proposed 214,000-square-foot industrial building at
the former AMF bowling center site, 801 Northview
WAUKESHA - While a proposed amendment to one tax incremental
financing district brought dozens of concerned citizens to
Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, the creation of another drew
considerably less public outcry.
But even so, it
was the latter that dominated discussion among the 14 aldermen.
Debate centered on the formation of TIF No. 25,
an industrial district highlighted by the former AMF Bowling
Center building at 901 Northview Road. Mount Pleasant-based
developer HSA Commercial has proposed to raze that building,
clear the site and replace it with a 214,000-square-foot
The council ultimately voted 9-5 for the project,
but not before a healthy debate over the use and misuse of TIF
The city intends to offer the developer
incentives structured as a $1,150,000 grant paid during the
facility’s construction and as a “pay as you go” grant, meaning
that as increment is realized in the district, reimbursement
will be made to the developer up to $1,650,000.
Community Development Director Jennifer Andrews
said Tuesday that if it weren’t for the TIF district, the
developer would not be doing business in Waukesha.
While the plan was ultimately approved, some
aldermen raised concerns about the “slippery slope” tied to the
continued use of public funds to help grow private businesses.
“If we’re setting the standard of ‘Come here, do
business here and we will give you a whole bunch of tax money’
... to start fostering business, it’s the beginning of a habit I
don’t know that I can get behind,” Alderman Corey Payne said.
“If this is the direction of the role of government, to always
give handouts constantly to people or they aren’t going to do
business here, what is the value of the business truly?”
Alderman Daniel Manion shared those concerns, and
cited a recent op-ed from state Sen. Duey Stroebel, in which the
Saukville Republican said the abuse of TIF would lead to a
“black eye” for the tool.
He also drew a comparison to the previously
hotly-debated amendment to TIF district No. 22 - voted down
Tuesday - that would have paved the way for the city making a
$1.6 million loan to the Sunset Homes condominium association.
“I find it interesting that in the last two
weeks, a firestorm has erupted in the city and there are a
number of people out here in the gallery tonight who are
vehemently opposed to the city giving a $1.6 million loan to a
condo association to correct a blighted situation,” Manion said.
“But I am not hearing a lot of opposition to us
giving a $2.9 million incentive in the form of a grant - a gift
that isn’t being paid back - to a developer.”
A new format
Public comment at the last two council meetings
has been dominated by opinions on the Sunset Homes project, but
not a single local resident spoke either in favor or against the
The PAYGO grant payouts will also be dependent on
the number and salaries of the jobs held at the site.
HSA will need to create 26 new jobs over the next
15 years to realize 100 percent of the grant reimbursement. The
developer would be eligible for smaller percentages of the funds
if it cannot reach that goal.
The site’s job creation numbers would be reviewed
by the city on an annual basis.
As is, the property has an assessed value close
to $5 million, but with the creation of the TIF district, HSA
has guaranteed the land will reach an assessed value of $12.5
million by 2018, or the developer will be forced to pay taxes to
cover the difference.
If that value is attained, it means taxes paid to
the city would increase by $217,000 each year.
City Administrator Kevin Lahner said tying these
different factors together may be something new to Waukesha, but
he has structured TIFs similarly in the past.
Andrews said the bowling alley has sat vacant for
approximately two years, and due to the building’s configuration
and age, “there is no viable reuse of the existing structure.”
Projects in the district would include:
demolition of an existing shuttered bowling facility;
city-required architectural upgrades and site preparation;
environmental testing; storm sewer upgrades on site; and land
While he agreed Payne and Manion raised valid
concerns, Council President Andy Reiland believes that what the
project ultimately comes down to is being competitive in
bringing in outside businesses - because if Waukesha won’t be,
other communities will.
“This TIF is allowing us to be competitive, bring
in this developer, other developers, so that we don’t look at
that building being vacant for the next 10 years,” he said. “We
can sit here ... and we play the card and say there is going to
be another developer down the road. And then we sit here 10
years down the road and we’ve lost a couple million dollars,
potentially, while the building sits and continues to