowa in 2017, has recently revised its 2014 Comprehensive Plan in response to its sudden growth. (photo by Cale Stelken)

TIFFIN– The City of Tiffin commissioned a Comprehensive Plan, to serve as a guide toward managing future development and population growth over a 20-year span, in 2014. The 2014 edition took approximately two years to compile, craft and approve. In the short span since the plan was adopted, Tiffin’s growth continued seemingly unimpeded, and projections for future growth needed to be revised.
A 2018 revised edition was produced in seven months as the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) worked with city officials to update the percentage of growth that has occurred, and to adjust the population forecast accordingly. A few minor adjustments were also made to Tiffin’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to reflect the flurry of activity in the city’s development areas.
The Tiffin City Council approved the plan in June.
The City experienced a 112 percent increase in population from 1990 to 2000, which brought the population to 975. Between 2000 and 2010, the City saw another near-100 percent growth rate (to 2,132), and a 2016 estimate by the United States Census puts the population at 3,006. The plan notes the growth from 2010 to 2016 is a 54 percent increase. In 2017, an estimate was made from looking at building permits. The estimate was based on 2.3 people per household and 779 new housing units constructed, which led to an estimated 2018 population of 3,739.
“The 3,739 estimated population represents a 92 percent growth rate since 2010,” the plan states. “Based on available building lots and potential developments currently in the planning phase, the growth rate is projected to be much higher than that going forward.”
In contrast, the city’s 2009 Land Use Plan projected a population of 2,132 in 2010 and 2,558 by 2020. While the actual 2010 figure was slightly lower than the projection, the 2020 estimate of 2.558 is significantly lower (by roughly 2,300) than the current estimate (at 150 percent growth) of 4,867. Current estimates forecast the potential for Tiffin to be a city of over 12,000 inhabitants by 2030 (reflecting a 150 percent growth rate, which the writers of the plan feel is realistic), the end point for the comprehensive plan’s vision. The plan also offers an explanation for the projections.
“Tiffin’s prime location and substantial amount of developable land will likely ensure large population increases will continue during the life of this plan.”
However, the plan also notes potential factors to hinder development, and thus slow the growth. For example, an economic downturn, “dramatic” increase in gasoline prices making commuting less desirable and/or a lack of employment opportunities in Tiffin. The plan also lists increases in utility costs, a decrease in the amount of land available for development and the city’s services (sewer, water, law enforcement, roads and other amenities) as factors ultimately dictating how quickly Tiffin will grow.
In addition to updating population figures, the 2018 edition of the Comprehensive Plan also features revised demographics reflecting who the population consists of.
“Population projections are used to plan appropriately for future growth and development,” the plan states. “Breaking down the population by demographics is just as important to the planning process by showing the related demographic needs of the community.”
Tiffin’s median age is 31.2, which the plan states is “significantly younger than the median age of the state of Iowa,” and generally younger than the region in general. 25-49 year olds, the prime employment age range, makes up the largest group with children under the age of 19 coming in second. People over the age of 60 are among the smallest age groups.
Evidence of the youth movement has been seen in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District. The district has three facilities (an elementary, the middle school and the high school) in Tiffin with a fourth (a fourth- and fifth-grade elementary building) currently under construction. Increased enrollment growth on the east side of the district (in the Coralville, North Liberty and Tiffin areas) has been an ongoing issue for over a decade. The district and the city are in frequent communication regarding new housing developments and their impact on available space for new students.
When it comes to new housing developments the plan notes 848 were located in Tiffin in 2010 (according to the U.S. Census). 779 additional units had been built as of January 2018 for approximately 1,627 total. Between 2018 and 2030, the plan indicates approximately 3,663 new housing units will be needed for a total of just under 5,300. Currently, three units per acre are allowed. In order to accommodate the needed housing, roughly 1.221 acres of land would be needed with an additional 122 acres (for streets and other utilities) for approximately 1,343 acres in total.
