Friday, August 21, 2009

ANOTHER TAX DOLLAR, ANOTHER DEAL

The headlines in a major newspaper reads; “S.L. Redevelopment Agency pushes deli out of business.”

For the uninformed, a redevelopment agency, which is a political subdivision, is allowed to use taxpayer dollars, to buy up buildings or property, and then work a sweetheart deal for a developer. The developer usually buys the property at less than market value, and the City or County work deals on property taxes, impact fees, property trades and so forth.

After reading this headline, curiosity was very high, to see if something very similar to an RDA, had been worked in Heber valley. Lo and behold, there has been a few. Some very obvious and others not too well known.

Wasatch County got themselves in a nifty one. As citizens know, there are plans to complete a Rec. Center. But many are unaware, as to how it all came about. As the story goes, supported by contracts, a group of developers bought an old food processing property. They paid approximately four plus million dollars. Then a deal was worked out, with the County and the developer. It was decided the County would buy a building on the property for six million dollars plus, with the idea, that if it did not work out, the County could sell the building and recoup their costs. Things have worked out. The County is going to spend an unknown amount to complete the Rec. Center, and the developer has used his two million profit, to construct offices and other businesses in the front of the Rec. Center. And even the City, in which the project is found, worked their magic, and pushed things through the process, at blazing speed, to make an accommodation or two.
This deal, as it worked out, would cause any RDA to blush.

Not to be outdone, Heber City started working with a developer, who was allowed to make their own plans, even wrote an ordinance to support their plan, and then given complete control over the project. The promise from the developer was, lots of tax revenue, impact fees, upgrading of water and sewer lines and so forth. Heber City spent money having their staff work with the developer, represented the developer before other city agencies, reduced certain charges on the pretext, that in the end, the money would come back. If the developer did not like a current ordinance, that ordinance was either ignored or a new one written to cover the proposed need. Money was spent, deals were made. The developer was allowed to back out of some deals, make changes and modifications, that were not only different than the original proposal, but would give less than promised. No one, has a clue, as to the actually cost, both now and in the future. No one has a clue, as to what, if any, will be the revenues generated. But the City was willing to give the key to the City to this developer and also, give them a seat at the table of decision. Any RDA worth their salt, when viewing this situation, would be drunk with envy.

Not to be left out, in demonstrating how tax supported institution can get even closer to developers, Midway City, worked one of the greatest sweetheart deals of their history. A developer came to the City with a plan to build a store. The site selected, was not large enough to accommodate the plans, yet it was deemed a good place, and to make it even better, Midway City gave a piece of their City Park, so the size would be sufficient. The developer did not have sufficient financial wherewith, to fully start and finish the project, but he came to a good City, who was more than welling to do anything, yes, anything, to get this business started and up and running, on the pretext it would create jobs and provide necessary services.
Midway City gathered themselves up, and started making appearances on the “give-me circuit“. They made appearances before the County, Heber City, the Sewer District and the School District, all with the idea, that required fees and taxes, not be required. In fact, there was even discussion of receiving money from the various agencies, and some responded, so Midway City could give it to the developer, so he could get his project on track. This went on for some time, and citizens need to know, what some agencies did, not only by giving tax dollars to this project, but used their power to remove the requirement to pay certain costs and impact fees. YOUR MONEY, YOUR TAX DOLLARS, spent and given as if the agencies had a right and an open check book.
It is quite obvious, that in our Valley, we do not need an RDA. We already have those who believe it is their roll to spend your dollars, in support of what ever they deem is “a good deal”. Of course, the question must always be asked, “a good deal” for whom.

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