Commission Approves Charles Pointe TIF District

The State Journal

December 9, 2005

By Pam Kasey

BRIDGEPORT – The Harrison County Commission Dec. 1 approved the tax increment financing district for Charles Pointe.

The process, which began more than a year ago, opens the way for bonds to be sold supporting the $1 billion, 1,700-acre master-planned community off Interstate 79.

A 15-to-20 year project, Charles Pointe will include residences, a "Downtown" with retail shops and restaurants, office parks, a conference center, hotels, schools and recreational and cultural facilities.

What TIF district designation does is allow for the sale of bonds to support the construction of critical infrastructure. The bonds will be paid for over time by increased property tax revenues realized through the improvements.

The long TIF process reflects the complexity of coordinating the needs of various stakeholders in the project – the developers, the city, the county and the state.

The process already had been under way for some time when the city of Bridgeport and developers Genesis Partners spent several months last winter forging an agreement that would protect the city’s interests.

"Residential areas never pay for provision of services," Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws said. "If we take away property tax and put it into the TIF funds, and then all they develop out there is residential, we wouldn’t have the funds to pay for services."

The county applied to the state after an agreement was reached and the city authorized the creation of a TIF district. But the state had a few concerns of its own.

TIF fundamentally is intended to create jobs. With that in mind, the state removed from the TIF proposal the cost of residential and retail infrastructure, reducing the value of the TIF from an originally proposed $150-plus million to about $98 million.

The TIF agreement plan finally approved last week by the state and then by Harrison County supports Charles Pointe’s commercial aspects, said Genesis Partners bond counsel Vince Collins of Steptoe & Johnson.

"Basically, it includes the typical things: roads, relocation of existing utilities, installation of new utilities, signage," Collins said.

The TIF is based on the assessed value of the property as of July 1, 2004: $4,207,833, according to Genesis Director of Development Rob Stuart. The taxes on that value will go each year as before to the school board, the city and the county.

But the taxes on any increase in the assessed value as a result of new construction will go into a TIF fund, Collins explained. That fund may be used by the project for "pay as you go" construction or, as bonds are issued, to pay debt service on the bonds – all up to the approved total of about $98 million.

Now that the TIF structure is in place, Bridgeport will annex parts of Charles Pointe that will benefit from infrastructure development and bonds may be sold. Collins said the amounts and timing of the bond issues are yet to be determined, but the first probably will come in 2006.

Meanwhile, some construction already has been under way. A 116-room Wingate Inn opened its doors Nov. 1. The Bridgeport Conference Center is scheduled for completion next spring, Stuart said, and a Microtel Inn and Suites July 1. Twelve duplex residential units under construction by S&A Homes will be ready for occupancy early next year, with 48 townhouses to be constructed next.

In addition, steelwork is complete on Petroleum Development Corp.’s 32,000-square foot corporate office building, scheduled to open in 2006.

"We’re excited to see things going vertical," Stuart said.

Gov. Joe Manchin acknowledged Charles Pointe’s value to the state and the jobs it will create at a ceremonial opening in August, noting the 17,000 construction jobs and 11,000 permanent jobs projected in an independent study.

"(The governor) believes Charles Pointe is a prime example of how West Virginia has started to work together to bring about new opportunities," said Manchin communications director Lara Ramsburg of the creation of the TIF district. "…It’s a team effort between the private sector the developers, the state, the city and the county."