Yesterday morning, the City of Wauwatosa held a meeting to review the TIF proposal with very short notice. Even though they were advised that the plan is very speculative and that there are many things could go wrong, one could tell that many of the city’s elected leaders were being drawn to it like moths to a flame.
Nick Schweitzer, a Tosa resident and blogger in his own right, has been following this closely. He attended last night’s public hearing, and he did a very good write up with several key observations. So many that I cannot reproduce them here without infringing on the Fair Use rules, so I will just share this and encourage the reader to study Nick’s post:
One of the final points made by Ms. Welch was the banks right now aren’t lending money for these types of developments. The Council Members seemed to think that this was a good reason to create the TIF District, and nobody saw this as a reason for caution. Why are banks unwilling to lend on these types of development? It’s not just because of the current economic environment. Currently, the market simply is not supporting these types of proposals because businesses aren’t growing like this at the moment.
I did have a chance to talk to the board members afterwards for a few moments. My general impression was that everyone really wanted to vote this forward, but couldn’t because of the degree of opposition that was voiced. In fact, several of the aldermen on the board talked about how Wauwatosa is too conservative when it comes to “speculative TIF Districts” and that many cities such as Menomonee Falls and West Allis have been very successful with them. Of course, those were made in very different economic times. One of the ones we talked about was Woodland Prime in Menomonee Falls. Drive up there some time. It’s a virtual business park ghost town.
The motion was made to place the plan on hold without prejudice until the next Planning Commission meeting when more information could be presented next month.
Nick’s observations were backed up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s report on the meeting:
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s request for $12 million in city funds to help finance its Innovation Park development, in Wauwatosa, received favorable comments from Plan Commission members at a Monday night meeting.
The commission voted 5-0 to delay action on whether it will recommend approval of the financing plan to the Common Council. That delay was sought by Mayor Jill Didier, who’s also commission chair, so more information can be obtained about the financing plan.
So, to summarize these reports: Despite the fact that these sorts of things of a bad track record in other parts of the county and the country, and that this one is already starting out with a very shaky proposition, and the face of the very vocal protestations of their constituents, and despite the fact that there is no guarantee that the UW Board of Regents will even consider this, the city’s mayor and Common Council members are ready to rush head long into this poorly thought out scheme of corporate welfare for already developers.
I’m sure that these officials have dreams of great success and a hero’s worship from the people. What they should do is be prepared for a backlash as people they are going to have insufferable traffic congestion on a daily basis, lots of empty stores and apartments, and whopping $18 million tax bill to pay off.