From the dead tree edition of the El Paso Inc.:
Two years after it was rezoned from farm/ranch land to heavy manufacturing, a 1,000 acre parcel of city-owned land in Northeast El Paso could soon change zoning again.
City Council last week approved a first reading of a proposed ordinance to rezone the 1,042 acres at 7000 Stan Roberts from heavy manufacturing to commercial.
City Council will also consider an ordinance releasing all conditions placed on the property, which included a 20-foot landscaped buffer and a 3-foot masonry wall along Stan Roberts.
According to documents posted with the agenda for the Tuesday meeting, the proposed rezoning is “part of an economic development strategy to secure development of the 1,000+ acre property in a manner that maximizes use for the property while minimizing it’s impact of current and future surrounding land uses.”
. . .
One of the ordinances introduced to City Council last week would establish City of El Paso Reinvestment Zone No. 1 on that property. According to the city, tax abatement zones “designate an area that is eligible for tax abatement agreements.”
Reinvestment Zone is just another way to say Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone without putting a bad taste in the mouths of El Paso property owners. A TIRZ is special kind of reinvestment zone, like a dalmatian is a special kind of dog and tequila is a special kind of mezcal.
That parcel, out on the edge of state and county, was where the City wanted to put that Ford battery plant, before Ford decided that they liked Glendale, Kentucky better, even though Glendale, Kentucky doesn’t have Triple A baseball.
Obviously there’s some movidas taking place. I bet the roots of this plan took place during Tommy G’s tenure.
I’m sure you’d be surprised to learn that those 1,000 + acres are about a mile from Paul Foster’s luxury housing development out there by Painted Dunes, one of El Paso’s municipal golf courses.
I’m thinking that someone is looking to put a high-end shopping mall out there, a la West Towne Marketplace.
It wouldn’t do to have all those upwardly mobile soccer moms parking their Beemers at the Walmart.
It’s all of a piece. Like former District 6 City Representative Sam “She just wouldn’t shut up” Morgan told us, their plan is sheathed in Operational Security. They know what’s good for us.
The City’s Economic Development Department has it rough. The city’s not growing, and they’re supposed to spin straw into gold. So they resort to the only plays they know. Tax incentives.
The City’s Economic Development Department should be renamed the Office of Tax Incentives for Developers.
People who advocate for these kinds of deals sometimes say, “Well, we’re not losing money, because those businesses didn’t exist before we offered tax incentives.”
The problem is that by granting tax incentives to developers, the City is distorting the market. The businesses that open in that privileged commercial space, and other developers, won’t have the benefit of reduced property taxes. The playing field is no longer level. The City is picking winners and losers, and some of the losers might be businesses that have been paying taxes.
The other good news is that the City plans to sell that parcel. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to overlay a tax abatement zone over it. City properties don’t pay property taxes.
Remember, taxes are for poor people. People like us.