Recently, the Mount Pleasant Community Development Authority (CDA) held a public hearing to discuss a proposed redevelopment plan for the Foxconn Project Area. One of the major reasons to consider the plan, which will save Mount Pleasant taxpayers millions of dollars, went largely undiscussed.
When an area is designated as subject to a redevelopment plan, it gives the Community Development Authority the power to issue debt obligations. When a CDA issues bonds, the bonds are “double tax exempt,” meaning that interest payments received by bondholders are exempt from both federal and state income taxes.
Because of the unique benefits of double-tax exempt bonds, they are generally sold with lower interest rates than traditional bonds, decreasing the financing costs for the project. Though dependent on the market, initial estimates anticipate the village could see a minimum of $3 million in savings if the CDA issues the bonds for the Foxconn project.
This is a compelling and important reason to support the approval of the redevelopment plan.
It’s also important to understand what the redevelopment plan does not do. It does not, on its own, trigger the acquisition of any property. Testimony at the hearing, understandably, focused on the potential use of the redevelopment plan as part of the land acquisition process, and the definition of “blight.”
Wis. Stat. §66.1333(2) recognizes the statewide importance of redevelopment and the goal of well-planned land uses providing employment for the people of Wisconsin and its communities. Specifically, the statute addresses “blighted areas.” While the term “blighted” in everyday language evokes pictures of devastated, rundown, neglected property — that is not how a “blighted area” is defined in this section of state statutes.
The statutes define a “blighted area” as one that is “predominantly open” and because of obsolete platting or diversity of ownership substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community. The presence of numerous unconnected, inaccessible parcels — as will exist in the project area once public infrastructure improvements are completed — is exactly the type of situation envisioned under this definition of “blighted area.”
But it’s important to know that just as approving the redevelopment plan does not designate any individual property as blighted, it also does not necessitate pursuing land acquisition of those properties. If the village decides to pursue land acquisition through the redevelopment plan, it would require separate action and approval by both the CDA and the Village Board.
It would also apply to only a very small number of parcels in area one, as the village has secured more than 95 percent of that land — and the vast majority of the remaining acreage is already subject to acquisition as a result of road improvements.
I strongly support the approval of the redevelopment plan, recognizing that it provides important community benefits for the entire Village and its taxpayers. At the end of the day, we collectively want to see this project achieved at the lowest possible cost and this designation is one of the tools we are authorized to utilize under state law to help make that happen.