Sixteen years ago,Â Partners for ProgressÂ successfully lobbied the city to spend overÂ $15 millionÂ of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearlyÂ 4,000 homesÂ along with an industrial complex that, when all was said and done, would produce 17,000 jobs,Â $1 billionÂ in payroll, and nearlyÂ $13 millionÂ in additional annual property taxes.
Three years ago, many of the same folks behind Partners for Progress began a similar PR campaign touting the sale and redevelopment of the mall. â€œMore shopping choices are coming!â€ they proclaimed. To date, the city has approved the use ofÂ $1.5 millionÂ of your money for infrastructure costs and aÂ $13 millionÂ TIF (tax increment financing), which willÂ suppress property tax revenue at current levels for the next 30 years. In other words, no matter what happens, the 64 acres will continue, as it has for the last decade, to produce only 10 percent of its original value because any increases will be used to repay the TIF loan. Developers and city officials claim that the project will produce $1 million (or 20 percent) in additional sales tax revenue to the city, though, historically, theÂ national retail sales growth rate range is between -11.51 percent to +11.18 percent.Â Even if we find a way around the notoriously stringent Wal-Mart non-compete covenants and actually bring in real retail, it is absolutely impossible to expect these projections to materialize, since, even in the best of times, weâ€™ve not seen half that level of growth. [Read more…]