Good Morning Lakeland Residents,
Last week the Board Chambers were overflowing with citizen engagement, as your fellow residents showed up in large numbers to take advantage of all of our democratic right to be heard in local governance. I'm certain that all of our City's elected, volunteer, and staff leadership echoes my sentiments that it is truly an honor to serve such an active, engaged, and caring city!
This week, the regularly-scheduled Industrial Development Board meeting on Thursday evening is canceled due to last week's special-called meeting and a lack of other business for this month. However, the Parks and Recreation and Natural Resources Board (PRB) meets on Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm at City Hall. Here are the "headlines" for this week:
A Look Back to Last Week
IDB Special Meeting
The Industrial Development Board met on Thursday in a special-called meeting at 5:00pm. The sole item of business was to consider and approve an Economic Impact Plan (EIP) establishing a Lakeland Gateway TIF District, following the required public hearing. With six of the seven voting members of the IDB in attendance, and following a brief presentation by consultant Dexter Muller, the EIP was unanimously approved by the IDB.
BOC Special Meeting
Following the IDB's approval of the new Lakeland Gateway TIF District, the Board of Commissioners met in a special-called meeting that began around 5:20pm. Like the IDB's special meeting, the sole item of business for the special meeting was to consider approval of the Economic Impact Plan establishing the TIF District. The item was sponsored by Mayor Josh Roman. All five members of the Board of Commissioners were in attendance for the special meeting. During the meeting, Commissioner Connie McCarter echoed concerns and questions raised in January by IDB member Shaun Brannen, and perhaps shared by Lakeland residents, regarding the underlying risks to the City of Lakeland with Tax Increment Financing. The responses given by consultant Dexter Muller and IDB attorney Al Bright assured the Board of Commissioners that any resulting debt incurred under the umbrella of a TIF District is back solely by future tax revenues (from the TIF District) and personal guarantees of developers, and the full faith and credit of the City of Lakeland is neither pledged nor at risk. In other words, Lakeland individual taxpayers are not on the hook for any debt incurred in a TIF District. Following this discussion the BOC unanimously approved the Lakeland Gateway TIF Economic Impact Plan.
Now that the Lakeland Gateway TIF has been approved by both the Lakeland IDB and the Lakeland BOC, it will be presented to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners for final approval on Wednesday of this week.
At this point, one may wonder, "What exactly is a TIF district anyway?" A TIF district is a pre-determined set of properties (parcels) around which a boundary is set that has been identified for commercial, industrial, and/or residential development or redevelopment. The Lakeland Gateway TIF is the third TIF district approved by the City of Lakeland. The first was the Lake District, followed by Lakeland Commons.
A TIF district is a way of promoting economic development in the City of Lakeland. Within the boundaries of the district, it locks in today's assessed value of the parcels (existing properties and land) as a "base rate". When the development is nearly complete (usually, 80% built), a new assessed value is calculated - and recalculated every year as with all taxable properties in Lakeland. The difference in property tax generated by the new value compared to the old value (the "tax increment"), is divvied up between the City and County based on several factors, with remaining "new" taxes going into an account held by the Lakeland IDB. The Lakeland IDB then approves this TIF fund to be used to reimburse the developer for the eligible cost of infrastructure needed to complete the development. Often, the IDB (not the City of Lakeland) will take out a loan during construction, backed by personal guarantees of the developer, to manage the cash flow of the project, secured only by the future tax revenues. The tax increment financing is typically for a period of 20 years, after which each party's share of all taxes (City and County) goes directly to them.
To put it another way -
- TIF districts use their own added taxes to fund themselves - existing taxes today are not used
- Other Lakeland taxpayers are not responsible for paying for this development or repaying any IDB loans
- The City is not "giving the developer tax money" - without a TIF district, many developments would never occur, and new taxes would never be generated (not to mention, we wouldn't get the great amenities that come along with these developments).
With over a hundred Lakeland residents overflowing the Board Chambers at City Hall, the real action last week was at the Municipal Planning and Design Review Commission (MPDRC) meeting Thursday following the IDB and BOC special meetings. With MPDRC Chairman Wyatt Bunker absent, member Sal Feraci chaired the meeting. The item on the agenda that drew such a large crowd, and was moved by Commissioner Jim Atkinson to the top of the agenda, was the consideration of a site plan for a Dollar General store on Highway 70. Here's what happened:
- Lakeland Planning Director Paul Luker introduced the site plan submitted for Dollar General, reminding the MPDRC of the BOC's recent moratorium on commercial development along Highway 70, pending the completion of the Lakeland P.U.L.S.E. Comprehensive Plan. Tim McCaskill of the Reeves Firm presented on behalf of Dollar General, addressing how the applicant had addressed initial staff comments on the site plan. Following Mr. McCaskill's presentation to the board, Commissioner Atkinson discussed the current status of the P.U.L.S.E. plan, then addressed various components of the site plan that still were out of compliance with the City's regulations. Following this discussion, Chairman Feraci opened up the floor for public comment. Six residents shared concerns over the placement of Dollar General on Highway 70, including concerns over traffic safety, public safety, and property values, among others. Residents submitted hundreds of signatures in opposition to the retail establishment. As City Manager, I also read into the record three written comments received in advance of the meeting from residents. Ultimately, the MPDRC voted unanimously to deny the application.
