Twin Lakes gets TIF approval

Another Twin Lakes decision, another 3-2 vote.

The Roseville City Council approved a 25-year tax-increment financing district for the proposed Twin Lakes project last week. The vote moves master developer Rottlund homes’ closer to breaking ground on 737 units of housing, 325,000 square feet of office space, 312,000 square feet of retail; and also on a "big-box" retail store.

The entire Twin Lakes site, covered now mostly by old trucking companies, is located near County Road C and Cleveland Avenue. It encompasses 280 acres, but the Phase One plan currently submitted has development spanning 80 acres. It calls for a mixed use of housing, office and retail, including a "big-box" retail store such as Costco.

The City Council held a public hearing last Monday before voting to implement the TIF district, which allows the developer to capture specific costs through the new taxes generated from the development.

While opponents told the council that it was inappropriate for the city to subsidize development projects, proponents of the plan emphasized that Rottlund Homes would not receive any monies until the development is completed. They also said the development would clean up a blighted area.

Michael Fischer, a consultant from LHB Architects, agreed. Fischer, a specialist in blighted areas, reported that the Phase One plan of the development met the state statute criteria needed for TIF financing.

"In general, these buildings are in tough shape," he said. "This is definitely a blighted area."

Fisher explained that three criteria must be met to be eligible for TIF funding. The first had to show coverage, the second covers the condition of the buildings and the third must prove the dilapidated buildings are dispersed throughout the TIF district.

According to Fischer, the proposed TIF district has 100 percent coverage with parking lots, buildings and utilities, such as streets. He explained that while residents may see a few areas of green, the percentage comes from definitions outlined in state statute.

To inspect the condition of the buildings, Fischer said 13 of the 18 total buildings were inspected. Of the five that were not inspected, he said three were not toured because "they seemed to be in pretty good shape." Owners denied access to the other two.

To meet the criterion, 50 percent of eligible buildings in a TIF district must be structurally substandard, Fischer said. Twelve of the 13 inspected buildings were deemed structurally substandard, giving the proposed district a minimum of 67 percent coverage.

To prove distribution, Fischer said it must be shown that the structurally substandard buildings were not in just one area of the proposed TIF district. The five inspected buildings were in the northwest corner of the district, but the remaining 13 were spread out, he said.

"If there is a reason for having a TIF district, this is the most prime area I’ve ever seen," he said.

Opposing the project

Council Member Amy Ihlan, the most outspoken official opposing the proposal, brought up several reasons for opposing TIF. She asked what the developer’s profits would be after the project was completed.

"The question is whether the developers can afford to build this without the subsidy," she said.

Ihlan also said the proposed district would use revenue bonds instead of revenue notes and was not a true "pay-as-you-go" plan, which is Roseville’s policy. She said using notes would save the city money.

Jim Casserly, a financial consultant for Roseville, said that was "simply not true."

"It will be less expensive for the city to do bonds than notes," he stated.

Speaking out

Many people spoke during a public hearing on the use of TIF last week. Most opposed the use of the tax-increment funds, while others disliked the council’s procedures. One speaker said the project sounded OK but was against the city using eminent domain to gain control of all the property.

Steve Burwell was opposed to any subsidy being given to the developers. Another man cautioned the council to look into the soil contamination at the site, which is known to contain trichloroethylene or TCE, a carcinogen.

"It’s really important Roseville is not making a serious mistake here," he said.

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