By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin residents will have a chance today to hear the details of a proposal to create a tax increment financing district that would encompass the tornado zone and downtown.
A public informational meeting is planned for 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 602 S. Main St.
The purpose of the proposed district is to take any increases in tax revenues generated by redevelopment construction to invest in building more projects.
David Wallace, chief executive officer of the city’s master development firm for recovery from the 2011 tornado, said it is projected that the TIF plan could capture $60 million from tax growth in the district that would be used as one of the financing tools for Joplin’s redevelopment.
His Texas-based firm, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, has increased the total of proposed projects from $794 million to $806 million. Wallace said $12 million was added to help the Joplin School District with its costs for rebuilding Franklin Technology Center.
Other proposed projects would provide a variety of housing, retail space, a new public library and movie theater, a minor league ballpark, and an arts and museum complex.
Wallace said the TIF district would not raise taxes for existing property owners. It would direct to the city taxes derived from future increased assessments for reinvestment in the plan.
“The TIF is essential to get the projects done,” City Manager Mark Rohr said Wednesday in an email statement. “It is a creative way to allow the (tax) revenue produced by the projects to help pay for the projects themselves.”
In most cases, TIF money from tax revenue growth, including sales taxes and business taxes, goes to developers. Instead, this proposal would route the increased revenue to the Joplin Redevelopment 353 Commission, a city panel, for redevelopment projects. Joplin has two other TIF districts where proceeds from increased taxes are paid to developers to offset some of their construction costs. Those are North Park Crossing, which stretches several blocks south of Northpark Mall on the east side of Range Line Road, and 1717 Market Place at 17th Street and Range Line Road.
Wallace said that while the new proposal would freeze taxes for other taxing entities such as the school district and the counties, they would receive any increases from development in other areas of the city outside the TIF district.
His firm oversaw an $80 million project in Waco, Texas, that attracted an additional $300 million in development by others, he said.
“I’m not saying it will attract the same type of multiplier, but we would hope it would attract additional investment alongside those projects” already proposed, Wallace said.
The firm is looking at some other development possibilities not included in the $806 million total, and some would be outside the TIF district, he said.
State law allows TIF districts to be created when one or more of three factors exist that depress the tax-generating potential of a property. Those include blight.
In this case, the area would be defined as blighted because of damage from the tornado, the lack of updated platting and features, and environmental issues, Wallace said.
Those issues were cited in a study Wallace Bajjali contracted from a consultant, PGAV Planners of St. Louis.
“The area is hampered by significant additional costs associated with removing the remaining building and site infrastructure and upgrading utilities and infrastructure for a significant area over a much shorter period of time than would be the case for normal development patterns,” the consultant reported regarding the proposed TIF area.
Specific findings of the study:
• There are defective and inadequate street conditions related to outdated platting, with few pedestrian or bicycle accommodations. Narrow streets and the lack of sidewalks in many areas of the city “presents a menace to safety” for both pedestrians and motorists.
• Most streets do not have ramps at the intersections for disabled people to traverse. Some of the ramps that are in place do not meet accessibility standards under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
• The lack of accessibility to people in wheelchairs impedes access to the city’s trolley system.
Unsanitary and unsafe conditions also are cited in the report.
Noting the city’s 125-year lead and zinc mining history, the report states that the endeavor “resulted in the city being significantly undermined, full of abandoned mine shafts and environmentally contaminated by mine waste piles.” Joplin is a designated Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, and testing and cleanup are ongoing.
The study also found vacant and abandoned houses with failed roofing and siding that have degraded the structural stability. Also cited were some areas that lack proper drainage and have open drainage ditches that flood, such as the high school area; the area around Seventh Street and Illinois Avenue, several neighborhoods, and along railroad tracks in the center of the city.
“Given the level of devastation wrought by the tornado, combined with factors impacting the current economic environment, it is clear that without the assistance provided through TIF, the area on the whole is not likely to experience growth and development through investment by private enterprise at the level that is needed for the city of Joplin to recover and be financially stable,” the PGAV report states.
THE PROPOSED TIF AREA covers 3,129 acres containing 6,142 parcels of land. A map outlining the proposed district will be available at today’s public meeting.
Source: Wallace Bajjali Development Partners