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Monday, February 03, 2014

The New Normal For Wisconsin? The People Are Not On The Agenda.

I've been staying out of a story about a wealthy Rock County landowner looking to fast-track a development including a new I-90 interchange near Milton primarily because there appears to be a group of concerned local residents organizing on the issue and regardless of their political stripes, I would not want to effect their position in any adverse way or otherwise.

But here's a few pieces of advice on the subject for whatever it's worth:

#1. The land owner including the Janesville Gazette articles never mention TIF District financing, the slush fund economic development tool that will no doubt be used to finance much of the landowner's infrastructure once the land is annexed. What's important is that the landowner's 1,500 acres earmarked for development (7 times the size of the sprawling GM compound in Janesville) is mostly farmland with features of limestone hardscaping and it is this kind of vacant land that carries a minimal value for tax assessment purposes and gets locked in as the baseline value upon creation of a TIF agreement.

This means that although the parcels with new construction pay the regular rate of assessed value in property taxes as they incrementally improve, local governments and school districts receive only a few dollars an acre as before when the land was undeveloped. This in turn means that property owners in the local townships and cities outside the TIF pay the developers share of taxes for police, fire and other service costs covering the development. This can go on for 15 to 25 years or so depending on the term of the agreement.

#2. At least the Gazette appears to be doing some rare fair reporting on the fast-tracking aspect of the developer's proposal. In this article, (pay site) the newspaper writes well about the disregard of public input and lack of public hearings while local officials and township boards are forging ahead with preliminary road, zoning and legal agreements behind closed doors. If true, open records requests might have to be filed in order to find out exactly what's going on. Sadly, it might be time for the opposition group to get an attorney.

#3. It's easy to blame, target or get angry with the developer even if he has ulterior motives, but I would suggest not to. He's just doing exactly what is expected from a landowner/developer. It's the mayors, councils and township boards who are, at least up to this point in time, appearing to betray the public trust. This may sound overly basic, but they're supposed to work for the will of their constituency, not work to leverage a developer against them. He works for himself.

#4 If local government boards pre-determine a decision in favor the developer, it will be nearly impossible to stop. You'll hear, "we've gone this far and spent this much time and money, why turn back now," over and over again.

#5 Of additional concern should be the developer's campaign to petition directly for annexation - which does not require noticing. This should tell all concerned individuals in opposition that your voices must not merely be public opinions - but just as equal - a campaign.

#6 Read this insightful article about the development game from 7 years ago written by Peter Mckeever, a Madison attorney. It's still very relevant today.


Anonymous said...

Quick tip: Google any headline from the Gazette page, then click the link from Google. This bypasses the gate on the Gazette web site.

Anonymous said...

New article. Remember, just Google the headline to bypass the web site gate.

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