Council Consent Agenda Items of Note

1) Thanks to Ruth Beier calling attention to the mistake of including personal property taxes on the 30 year extension TIF Plan for University Place, personal property taxes will apparently be taken out. The accompanying memo calling for a consent agenda selection for a date (December 2) for public hearing says due to “uncertainty.” This is not uncertainty. It is yet another mistake in a financial plan or project review by planning department staff. And, it is yet another time the DDA/BRA, including the city manager and Triplett, has rubber-stamped a mistake (usually followed by a Council rubber-stamp of the same mistake). With the most recent redo of the Trowbridge brownfield plan, Triplett was crowing over his Facebook about new taxes using numbers for debt millage that were just plain wrong and other misleading claims. The key issue is that the original 50-50 sharing had more or less enough new city tax revenue to pay for the development’s city public service costs. The change cut that revenue significantly. You can’t spin your way out of that.

Instead of consent agenda, Council should take the opportunity to discuss how, once again, a financial mistake that would have led to a significant shortfall in projected revenue was written into a plan by the planning department and why the DDA did not catch it.

2) The site plan from so-called Park District Investment Group for Building A on Grand River was approved by the Planning Commission and is also a consent agenda date setting for public hearing on December 2. This site plan is completely independent of the DTN proposal, with its huge parking structure and sale of city parking lots. This is a public approval, by Planning Commission (unanimously), with staff recommendation, that shows the blighted properties can be redeveloped without recourse to a massive, costly development of the not-blighted properties in the DTN Plan.

My view continues to be that the developer-formerly-known-as-Strathmore-pretending-not-to-be, encumbered by that defaulted mortgage and risk profile, will not get private-sector financing, but this approval clearly shows that a self-contained project is possible if a credible developer is able to obtain the properties, presumably after the long-delayed foreclosure. Thus the key argument from the city manager and Triplett that the sale of parking lots is necessary to get rid of the blight has been completely undermined. All they have left is a very large, and very costly to taxpayers, “development government wants to do,” not “redevelopment government needs to do,” whose purpose by now is more or less, “but we’ve wanted to build a big development project for such a long time, please let us, and we’ll pay for it out of our allowance if we ever get a job."

Eliot Singer
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