I went to Wauwatosa City Hall tonight in order to attend the Planning Commission meeting, which was considering a TIF District in order to pay for infrastructure to support the UWM Engineering School proposed for the County Grounds on Watertown Plank Rd. There were approximately two dozen people present, along with representatives from UWM in support of the measure. The vast majority of those present (except for the aldermen) were opposed to the TIF District for various reasons. Most were against it either for environmental reasons, or because it seemed like the UWM plan was based on too much speculation without enough backing data. The meeting began with an overview by the Community Development Director who wrote the TIF along with a representative from UWM:
After that, there was one member of the Citizens Advisory Board in favor, followed by a rather long line of people against. A member of the Milwaukee River Keepers was concerned that:
Other concerns were voiced by various members of the community, including:
I personally voiced several concerns:
Former Aldermen Richard Bachman also spoke:
Several of the Council Members, although generally in favor of the proposal had extra concerns:
One of the final points made by Ms. Welch was the banks right now aren't lending money for these types of developments. The Council Members seemed to think that this was a good reason to create the TIF District, and nobody saw this as a reason for caution. Why are banks unwilling to lend on these types of development? It's not just because of the current economic environment. Currently, the market simply is not supporting these types of proposals because businesses aren't growing like this at the moment.
I did have a chance to talk to the board members afterwards for a few moments. My general impression was that everyone really wanted to vote this forward, but couldn't because of the degree of opposition that was voiced. In fact, several of the aldermen on the board talked about how Wauwatosa is too conservative when it comes to "speculative TIF Districts" and that many cities such as Menomonee Falls and West Allis have been very successful with them. Of course, those were made in very different economic times. One of the ones we talked about was Woodland Prime in Menomonee Falls. Drive up there some time. It's a virtual business park ghost town.
The motion was made to place the plan on hold without prejudice until the next Planning Commission meeting when more information could be presented next month.
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in anyway.