Those private development numbers

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The proponents of the Tulsa County river sales tax are claiming that billions in private development hang upon the outcome of Tuesday's vote. Specifically, they're claiming that the $1,000 million "River District" project in Jenks, the $500 million "Tulsa Landing" project proposed for the west bank at 21st Street, and the $50 million South Village development in Bixby are all dependent on passage of the tax.

South Village is on a part of the river that won't be modified by any of the projects in this tax. The project will be the beneficiary of a $5 million rebate of sales taxes from the City of Bixby. The linked World story doesn't say, but I would assume that this is being done by means of a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district. The developer spends money for site preparation up front, then is reimbursed for those expenses by the increase in sales taxes generated within the TIF district. The linked story quotes developer Tim Remy saying that his project is not dependent on the proposed Tulsa County river sales tax.

River District in Jenks would have some frontage along the lake created by a low-water dam south of the Creek Turnpike bridge, but developer Lynn Mitchell has said that the project will go forward regardless of the outcome of the sales tax vote. The 330 acres has already been purchased. The Jenks City Council has given preliminary approval to a TIF District, and the Jenks school district, one of the key taxing bodies which must approve a TIF, has expressed its support.

Under the TIF plan, some of the increased tax revenues generated from developments within the River District would be transferred to the developer to cover approved expenses....

City Attorney Stephen Oakley said expenses qualifying for reimbursement would include floodplain and riverbank stabilization, roads, utilities and gas lines....

"I think it's the way a TIF district should be done -- it's entirely performance-based," Mitchell said. "We go in and pay for all the infrastructure out of our own pocket and then we come in and build the value up on the property by putting up buildings." ...

How will it work?: The proposed TIF district now generates about $13,000 a year in property taxes, which will continue to be collected and distributed, Oakley said.

The developer would be reimbursed from city sales tax revenues generated in the district and from increased property taxes as the development becomes more established, Oakley said. Jenks has a 3 percent city sales tax; the developer would receive one-third of that money, or one cent on every dollar of sales.

"They'll have certain items that qualify for reimbursement," Oakley said. "It's pay as you go. We're not bonding or advancing funds for any of it. It's all dependable on what the development generates out there."

That leaves the west bank development proposed by the developer that built Branson Landing, but that project isn't dependent on any of the "water in the river" projects or specifically on Tuesday's sales tax package, but on the availability of a large enough piece of contiguous land. As we've discussed, a TIF district can be used to fund land acquisition and other site preparation that would be needed for that development.

Since none of the big commercial development projects require passage of Tuesday's Tulsa County river sales tax to move forward, and in fact two of them are already moving forward, it's disingenuous for tax supporters to count any of those amounts as private investment that would be "generated" by this $282 million public "investment." Those who are including these amounts in their "private-to-public" ratio calculations in order to justify their support for a tax increase are standing on thin ice.

But what I'm really wondering about tonight is how they figure the value of these commercial projects. Riverwalk Crossing Phase I was described by leasing agent Doug Walman as a $26 million project. The proposed Tulsa Landing site, for example, is about 6 or 7 times bigger than Riverwalk Crossing, so how does that development manage to be 20 times as pricey? That's not a rhetorical question; I'd really like to know.

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s said:

There is something very similar to this vote compared to the Vision vote when the Shusterman $10 million was all or nothing that would be donated to OU at 41st and Yale if it passed. If the vote on the Vision Tax did not pass she would not give the money.

Mr. Kaiser seems to be forcing the same type of example with the take my money now or I won't be helping with the River again.

The Tulsa World compared this River Tax vote to the Spavinaw water plan that was completed in 1924. It is not the same as Robert Lorton III 'no' doesn't build cities.

One thing that is interesting are all of the details that Michael Bates has been the only reporter to research and reveal to Tulsa voters.

Another interesting thing is that Michael Bates is an engineer that graduated from M.I.T. and W.R. Holway also was an engineer with a degree from M.I.T. who successfully directed a massive public works project in the 1920's. I have heard the stories from people that actually lived during those days and experienced Tulsa with their water issues.

If the vote does pass on Tuesday, I would strongly urge that Michael Bates be in a paid position to be on an oversight committee to make sure that River Tax is completed fair and keep Tulsa voters up to date on what they actually paid for instead of lumping it onto a spreadsheet where people/projects are not held accountable.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 6, 2007 10:02 PM.

Fred Perry on the proper use of public money for river development was the previous entry in this blog.

Environmental considerations for the river tax proposal is the next entry in this blog.

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