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A Message From Chairman Bartel Regarding the Village of Grafton's Proposed New Industrial Park
Feb 15, 2018

Proposed Industrial Park a Bad Deal for Everyone

Well almost everyone.  MLG’s proposal to annex 114 acres of land in the prime high value residential real-estate area in the Town of Grafton needs to be viewed carefully by the stakeholders in the community.   The Town has supported Village expansion along the Port Washington Rd/Hwy 60 corridor as orderly and well thought out.   This is very different.   There has been a long-standing agreement that there would be no commercial development east of the freeway.  Note that no community from the Third Ward of Milwaukee to Port Washington does this. The area in question is almost half a mile east and is in the heart of high value residential developments.   The Villages master plan shows the area as urban future development.

People looking to move into the area make their decisions to invest here for a plethora of reasons.   One very important one is “what is going to happen around me”.   They look at the master plans of both the Town and the Village.   If the Village’s plan which is less than two years old can change this quickly who can depend on it?   Look carefully at the layout of this project, it is designed to head right across HWY C for another commercial Industrial Park.

The school district just incurred $40million dollars in debt and Village of Grafton Taxpayers felt the largest brunt of it.   In order for that burden to lessen the school district needs two things.  More valuation and more students to keep from losing valuable state aid.   An industrial park where homes with families should be deprives all of us who pay school taxes of both.   And once prime residential property is developed for industrial those families and what they bring to the community and the schools are gone forever.

The Village appears willing to front an estimated $9 million in improvements.  This is being done with a TIF or Tax Incremental Financing District.   When you ask them how that works they will tell you that it does not cost the taxpayer anything, the “TIF” pays for it.  And when the TIF pays off the debt we will really be in the money.  

Tax Incremental Financing was put into State Statutes to help communities reclaim distressed, polluted or blighted areas.  It usually meant 20 to 30 years of no positive return to the community.  The return has to come from an increase in surrounding property values and development.   A very long-term investment that from a cash flow standpoint was dubious at best but the ancillary benefits made it worth considering.    The statutes allowing TIF districts was never intended to be used as bait to entice developers to prime unblemished lands.  

The TIF is named incorrectly, it should be called a TIFTT or Take IT From The Taxpayers.    There is no tooth fairy and there is no TIF Fairy.   The money comes from the taxpayer’s pockets.   The land comes into the TIF Fairy’s house at it’s underlying value when annexed or in this case farmland.    All of the millions of dollars in improvements go to the developer who takes your tax money and runs.    Then when improvements are built such as the factories and warehouses that will follow all of the money collected in taxes goes to service the loan.  

In the meantime, taxpayers will pay for Police, Fire and rescue, public works, water department and other ongoing costs.   They will see no new revenues to pay for parks, library, community activities, schools, etc.  The school district will see no benefit in increased valuations and no new families with children in the schools.

MLG says there will be a $14million in return.  Bonding $9million dollars for 20 years will cost almost $13 million in principal and interest.   No one seems to be figuring in 20 years of police, fire and rescue, public works and water department.   Not to mention the lost revenues from on TIFTT development. Maybe the TIFTT Fairy pays for those too.   It is a bad return financially as well.   If you invested $9million dollars in a low risk return instrument at 4% after 20 years you would double your money.

In the beginning I stated that this project was a bad deal for everyone, almost everyone.   So, who is it a good deal for?   The developer of course.  VOG is paying for improvements, engineering and a consultant who will be paid to go door to door In the Town to convince homeowners that an industrial park in their back yard is a great deal.   Good luck with that.

VOG and Grafton School District taxpayers should be asking a lot of questions of those who are selling this fairytale.  You will get the opportunity at the upcoming candidates forum.  

Growth should in the end benefit the people who live here now and attract other people who see Grafton as a great place to settle, invest and raise their families.  After all isn’t that what “Quality of Life Naturally” should mean?   Piling mountains of debt on the people who live here now for some potential big payday down the road just does not make sense.    Consider this, if you have children 10 to 12 years of age and younger, your grandchildren will be in school before the school district sees any benefit from this folly.   The same is true for VOG taxpayers who have been paying for TIFTT expenses already for 20 years plus.

I welcome the criticism and invite those who disagree to shoot holes in what I have written and put solid numbers to your argument.   If this project stands up to thorough scrutiny then it will go forward.  I’m betting that it won’t.   Let’s get the discussions started.

Lester Bartel

Chairman-Town of Grafton


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