Tax Incremental Finance District #8
Posted: September 5, 2014
The Eau Claire City Council this coming week will be deciding whether to expand the boundaries of existing Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) district #8, which primarily encompasses much of the North Barstow Redevelopment District. A TIF district is established to assist growth in a designated area. Properties within a TIF district pay their current level of city, county, school and technical college taxes. However, the taxes on the added value of the improvements are used to pay for public infrastructure within the area being developed.
The properties proposed to be added to the current TIF#8 include the former Green Tree Inn & Suites and the Superior Auto Body building.
The biggest question facing the city council is whether the properties within the expanded TIF are considered to be "blighted". According to Eau Claire Finance Director Jay Winzenz, who appeared before the City of Eau Claire Plan Commission last month to present the city's case for the expanded TIF#8, a partial definition of a blighted property is as follows:
"…the presence of a substantial number of substandard or deteriorating structures or site improvements; inadequate street layout or faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility or usefulness, or conditions which endanger life or property by fire and other causes, or any combination of such factors that impairs or arrests the sound growth of a city. This definition also includes an area that is predominantly open and which because of obsolete platting, diversity of ownership or deterioration of structures, impairs the sound growth of a community. Designation of blight also includes inappropriate use of land."
I spoke with Eau Claire City Attorney Steve Nick about blighted properties. He stated that the definition of blight is rather broad. In addition, he believes that the last sentence in the partial definition of blight listed above is what makes the city's case for an expanded TIF necessary.
For example, Nick cited the current Wells Fargo drive-up facility as an example of a poor use of land. The drive-up and its parking lot is located on prime riverfront property that can easily be used for something more valuable. Although the issue surrounding the expansion of TIF #8 does not include the Wells Fargo property, a case could be made that the riverfront property could be better utilized.
Since blight has such a broad definition according to the state statutes, I would guess that the city council will approve the expanded TIF district. Next up for the council in October: Creation of a new TIF (#10) district in the area designated for the Confluence Project.