Webmaster’s note: This post started out about Senate Bill 17, however, it triggered some other thoughts as well.

Journal Gazette link to article about TIFs and this bill – Indiana Government website link to info about the bill

 

From the Bill:

Citations Affected: IC 5-28-26-18; IC 6-1.1; IC 12-19-1.5-9; IC 36-3-5-8; IC 36-7.

Synopsis:With respect to certain bonds issued, or leases entered into, by redevelopment commissions and certain other local government entities for various redevelopment and economic development purposes, provides that: (1) the maximum term of the bonds or leases may not exceed 30 years; and (2) capitalized interest may be paid from the bond proceeds for not more than two years. Provides that certain decisions with respect to tax increment financing (TIF) allocation areas are to be made by the legislative or fiscal body of the city, town, or county instead of the redevelopment commission or are subject to the approval of the legislative or fiscal body, including: (1) consent for tax abatements in an allocation area; (2) consent for enterprise zone investment deductions in an allocation area; (3) issuance of certain bonds; (4) use of the power of eminent domain; (5) applying for federal grants and selling bonds to federal agencies; and (6) payment of certain property tax replacement credits. Includes taxes allocated for a TIF allocation area in the definition of “property taxes” for purposes of the petition and remonstrance process. Requires appointment of a school board member to serve as a nonvoting adviser to each redevelopment commission. Provides that the members of a county redevelopment commission are to be appointed by the county executive and the county fiscal body (instead of all appointments being made by the county executive). Revises the procedures for amending the resolution or plan for a redevelopment project area. Requires, for an amendment that enlarges the boundaries of an area, a finding that the existing area does not generate sufficient revenue to meet the financial obligations of the original project. Requires a redevelopment commission to annually notify the county auditor and the county or municipal fiscal body of the amount of assessed value that may be reallocated from the commission to other taxing units. Prohibits enlargement of an economic development area unless the original area does not generate sufficient revenue for the project. Provides that an economic development area must meet the criteria for an area needing redevelopment. Repeals certain provisions concerning the procedure for amending a resolution previously adopted by a redevelopment commission.

If passed as currently written, this bill would take power currently held by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission and transfer it to the City Council.  One of the chief complaints with Harrison Square is that the City Council had very little say in the nuts and bolts of the project, yet were asked to sign off on the major approvals for financing.  From a citizen’s point of view, once the project was approved by the City Council back in April, it seemed that information became harder to get. 

I’m still waiting on a copy of the Embassy/Indiana Hotel Walkway Agreement.  When the MOUs and Definitive Agreements for the other project components were completed, they were almost immediately posted on the City’s website.  At times, when information was inadvertently omitted (ie exhibits) and it was pointed out to City officials, it was rectified almost immediately.

A public hearing was held by the Redevelopment Commission on May 21, 2007, to extend the Jefferson Pointe TIFF district.  However, no information was provided before hand about the original creation of the TIFF district nor exactly about what the extensions would entail.  The public was asked to support or oppose something about which very little information had been given before hand.  When this was brought to the attention of the Commission, no comments or action were taken to rectify that situation.  It appeared as if the Commission did not feel a need to respond and that is what needs to change.  Add to this the fact that the Commission members are not elected, but rather appointed and it feels as if there is little or no incentive for them to be open.  Perhaps if they had to answer to a constituency they might think twice before excluding that base from discussions or decisions.  I know they have to answer to the Mayor or Commission President, but what is the dynamic there?  Is it a do what you’re told position or is there room for free thinking?  Please note: I do not see conspiracies every where I look. 

It would be interesting to see how Harrison Square would have developed if this bill had been in place a year ago.  Would the impetus to rush approvals through City Council have been as high?  One still wonders why the rush?  Sure, it would be nice to open the ballpark in April 2009, but would it have made a difference to wait until April 2010?  If I remember correctly, the Wizard’s lease with the Coliseum expires at the end of the 2008 Baseball season which was another reason for pushing this through.  Would the Coliseum have granted a year’s extension?  Something tells me they would have, if only to preserve for another year their ranking as one of the top 20 world facilities in event attendance.  

Has the City set itself up for failure by setting an impossible construction timeline?  It’s currently possible, but how realistic?  Everything has to go exactly according to plan for this to work.  One wrong move or unforeseen event and things could get interesting this summer.

Has the City continued its’ education efforts with the public on Harrison Square?  

The public’s perceptions of downtown in vital topics like parking and safety needs to be worked on before the ballpark opens.  There are still chuckles and knowing grins exchanged by City officials whenever someone mentions parking.  Reality, which is up for debate concerning this subject, doesn’t matter – the public’s perception does.  To it’s credit, the City has been talking about a Parking Authority for some time now.  The City knows it needs to do something about this, so look for it this coming year.  But tackling the public’s perceptions will take more than a Parking Authority.  What is needed has to be discovered this year as well.

If the project is going to succeed, the City should still be out there educating the public.  One of the things I’ve heard from several City officials is, “If we’d only had more time to educate the public…”  Well, there’s still time, about 16 months worth of it.

I’m not having second-thoughts about the project – these thoughts have plagued me from day one. 

I STILL support the decision to go ahead with this project. 

The bulk of the City’s work as far as getting the project set-up and approved is completed.  When visible construction progress begins, or as Greg Leatherman says, “…things start to rise up out of the ground,” momentum for support will begin to build.  But don’t rely solely on that momentum to carry us through a successful opening – it’s not too late!

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