An answer to the Point of View article in the News & Observer

The matter of financing Dix Park

by Joseph Huberman

We would like to thank Jeri Grey for bringing this important issue into the spotlight again.  There is much we agree with and only a few points and judgments that we feel it is important to answer.

Our goal is that the whole Dorothea Dix campus be declared a Park District to only be used for public park purposes to create a great world class destination park.  We believe that TIF financing is appropriate for the Dorothea Dix Park project, but we are open to any other financing plan that the governing bodies choose.

The area for the TIF district in our plan is a starting point for discussion.  The final district will be negotiated openly and publicly on the taxable development expected in the final master plan for the project.

We strongly agree that TIF's should be used to meet public development goals

Since the introduction of TIF'S years ago in other states ( N.C. was the 49th state to permit the use of TIF's ) they have been widely embraced, highly successful and a creditable, proven way to finance redevelopment and adaptive reuse programs in major cities in America.  

While TIF's can use bonds there are many ways that they can be used to leverage other financing models

TIF's don't require direct voter approval but they must be requested by the City, accepted by the County, and approved by the State.  Our proposal always calls for open transparent processes with citizen involvement.

They don't "use up" the city or county's ability to raise money with bonds or affect the bond rating.

The areas along Lake Wheeler Road are already identified as needing redevelopment, and as mentioned are predominantly rental.  In the master planning and rezoning process we will encourage that a percentage of the new residences be reserved for affordable housing including halfway housing for the mentally ill

The area east of Boylan Heights, between the park and the new convention center has been identified as blighted and plans are underway to redevelop it.  TIF funding is highly appropriate to improve the infrastructure there to encourage this redevelopment.

The redevelopment that the park encourages is in areas of the downtown that are in need of redevelopment.

A particular advantage of a TIF, is that once the Master Plan is developed [in, we hope, an open transparent public process with citizen involvement] it is then approved at the City, County, and State level, and is not easily changed.  In this way the public can be confident that once the plan is approved special interests will not be able to change it behind the scenes it to fit their needs.

We openly welcome, and have repeatedly urged at our meetings, that a TIF policy defining the appropriate public purposes for a TIF be developed by the City and County.  We believe that the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park plan will easily meet the "public purpose" requirements.

There is one slight error Jeri made when describing the establishment of a TIF.  She said,

"The tax base in the district is frozen, with property owners agreeing to a minimum tax value for their property. "

The more accurate statement would be: "The current tax value is recorded by the taxing authority."