- Next on the agenda was the movement of consideration of a site plan for Chick-Fil-A to the next order of business. Staff Planner Alex Barthol presented the staff report recommending approval of the site plan on three parcels in The Lake District along Canada Road. A civil engineer representing the applicant was available for questions from the board, and Vice Mayor Wesley Wright was present and spoke during public comment with recommendations on the landscape of the site plan. After further discussions among the board and the applicant, with site design elements added as conditions of approval, the site plan was unanimously approved.
- The next item addressed in the MPDRC meeting was a request from The Lake District developer Yehuda Netanel to revise the planned development agreement for The Lake District to remove single family homes in the southeast corner of the property, and add additional age-restricted multi-family units. Former Commissioner and current IDB member Richard Gonzales spoke in opposition to adding additional multi-family units in Lakeland. Commissioner Atkinson expressed concerns over the percentage of the development that would be multi-family should the amendment be approved, as well as concerns over the lack of development of the existing authorized multi-family units in The Lake District. The motion to recommend approval to the BOC failed, with Chairman Feraci voting yes and all other members opposed.
- The MPDRC was also presented with a comprehensive sign plan for Lakeland Town Square, the development located within the Lakeland Commons TIF District. This sign plan would allow for business to place signs in accordance with the plan without having to bring each item before the MPDRC for each business. Cory Brady presented on behalf of the development, and was available for MPDRC questions. As modified with conditions set by the board, the sign plan was approved with five in favor, one abstention.
- The final item on the agenda for the meeting was an amendment to the MPDRC's by-laws to change the regularly scheduled meeting of the body from the third Thursday to the second Thursday of each month, beginning in April. This change was suggested to enable to BOC to potentially (in March) revise their meeting schedule to accommodate two voting meetings per month - on the first and third Thursdays. As a by-laws amendment, the resolution required a two-thirds approval by the MPDRC. The by-laws amendment was approved unanimously by acclamation, with none opposed.
A Look Ahead
PRB Regular Meeting
The Parks and Recreation and Natural Resources Board (PRB) will meet this Tuesday, February 21st, at 5:30pm at City Hall. The agenda published at lakelandtn.gov/agendas includes:
- A presentation on the soccer program
- An update on the design and engineering of Phase II of the Lakeland Athletic Complex
- Election of PRB officers
- A working discussion on the continued build out and improvements to the youth and adult recreation programs
- Division updates on parks and recreation activities
In other Parks and Recreation news, we at City Hall have recently completed our second round of interviews for a newly created Recreation Manager position, and are excited to announce soon a new key staff member to help build and grow the City's youth and adult recreation programs!
Shelby County Board of Commissioners
As Lakeland's City Manager, and as the President of the Lakeland IDB, I will be at the subcommittee and regular meetings of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners this Wednesday, February 22nd, along with consultant Dexter Muller and the IDB's attorney Al Bright to present the Lakeland Gateway TIF Economic Impact Plan for final approval by the Shelby County Commission. If approved, the Lakeland Gateway TIF will be formally in place and ready for the next step - the preparation of a development agreement between the City and the developer of Ashmont.
To Be Continued...
Exciting times are ahead for the City of Lakeland! Over the past few years, Lakeland has seen the development of the most exciting mixed-use retail and residential establishments in the region, in the midst of residential growth, rising home values, and the opening of our new high school at Lakeland Preparatory School. These are but the beginnings of the wonderful things in store for our city, and are all signs that our work as the City's elected officials, volunteers, and staff is, as always, to be continued.
In other matters, as we near the end of our leaf collection season, our Public Works staff is gearing up for the warmer weather and a season of addressing roadway concerns, litter collection, and spring maintenance. Our Planning and Engineering staff is continuing their diligent work, alongside our consultants, on the Lakeland P.U.L.S.E. Comprehensive Plan and preparing for the public engagement workshop on Tuesday February 28th. Our Finance staff is working diligently, along with all departments, on the initial preparation of the Fiscal Year 2024 Annual Budget. Our Parks and Recreation staff are working hard to continue to develop programs of growth and engagement for youth and adults of all ages. And our Information Technology Services staff continue to support us all, ensuring that we maintain data integrity and security in all we do.
As always, remember to check lakelandtn.gov/agendas for meeting times, videos of past meetings, and materials for upcoming meetings, as available. Also, stay plugged in to the City through our website, our social media, and our Lakeland Connect app. And reach out to me any time at email@example.com.
In Your Service,
Michael Walker, City Manager