Thursday, May 06, 2010

More on the New Tourism Proposal for Marion

I've now had a chance to read most of state Rep. John Bradley's House Amendment 3 to Senate bill 2093 which is the vehicle being used for this IDEA — the Innovative Development and Economy Act.

Here are some additional thoughts basically in the order that I read and compared Bradley's amendment to the previous version of the bill designed for Glen Carbon.

Glen Carbon's project had to be at least 600 acres. Marion's has to be 250 to 500 acres. It also has to be adjacent to an interstate highway and within one mile of two state highways, and within one mile of an "entertainment user, or a major or minor league sports stadium or other similar entertainment venue that had an initial capital investment of at least" $20 million.

The fifth requirement is that it includes land previously stripped mine. See "Abandoned Mines to Tourist Attractions" for the history of mining in this area.

Both amendments define an "entertainment user" as a business that "has a primary use of providing a venue for entertainment attractions, rides or other activities oriented toward the entertainment and amusement of its patrons". The MetroEast project would have required it to cover 50 acres and cost at least $100 million. The scaled-down version for Marion is just 20 acres and an investment of no less than $25 million.

I don't think the existing ball park can be the "entertainment user" for this district as there would be virtually no new taxes generated there over what has already been generated. I think this refers to something new.

Like TIF districts, the incentives can be used for a whole host of public improvements like streets and roads, parking lots, etc. Unlike a standard TIF, the STAR bonds could also be used for "vertical improvements" which normal persons would call buildings.

The legislation allows for the use of the STAR bonds to pay for construction of two "destination users" which are 150,000-plus square foot retailers that attract at least 30 percent of their customers from at least 75 miles away (or out-of-state). Think Cabela's or Bass Pro Shops rather than a Wal-Mart.

STAR bonds could also be use to build a "destination hotel" which is defined as at least 150 rooms and a venue for entertainment attractions, rides or other amusements, i.e. indoor water park. This is the Great Wolf Lodge-type establishment.

The bonds could also be used to cover the costs of one "entertainment user", i.e. theme park, specifically, "costs of buildings; rides and attractions, which include carousels, slides, roller coasters, displays, models, towers, works of art and similar theme and amusement park improvements."

In what appears to be different from last year's version of the legislation, rather than take 100 percent of the state's sales tax increment for everything in the STAR development, only 100 percent of transactions from up to 2 destination users (big retail attractions like a Cabela's), 1 destination hotel (Great Wolf or something similar), and 1 entertainment user (Legoland or another theme park). For everything else in the district, the state would be pledging only 25 percent of the tax increment.

Another limiting factor is that the state sales tax increment pledge to pay the STAR bonds cannot exceed 50 percent of the total development costs.

Before a STAR bond district can be created, the developer will have to submit a plan that includes at least $100 million in capital investments, at least $100 million in annual gross sales revenues and 500 new jobs.

Despite Holland's spokesperson's downplay of a Legoland, the legislation still requires a "potential entertainment user" or theme park as part of the initial plan as well as the retail "destination user". The language is not "either or", it's an "and".

Section 33 of the act (p. 60 of Amendment #3) outlines the STAR Bonds School Improvement and Operations Trust Fund, otherwise known as the reason why surrounding communities are backing this project, particularly schools. It's also why Regional Superintendent Matt Donkin is driving back to Springfield tonight or early tomorrow morning.

This fund is created in the state treasury. The moneys in the fund will be used to make "payments to school districts in educational service regions that include or are adjacent to the STAR bond district." This is later defined as the Franklin-Williamson Regional Office of Education.

Basically, 15 percent of the property tax increment generated from the development each year would go into this fund. Each fall, the regional superintendent would allocate the moneys to the various schools districts in proportion to the districts' fall enrollments.

What I don't see defined is a "qualifying school district". Even more loosey-goosey is a phrase that allows the regional superintendent the power to use "any other method or formula" he "deems fit, equitable, and in the public interest."

He would also be able to allocate "moneys to school districts that are outside of his or her educational service region or to other regional superintendents". However, politically, I don't think that will be case.

This weird language may be due to the simple fact that school district boundaries don't follow county lines. Thus there are schools in neighboring counties that include students from Franklin and Williamson counties.

In the Glen Carbon proposal, this fund was the "STAR Bonds Community Improvement Trust Fund" and the 15 percent property tax increment was to be distributed to municipalities within a 12 mile radius of the project. A third went to communities within 5 miles of the project and two-thirds went to communities in the 5 to 12 mile radius.

Section 45 in both amendments deal with restrictions. Both state that "no portion of a STAR bond project shall be financed" with basically existing TIF districts. I'm not sure how that would work out with the Hill, as TIF was used already for that development, and I believe that a TIF district has already been established for their undeveloped land on the east side of the interstate which will be included in this STAR bond district.

The Glen Carbon plan would have prohibited car dealerships and a minor or independent league baseball stadium to locate in the district. The Marion plan includes the ban on car dealerships, but not the stadium, which is probably not an issue since Rent One Park will be adjacent to the district.

The Marion plan also states that the developer can't use any land in the STAR bond district for a movie multiplex with more than 12 auditoriums or contain more than 900,000 square feet of floor space devoted to traditional retail use (that's the equivalent about about four super Wal-marts or Menard's.)

The theater bit is interesting. I guess we could see a new 12-screen complex to compete the existing 8-screen one behind the Illinois Centre Mall. Although still a very decent theater it's among the oldest 10 percent of properties owned by Kerasotes (and in the process of being sold to AMC). It's likely that AMC would be looking at a new complex sometime in the next few years anyway.

It's 12:39 a.m. Thursday morning and Bradley and state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, have less than 48 hours to get this passed before the legislature adjourns.

1 comment:

apryl8 said...

Thanks for all the updates Jon. It's great!