OAK CREEK - To boost its lakefront development ideas, the city may use new tax increment financing, perhaps taking dollars from an existing TIF district to get it going.

The plan commission on April 11 approved such a proposal, which next heads to the common council meeting May 16. If it passes there, the city's joint review board still has to sign off on it in June.

Oak Creek's City Planner Kari Papelbon said the area – which primarily encompasses the new Lake Vista development, Bender Park and land to the south – would include 36 parcels on over 500 acres, all of which at what could become Tax Incremental District 13.

Blighted property?

Within TID 13, nearly 70 percent of the proposed district would be labeled as blighted to fulfill a standard by which the city could use tax increment financing dollars. (In a TIF district, property tax dollars generated by a new development is used to help finance some of the upfront costs of construction.)

Because of the blighted designation, a number of improvements could be planned for the area, including repaving at Bender Park, an additional fish cleaning station, improvements to the Highway 100 corridor, utility and road upgrades to the north, and repaving of Lake Vista Boulevard. The total cost of the improvements is estimated at $36 million with the TIF district expected to return $65 million over its 27-year life.

Still, that "blighted" designation didn't sit well with some residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the April 11 meeting. Some expressed concerns that an area designated as blighted near their homes could potentially drop their property values.

City Administrator Andrew Vickers explained that a specific property isn't automatically considered blighted if it is within or near a TIF district – rather, only those parcels specifically labeled as such would be considered blighted. And a presentation from Vandewalle and Associates likewise stated only the commercial properties would be labeled as blighted, which would limit impact on surrounding properties.

Vickers called the proposed TID 13 a "poster child" for how a city should use tax incremental financing districts.

"This couldn't be more in line with the TIF statute, its origin," Vickers said.

Another TIF

To jumpstart the new TIF district, the city wants to use another TID that's set to close.

TID 6, created in 2000, encompasses 38 acres west of 13th Street and east of Interstate 94. As proposed, approximately $1.8 million would come from TID 6 and into TID 13.

Oak Creek's Finance Director Bridget Souffrant said TID 6 was "over-performing" which led into the discussion on using it to jumpstart the new TIF district. The city is expecting the value of the development to increase in 2022, which is part of the reason a donor TID was needed, she explained.

Not everyone was comfortable with that idea, however.

Commissioner Fred Siepert said he felt a TID should be able to stand on its own. Commissioner Walter Dickmann agreed, adding that he was looking forward to closing TID 6.

Director of Community Development Doug Seymour countered that this new TIF district would "open up the lakefront more than we have been able to in the last 100 years." He said this is something the community has often expressed a desire to happen.

The city currently has six active TIF districts.

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