Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 21, 2013

Board hopes brownfields jump-start 8th St. development

TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners approved about $660,000 in brownfield tax incentives for two Eighth Street developments and another $240,000 that will go into a county agency’s coffers.

Commissioners unanimously supported a request to rebate $395,000 in property taxes over eight years for brownfield costs incurred by J. Socks Construction. The developers propose to spend $2.8 million to construct a three-story building with both retail and residential space on the northwest corner of Eighth and Cass streets.

But commissioners split over allowing the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Authority to continue capturing all local property taxes for 13 years, which includes five years of property tax revenue for the brownfield agency. About half the estimated $207,000 generated by the project over the five-year span typically would go to the city.

“It almost doubles the subsidy for the whole project,” said city Commissioner Ross Richardson. “The brownfield authority has already assessed its fees; I want that tax money to go back where it’s intended to go.”

Richardson’s amendment to limit the county’s capture to two years failed when Mayor Michael Estes and Commissioners Tim Werner, Gary Howe, and Jeanine Easterday opposed him. Commissioners Jim Carruthers and Barbara Budros supported the two-year limit.

Estes and Werner said the decision on how long the brownfield authority captures city tax money should be made by the county board-appointed brownfield authority.

Richardson said waiting for the brownfield authority to voluntarily relinquish the capture of hundreds of thousands of dollars “will never happen.”

Estes also noted the money captured by the authority goes into its local site remediation fund and generally returns to the city. The authority uses the fund to help clean contaminated sites for redevelopment. To date, all such projects have been in the city.

“There are other needs for city tax dollars to pay for besides further development downtown,” Richardson countered.

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