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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pattern Of Corruption: Janesville Homebuilder Uses Elective Office To Block Competitor

Not too long ago (Oct. 2017), a multi-unit residential developer from outside of Janesville wanted to buy a strip of land (with his own money - not government cash. Strike One!) on the backside of Walmart, but the purchase was contingent on changing the zoning so he (the land buyer developer) could proceed with his new 15-unit apartment complex. It's important to note the developer's purchase transaction and his apartment proposal was not hinged on receiving an "incentive" deal from the city. He was simply making a request for a change in zoning in order to proceed with the purchase and construction.

Doug Marklein, a Janesville area home builder and a member of the planning commission and also the president of the city council ranted during the committee meeting against the developer's proposal, claiming there was an unwritten promise (there was no deed restriction) between the land seller and the community that the property would remain zoned R1 (single-family homes) for an eternity.

The developer's zoning request was eventually shut down by the Janesville Planning Commission. On the surface it appeared like Marklein's petty attitude toward a market competitor was the reason he was denied, but little did I know that there was a new narrative being shaped to confiscate TIF District cash by city hall operatives in Janesville for additional housing.

According to a recent article, Forward Janesville operators claim there is a housing shortage in Janesville (another recent Gazette story reports 1,000 vacant homes) AND that developers can't afford to build homes or apartments in Janesville because construction costs require middle-class rents for ROI that Janesville's dollar general wage earners, beaten down by Forward Janesville's legislative agenda, twenty years of Paul Ryan, and Scott Walker's divide and conquer politics, can't afford to pay. So the developers (not the renters) want to be subsidized with TIF District kickback cash. Got it? That's it in a nutshell.

On top of that, the city also has an emerging pattern regarding economic development. When a private investor wants to develop land or existing developed property of significance beyond the value of a residential home, but without city incentives, central planning or TIF District kickbacks - the city shuts it down. The city sees those unexpected investor events as an opportunity to confiscate tax revenue, but only if they can TIF it.

The city refused to let Menards free market redevelop (rezone) their old store into a warehouse or public storage - no taxpayer subsidies were asked - but the city TIFed it for the buyer. Studer developments bought several downtown properties along the river for free market rehabilitation without asking for city incentives. Afterwards, Gazette editors surmised in an editorial that those buying and investing their own money (without subsidies) in Janesville properties must be a "philantropic" gesture. City hall insiders were furious, but took it as their cue to turn downtown into a TIF district to capture the future bounty in assessed growth.

Then came the multi-unit residential developer behind Walmart who was shut out.

The pattern here is obvious. TIF is being tremendously abused. It's no longer necessary to attract economic development in Janesville. Instead, TIF is used to skim money from future growth in assessed value for kickback purposes to city hall insiders and Forward Janesville political operatives.

In hindsight, Marklein's earlier opposition to a competitor entering Janesville had more to it than just forcing the seller into keeping a non-binding promise.

It turns out Marklein also wanted to build multi-unit residential in Janesville. Surprise. Surprise.

So the apartment developer had to be stopped for two more major reasons. Strike Two: Allowing him to build an apartment complex without city incentives or TIF kickbacks would damage city hall insiders meme that it can't be done without subsidies, and Strike Three: Marklein already had designs on building an apartment complex, it's just not behind Walmart.

The Janesville city council should have asked Doug Marklein and Richard Gruber to resign from the council long ago, instead, they appointed them president and vice-president of the council.

In Janesville ...if it's corrupt - it's institutionalized! To be a community player, you need to join in and become part of the taking.


Rock Netroots - Janesville Council Members Gruber and Marklein Should Resign

Rock Netroots - Special Interests Should Recuse From Janesville City Council Or Resign


John K said...

While Marklein may have not wanted an outsider, the people in the surrounding neighborhoods didn’t want the development. Finally the city council listened to the people.

Lou Kaye said...

True. But of interest is that the vast majority of the time Janesville residents came out to defend their own neighborhood, be it the introduction of an outdoor tavern/patio or the Monterery Dam, they were called selfish and working against what's best for the city.

This time, nearly everyone acknowledged the Walmart strip was ideal for apartments (good for the city) and I contend if the area was a TIF or TIFable, it would have happened - "people" be damned.

Anonymous said...

There's no newspaper in Janesville to investigate all this?

Lou Kaye said...

Nope. We have the Janesville Gazette here. LOL.

They don't do investigative journalism unless it's a democrat dating a lobbyist or counting the beer bottles in a refrigerator of a Food Stamp home.

Plus, they are a key member of the local Bilderburg group. I uncover two or three major local scandals each year. Their job is covering them up.

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