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Concerns Over Public Financing Delayed The Corners Project

Plans to open new retail development — including a Von Maur store — pushed back more than a year because of worries about how long it would take to repay town's investment, newspaper reports.

When plans to open a shopping center in the Town of Brookfield that would house Wisconsin's first Von Maur department store were unveiled in March 2011, developers had hoped to start construction that summer — and to be open for business by the 2012 holiday season.

Seventeen months later, however, construction on The Corners has yet to begin and officials now say the development, located at Blue Mound Road near Barker Road, probably won't open until November 2014.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday that the much of the delay is due to concerns about how many years it would take the development's property taxes to pay off the town's debt.

The Town Board earlier this month approved a timeline for the creation of a  that would pave the way for construction to begin.

The tax incremental financing district would help fund public and private improvements — including an large underground parking structure, as well as sewer, water and road work.

See Patch's complete coverage of The Corners / Van Maur development

The town would borrow the funds, which would be repaid by property taxes collected on the new construction. Those taxes would be diverted from the town's general fund and the school district, county and state until the borrowing debt was paid.

The Journal Sentinel reviewed public records that showed that the Marcus Corp., which is developing the project, and town officials were talking about a possible project as early as May 2010.

By August 2011, concerns were being raised about how long it would take for property tax revenue generated by The Corners to pay back the town's debt, the newspaper reported.An email that month to James Hammes, the town's attorney, from Michael Hatch, a Marcus Corp. attorney, said the town's tax financing district would be limited to a 16-year payback period — the most allowed by state law, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Hatch, in his email, mentioned the possibility of asking the Legislature to extend that o 27 years. Hammes writes that the other option is to "go back to the drawing board and determine how we can do this within the 16-year limits."

However, town officials later dropped the possibility of seeking more time to pay off the debt, the newspaper said.

Town Administrator Rick Czopp told Patch earlier this month that the town is planning to have the TIF paid off within 15 years. At that point, the project's tax revenue would start to be shared with the school district, county, state and technical college.

While the length of the proposed TIF hasn't changed, the boundaries of the districts have expanded to include industrial properties east to Janacek Road.

The estimated amount of TIF borrowing for public and private improvements had been $25 to $30 million. But it's now closer to $30 to $35 million, with the expanded boundaries.

Public hearings on the tax incremental financing district plan are expected to be held in October, with the Town Board voting on it by the end of November.