The plan states using an “in-fill” first strategy, or developing existing land first if possible within the existing city boundaries is preferable to annexing new land for development. It also states the vast majority of the needed land can be found within Tiffin, approximately 1,300 acres. However some is undevelopable due to steep slopes, protected wetlands or other restrictions on development (green space, as an example). Despite these concerns, the plan reiterates, “…the future residential use should be met within the existing city limits.”
The comprehensive plan addressed economic development, stating with Tiffin’s proximity to Iowa City, and two interstates, such growth is inevitable. But, such development needs to be based on what the city’s core values are, and must be planned with those values as an integral part of the process. A community-wide survey showed a strong message to maintain a small town atmosphere, the plan states. At the same time 59 percent of the respondents agreed the city needs more business development with 58 percent saying the city should be more proactive in bringing new businesses to town.
Tiffin has many advantages: located in the Iowa City metro area, easy access to major transportation routes, significant developable land, comparatively low tax rates, community support and schools.
On the flip side though, there are limited cross-transportation routes for the community, water and sewer infrastructure is not yet available along the prime development areas, there is (according to the plan) a lack of community identity (referred to as a “lack of a defined ‘Heart of Tiffin’”), limited funding for economic development efforts and the condition of the national and regional economy (recovering currently).
The plan calls for generating a strategic plan for business development, promoting Tiffin to the region and empowering a local economic development group. Included within the key points is establishing a brand for marketing Tiffin to potential businesses, working with the Iowa City Area Development Group and the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG, who produced the Comprehensive Plan in collaboration with the City of Tiffin), apply for Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) grants at the state and federal level, establish design standards for high quality commercial and industrial development, provide space and infrastructure for business to locate in Tiffin and expand, extend infrastructure into designated economic development growth areas, establish connectivity throughout Tiffin through cross-community transportation route and utilize the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to plan for appropriate economic development growth areas while protecting future residential growth.
Regarding infrastructure, the plan notes the city has 500,000 gallons per day (GPD) in elevated storage capacity with the water tower it built in 2013. However, the growth projections indicate a need for an average daily demand of 600,000 GPD with potential peak demands of 800,000 GPD. By 2030, the capacity may need to be as much as 1,216,800 GPD to ensure adequate fire protection and water supply for the community.
To meet the demand, a new water tower will be needed within 15 years and two new wells will need to be dug within the next five years. On the other end of the system, the sewer plant needs to be expanded within ten years. The Comprehensive Plan recommends the creation of two north-south collector streets by extending Greencastle and Ireland Avenue, and three east-west collector streets by extending 270th, Forevergreen Road and 360th in order to achieve cross-city mobility. Currently the city is theoretically split in half by Highway 6 and the Iowa Interstate Railroad.
“This limits the connectivity of the community and can be important when emergency vehicles need to cross the city,” the plan states. “Therefore, it is important that new developments are linked to the existing community through connector streets, sidewalks or trails.”
The plan discusses land use and projected additional acres needed by 2030 as follows: Residential 1,343 acres, Commercial 1,000 acres, Industrial 1,000 acres and Park/natural areas and open space 183 acres. Yielding a Total Land Need of 3,526 acres.
The FLUM divides future growth areas for the City of Tiffin into two distinct areas or phases. The Phase One Growth Area contains the primary growth area through 2030 and is where immediate development proposals should be focused. Phase One also defines the limits of existing government-supplied public facilities and services. Phase Two is the long-term growth area. The plan states Phase Two areas should only be developed as Phase One reaches build-out.
“It is likely that the city will need to utilize Phase One to accommodate appropriate future development during the life of this Plan. Therefore, all land to be annexed for future growth should be located within this corridor, as shown on the FLUM.”
The plan clarifies staying within the primary growth area (Phase One) ensures the city will protect environmentally sensitive ground and prime farmland from unwanted development while meeting the projected land use needs.
City Building Official Brian Shay said the plan would be reviewed frequently to keep it up to date with the current situation. A framework is included in the plan to guide the review and revision process.
The plan notes Tiffin has become known as a growing community under development.
City Administrator Doug Boldt agreed, “We are growing fast.”