Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
On April 14, the Rock Professional Baseball Stadium Development Proposal Franklin Task Force unanimously moved to forward to the Franklin Common Council a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a new downtown area and economic incentives for construction of a minor league stadium. The Task Force also recommended that the Common Council consider the MOU at a special meeting tonight, Tuesday, April 22.
I’ve gone through the MOU and want to highlight some areas that in my view constitute thorny issues as well as some other points. I’ll quote from the MOU proposed by Zimmerman Ventures, then give my reaction. The quotes from the MOU are in order in how they appear in the document.
“We are proposing a development that will create a lively "Franklin Downtown District" (mixed-use retail, office, hospitality, and residential development) as well as a revitalized, fully integrated corridor in and around 76th and Rawson Avenue-all influenced by the presence of a new professional baseball stadium.”
That’s the Reader’s Digest version. There are obviously many more details.
“…we understand that ‘using existing tax resources’ are not ‘an appropriate funding source’ for the Stadium…”
“Within two years of the execution of this MOU, Zimmerman (or its applicable development affiliate(s)) (the ‘Developer’) commits to explore the feasibility of the Franklin Downtown District
development and, if such Franklin Downtown District development is feasible, in the Developer’s opinion, the Developer will draft and submit to the City a Franklin Downtown District development plan, which will include a site plan and draft development agreement, which development agreement may include additional considerations, such as fill removal, as may be necessary for creating buildable parcels,(the ‘Initial Development Plan’)…The City and the Developer agree that any such Initial Development Plan is ultimately dependent upon the creation of a Tax Incremental District as set forth below, and absent the creation of such a Tax Incremental District the Developer has no obligations in relation to or for an Initial Development Plan.”
The developer is being very clear that if a Tax Incremental District is not created, the deal is probably dead. Such districts have their pros and cons. This “take it or leave it” approach might not sit well with some city leaders.
“Subject to acquisition of all necessary permits and approvals for each such individual activity, the Developer may commence Stadium construction activities …”
Are you aware of the permitting process in Franklin and the state of Wisconsin? Sloooooooooooowww, and not a given.
“The City and the Developer agree that construction of a minor league baseball stadium is ultimately dependent upon the creation of a Tax Incremental District as set forth below, and absent the creation of such a Tax Incremental District, the Developer has no obligations in relation to or for construction of a minor league baseball stadium.”
In case you didn’t get it the first time. Did you hear them now?
“During the first two years after the execution of this MOU, the City will agree to purchase the Franklin Downtown District land, which is that land located directly across Crystal Ridge Drive from the Property in Franklin and is currently owned by the State of Wisconsin.
Yet another negotiation that could delay the process or raise new issues.
“The Developer agrees to bear the financial risk of cost overruns...”
“The City and Developer agree that any such Development Agreement approved and executed as part of the Initial Development Plan will not require the Developer to pay for the design and installation of the infrastructure for municipal sewer and water, in the anticipated final public rights-of-way, and the reconstruction and realignment of Crystal Ridge Drive required for the approved Franklin Downtown District development provided such lands are incorporated as part of said Initial Development Plan area and provided the Developer concurs that the property to be transferred includes sufficient buildable area. The City will not issue a special assessment against the Property or the Franklin Downtown District development to pay for sewer and water development, construction, or improvements contemplated herein.”
Whoa! Does the city want to pick up these costs?
"After the first year of Stadium operation, the Developer and the City agree to meet to assess the necessity for assistance from the police and fire departments for Stadium events, and the parties will at that time work in good faith to determine if the Developer should annually pay the City, prior to April 1 of each year, a “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” (PILOT) in an amount not to exceed $25,000, which payment shall not be required for a given year if the City and City of Greendale have entered into and have in place a “Mutual Aid Agreement,” specific to the Stadium and the events there at, for police and fire department assistance for any event at the facility anticipating more than 1,00 individuals on a given day, which Mutual Aid Agreement will include routine services and support, not just emergency incident response.”
I doubt the city will agree to pay for any police and fire protection, and I don’t know if $25,000 annually will be enough. Will surrounding communities agree to offer mutual aid, and what will that cost be?
“The City and the Developer will work actively and jointly in cooperation to secure additional funding support from the Village of Greendale, the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County and an agency or organization capable of providing such support, which funding shall be used to reduce the infrastructure costs to the City or the direct development costs to the developer…”
No guarantee this will work. I have two words for you: Miller Park. The counties still paying sales tax are still upset. I certainly don’t envision Milwaukee County offering any help. I can hear cries of corporate welfare. A few weeks ago, nearly 84% of Franklin voters chose to make Milwaukee County supervisors part-time, and they won’t forget that if Franklin comes knocking on the door for cash.
“Time is of the essence and the deadline to fully execute this MOU is April 23, 2014.”
Look, I support the stadium, but those who say this process is moving too fast are correct.
“Except as otherwise mutually agreed upon in writing, this Memorandum of Understanding shall terminate and the terms shall be null and void with no party having right to claims for damages to the other party if the Developer does not submit and receive approval for and take valid possession of a building permit for a minor league baseball stadium, as mutually contemplated herein, prior to August 31, 2014, or if the City fails to receive approval from a joint review board for commencement of a TIF District prior to August 31, 2014.”
Can such serious, complex negotiations be completed that quickly?