The Bridgeport News
by Jeff Toquinto
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Shortly after the Bridgeport City Council officially approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) as well as a resolution paving the way for a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district at the Charles Pointe development, Mayor Joe Timms stated the obvious.
“This has been a long, hard, arduous road,” Timms said.
Indeed it has. A process that began more than a year and a half ago finally came to a conclusion at Monday’s City Council meeting. Members of the City Council unanimously approved a MOU between the city and Genesis Partners – the group responsible for the overall development of Charles Pointe – as well as a resolution consenting to the creation of the TIF district to the Harrison County Commission.
The MOU and the resolution still had to be officially signed after Monday’s meeting. City officials expected that to be complete by Tuesday, or yesterday, at the latest.
TIF is a creative way of freezing the value of property and using the increased increments in following years to pay for infrastructure in the designated TIF area. Without a TIF, the dollars would likely go to use in the city’s general fund.
While Bridgeport has given its blessing, the Harrison County Commission still has to approve the TIF district. If they do, then the state has to give its blessing to it. If those two approvals take place, the matter will become official after bonds are sold that would help pay for infrastructure at the 2,000 acre Charles Pointe site.
“This is still a ways off because you need a few more approvals, and who knows how long it will take to sell the bonds because there’s a lot of work involved with that,” said City Manager Kim Haws. “Still, we’re pleased that the process is basically over (on our end) and can finally move on. The city can be assured that whatever development occurs out (at Charles Pointe) will occur in the city limits.”
Officials with Genesis Partners were also please to see the matter move to the next stage. In a statement received by The Bridgeport News Tuesday morning, Genesis Partners managing member Jamie Corton gave his stamp of approval on Monday’s decision.
“I particularly want to commend City Council members for their active participation in bringing these negotiations to a successful conclusion. Everyone in the city government has worked hard to help make Charles Pointe a reality,” said Corton. “City officials are showing the way to others in West Virginia how to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as an economic development tool.
“Harrison County Commissioners have long been supportive of TIF,” Corton continued. “We will now work with them and state officials to move this development to a new level.”
Getting to the point where the issue would move to the HCC for approval seemed difficult at times. For more than a year, the pros and cons of the matter were discussed, including a study and a Feb. 14 presentation of that study that broke down possible scenarios with a TIF district at Charles Pointe. Finally, the matter came to a vote Feb. 14, but was tabled. It was tabled again on Feb. 28. A special Council meeting March 7 also did not result in approval of the TIF, while the regular March 14 session also resulted in a stalemate.
On Monday, the matter moved forward. Primarily, according to Haws, because the two sides came to an amended agreement in the MOU regarding construction business and occupation taxes and annexation.
The amendment to the MOU was basic in nature. Haws said the main amendment dealt with a prior agreement the city had with Genesis Partners in the North Land Bay area of Charles Pointe. The North Land Bay is the section where the Wingate Inn hotel is currently under construction.
In that area, the city has already agreed to reinvest business and occupation construction taxes back into infrastructure. The MOU spells out now that TIF dollars and B & O tax dollars from the same area can’t both be used for infrastructure.
“We can’t violate city ordinance, which doesn’t allow multiple incentives to be used at the same time,” said Haws. “If TIF money is used on this project area then the city would no longer provide any construction B & O tax towards the development of infrastructure.”
The other issue in the MOU involved annexation. The MOU, according to Haws, now clearly delineates how and when the balance of the TIF area that is not currently in the city limits will be annexed.”
“That’s what had to be hammered out,” said Haws. “The entire TIF district will eventually become part of the corporate limits prior to the sale of the bonds (that will provide funds for infrastructure).”