A proposed tax-increment financing district for a grocery store and retail development in Pequot Lakes made it to the Crow Wing County Board room Tuesday.
At issue is a proposed SuperValu grocery store and retail development along Highway 371 North. The proposed development involves three sites on about 4.5 acres, which includes the currently operating Bradmor Motel. Proposed as a redevelopment district, Oppidan Inc. estimates the business will have between 80 to 100 full- and part-time jobs depending on the season.
Tax-increment financing is a method of financing public or private improvements to serve new development. While the existing tax on the property continues to be paid, the increase in tax value of the property is returned to the developer for a set period of time to help pay off the cost of the development. In this case the TIF is being requested to last for 25 years. Construction could begin in the fall. The property's market value is estimated to be about $4 million.
A public hearing on the proposed TIF district is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at Pequot Lakes City Hall.
As part of the TIF process, the county and the school district affected by the TIF application - Crow Wing County and Pequot Lakes School District in this case - may make comment and try to convince the deciding authority - the city of Pequot Lakes in this case - to either approve, deny or modify the proposal.
In the past, Crow Wing County typically has declined to comment about TIF applications, except to say a TIF district would affect the tax base.
Considerable time Tuesday was spent on whether the proper 30-day notification time was met.
Commissioner Paul Thiede, who represents the area, said he spent a lot of time on the phone with people on both sides of the issue. Valarie Wallin, Pequot Lakes School District clerk/treasurer, told commissioners the school board voted to comment against the TIF proposal noting the report was incomplete, there was a breach of the 30-day period and school board members wondered how an active business in the motel could be considered a blighted area for redevelopment.
Wallin said additional comments pertained to the concern of the TIF district on existing business in the area. Pequot Lakes is home to the grocery store Northern Food King. Wallin questioned how the tax base would be affected for the school district if a new business came in paying lower taxes and had a negative impact on the value of existing businesses, also leading to lower taxes.
Thiede said there was no definitive presentation on the subject of a blighted property for the redevelopment and he said he did not want to waive the county's 30-day comment period. If the county board commented on the TIF district, that would terminate the comment period.
County Attorney Don Ryan said Pequot Lakes can set a hearing date and give 30 days notice before publication of the hearing. If city officials didn't do that, he said there is a strong argument they haven't complied with the state statute.
Thiede said there has been a careless manner in the way this was put forward and he appreciated the school board weighing in on the topic.
Administrator Tim Houle said the county could impress following the law on the city or go to the Department of Revenue or sue the city. The county cannot approve or deny the TIF district. Houle said the county has the right to expect the city to follow the law correctly.
Justin Bolz-Andolshek, an owner of Northern Food King, told commissioners he employs 47 people and the creation of the TIF district was not without controversy or a level of greed and misinformation. Bolz-Andolshek said the TIF document was missing critical components and he asked the board to request a complete document.
The county board made no comment on the TIF district.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.