“The downtown is the only part of the city that belongs to everybody. It doesn’t matter where you may find your home; the downtown is yours, too. Investing in the downtown of a city is the only place-based way to benefit all of its citizens at once.” Jeff Speck, Walkable City
Where Are We with the Downtown TIF Zone?
It’s been nearly a year since the EDC board took its first formal action regarding the initiation of a Downtown TIF zone in Marble Falls, but the conversation about this highly misunderstood economic development tool has grown more active recently with a few agenda items that have crossed the City Council’s docket as well as some media attention.
WHAT’S BEEN ACCOMPLISHED IN THE PAST YEAR
Over the course of the past year, the EDC staff has worked with City staff, attorneys, consultants, and the Burnet Central Appraisal District to determine the processes necessary to create a reinvestment zone in Downtown Marble Falls. Boundaries that match those of the Downtown Master Plan were drafted, and an inventory of properties, ownership, and property values within those boundaries was taken. When the discussion of a Downtown TIF zone first reached City Council, two options for initiation were given: Council could initiate the zone by their own authority, or they could accept a petition signed by property owners representing 50% or more of the appraised value in the zone. Because there are fewer limitations with a petition-initiated TIF zone, and because the Council wanted to determine the amount of public support for the project, they opted to take the petition route.
The EDC called a meeting on March 28 at Lakeside Pavilion to present some background information to Downtown property owners. After the presentation and some questions and answers, copies of the petition were circulated, and the process of collecting signatures began.
When the City Council voted last week to authorize Mayor George Russell to sign the petition on behalf of the City, the percentage of property ownership represented by petition reached 59.59%. While the City’s property is not taxable, its value must be included among the properties in the district. As of today, out of roughly 280 parcels totaling $47.6 million in value, property owners representing 123 properties and $28.4 million in value have shown their support for the Downtown TIF zone.
THE EDC’S ROLE
As mentioned previously, the EDC does not have the authority to initiate a Downtown TIF zone, so we are, in essence, sponsoring its creation and acting as a liaison to City Council for the formal steps they need to take. The EDC and City have entered into a contract outlining roles and responsibilities related to the TIF zone, including the EDC’s funding of a preliminary financing plan that will be necessary to start the process in earnest.
ANSWER TO A TOP CONCERN
To conclude, I’ll address a lingering concern that has been mentioned a couple of different times: Why Downtown?
In addition to the planning that we’ve already done and the identification of some projects that could develop Downtown as more of a destination—thereby increasing visitors, spending, employment, and amenities—the Downtown area and its array of features and potential deserve our attention. While the reinvestment zone we’re trying to help create will apportion a percentage of Downtown taxes into Downtown improvements, our goal is to benefit everyone who lives, works, and plays in Marble Falls.