TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners will explore creating a district of up to 500 properties along a city corridor to capture future property taxes, an effort to pay for new streets and other infrastructure improvements.
City planners already created new master plans for several corridors to make them more pedestrian-friendly with amenities such as new lighting, street medians and landscaping. Commissioners want to take advantage of a new state law that would allow them to fund those public improvements on commercial corridors outside the downtown area.
Commissioners this week identified Garfield Avenue, Eighth Street, and Fourteenth Street as possibilities for such districts with particular emphasis on the intersection of Garfield and Eighth streets. Residents and business operators have long complained about what they contend is the city’s neglect of corridors outside the downtown area.
“The city has ignored this end of town for a long time,” said Kevin Whiting, a co-owner of Round’s Restaurant on Eighth Street. “But three years ago they redid Eighth Street and now they want to come back and do it again. Why didn’t they do it all then?”
Whiting said he’s not opposed to improving the corridor, but doesn’t support a tax increment financing district to pay for it.
Such taxing districts capture any future increases in property tax revenue generated within the district by way of inflation and new construction. The capture applies to all taxing jurisdictions, such as the city, Commission on Aging, Grand Traverse County, Bay Area Transportation Authority, and schools.
The tax capture would continue for up to 30 years or until it paid for all improvements in the designated corridor.
“You create these little pockets of prosperity while the rest of the city suffers,” Whiting said of the tax districts. “It’s the whole city those taxes are supposed to support.”
To begin capturing taxes, city officials would create a brownfield redevelopment district of between 40 and 500 parcels along a corridor -- or two corridors if the streets intersect. The corridor would need just a single contaminated property to qualify as a brownfield.
“None of the corridors will have a problem with that,” said Jean Derenzy, deputy director of planning and development for Grand Traverse County.
Derenzy and city staff will meet Feb. 3 to begin looking at factors such as infrastructure costs and redevelopment potential that city commissioners can weigh when determining which corridor to choose for a brownfield.
“We need to give them options so they can determine where your best return will be on your investments,” Derenzy said.
If city commissioners approve a brownfield corridor plan the concept also will need an OK from the county board. The project then would go to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which has the authority to approve the capture of state school taxes for up to five such plans a year.