quiteconcerned August 20, 2012 at 02:55 PM
It would be ideal if the public records referenced in this article were provided as links, so we can see all the context of what certainly has the potential to impact all Waukesha County taxpayers. This is especially important when you consider recent statements by the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue, as reported by Biz Times: "In a disturbing sign the state economy remains in crisis, property values in Wisconsin have fallen for the fourth year in a row and showed the largest one-year drop in decades." Of course, this will affect the ability to pay back the TIF in a short period of time if values are low. Not too mention, there are millions of square feet of retail space nearby, which also increases the risk by adding more retail space at The Corners. Please share the public records in their entirety. Thank you.
Randy1949 August 20, 2012 at 04:26 PM
As a Town taxpayer directly affected, I'm adopting a wait and see attitude. On the upside, the new retail space will be up-scale and well-organized, unlike the mass of strip malls that is Bluemound Road currently. Except for the Galleria, which is a very nice place, and there was a similar fuss when that was built. Property values have very little to do with taxes. They just raise the rate when the value declines. Never the opposite.
quiteconcerned August 23, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Randy, you seem to be a thoughtful resident who is to be praised for engaging on this very important issue. All I’m saying is The Corners developer, Marcus Corp., has experienced delay after delay. This should make us suspicious, since taxpayers will be left holding the bag if The Corners fails. The very site proposed for The Corners project most recently held Marcus Corp's West Point Cinema and other retail space. The site now stands nearly empty. Does it make sense to put more retail in the very location that already saw a Marcus retail development fail? If Town of Brookfield supervisors continue to move The Corners project ahead, taxpayers throughout the County and the Town will want to read the Aug. 21 Waukesha Freeman Guest Opinion "The Corners: Where's the risk in public financing for development?"
Randy1949 August 23, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I live within walking distance of the site. I'm well aware of the history, since I used to go to movies in the West Point, shop at Menards and eat in the Applebee's. I even remember when that spot was a farm. I definitely have my reservations about the TIF. I fail to see why the developers of the site, if they feel the area needs a facelift, which it does, can't pay for their own improvements. They're the ones who will be making the money off the site once it's built. I will say that I heard the same sort of sniping when the Galleria on Bluemound and Brookfield Roads was proposed. "It's the Town of Brookfield, they're a bunch of hicks so why would they need an upscale shopping center?" It's a wonderful place to shop now. I'm definitely suspicious, even to the point of writing my State Assemblyman, but I'm adopting a wait and see attitude about it. It's a really plum spot that has been allowed to become shabby as the main businesses there moved to bigger and fancier quarters.
quiteconcerned August 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Randy I'm glad you wrote your Assemblyman. All Waukesha County residents should write or call their Assemblyman and County Supervisors too, as we are all on the hook for whatever public financing is made available. They should tell them to let Marcus fund the site redevelopment. I agree, Marcus is wealthy enough to self finance or pay as you go to get The Corners project done. You write that many believe the Town of Brookfield residents are hicks. I'm not one of them, but I'm concerned the powers that be might well believe they can pull one over on the Town of Brookfield. Make sure we don't let them.
Randy1949 August 23, 2012 at 07:28 PM
It was Rep. Farrow, who was polite enough to write me back and at least attempt to address my concerns. Nice man, unfortunately I've been redistricted out of his district. 'Business friendly' seems to be the philosophy of the day. If we property owners in the Town want the business to favor us with their presence, then we will have to be accommodating. It's a risk that could either pay off or turn out badly. The area is certainly 'blighted' at the moment, with the half-empty strip mall and the abandoned Menards building. As a 61 year resident of the Town and an owner of land near the Bluemound Road corridor, i would have to say that development has been a mixed blessing. Expanding the tax base has not lowered costs for anybody. However, many of the critics of The Corners seem to be people who would like that development project for themselves.
quiteconcerned September 01, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Interestingly enough, Rep. Farrow co-sponsored the legislation that allowed for the Town of Brookfield to be the only Town in Wisconsin to be able to use TIF for general retail development. Well-intentioned, no doubt. But the fact is that TIFs can and do fail, and taxpayers are responsible. At one time, we could all count on property values going up. When elected officials/taxpayers consider TIF nowadays, we must look at TIF differently. Does it really make sense to take on risk as a Town when Marcus can self-fund it? Town Supervisors recently celebrated paying off $11 million in debt over 9 years. If that was a challenge to pay off, how do they think they can pay off $35 million over 16 years, which is the max allowed under Town TIF, if the development fails? BTW, there is a retail development on the proposed site for The Corners sitting vacant right now.
Randy1949 September 01, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I guess the new philosophy in this state is that we have to bribe businesses to come to us. I'm not sure I agree entirely. I hear so much about the 'job-creators' being the ones who take all the risks and deserve the rewards. Here the property-taxpayers of the Town are the ones taking the risks.
quiteconcerned September 01, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The ultimate irony: If the Town of Brookfield TIF fails, it's likely the Town goes bankrupt. It bankrupt, it likely gets absorbed by another municipality. Odds are the City of Brookfield. The Town's worst nightmare.
Randy1949 September 01, 2012 at 07:38 PM
My worst nightmare too.
quiteconcerned September 01, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Tell your neighbors and others to contact Town Supervisors. I'm sure there must be some sort of public hearing on this. If they want to preserve low debt, low taxes and possibly the Town itself, the solution is simple. Have Marcus Corp. finance The Corners retail development. Leave the taxpayers out of it.
Randy1949 September 01, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Public hearings to be held in October. See above.
quiteconcerned September 02, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Heard throught the grapevine there is a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 20 as part of the planning commission to discuss The Corners plan. Though it does not appear on the Town web site on that date. Pretty reliable source too.
Randy1949 September 02, 2012 at 04:12 PM
The Plan Commission? Probably the body least responsive to residents' concerns in the Town government. I've already had one very negative experience at a Plan Commission meeting. I'd rather not make it two.
quiteconcerned September 04, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Interesting. Seems like others in the Town of Brookfield would want to know more about your experience. Especially considering we want them to act on behalf of taxpayers when considering whether to give millions of taxpayer dollars to Marcus Corp. for The Corners development.
quiteconcerned September 12, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Randy, you might check out this site www.followthemoneybrookfield.org that I've come across today. This might be the mechanism to get the planning commission and town supervisors to pay attention.
Randy1949 September 12, 2012 at 05:47 PM
The language used on that site makes me wonder who is behind it. (Talking about following the money.)
quiteconcerned September 12, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Town claims to have a public meeting scheduled for Sept. 26...Let's get this notice out so we all can hear from the horses' mouths. TOWN OF BROOKFIELD NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Town Board and the Plan Commission of the Town of Brookfield will hold a Joint Public Hearing on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 immediately following the TID Public Hearing at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Hall located at 645 N. Janacek Road, Brookfield, Wisconsin. The purpose of the public hearing is to consider amending the Zoning Code Section 17.04(20)(a) to include consideration for MU-1 Mixed Use Zoning District under PUD Planned Unit Development District provisions. All interested parties will be given an opportunity to be heard at said Public Hearing. Written comments may be submitted to the Town Board at or prior to the public hearing and will be made a part of the record. Published in the Freeman this 12th and 19th day of September, 2012. Jane F. Carlson Town Clerk Publish: Sept. 12, 19 WNAXLP

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