To the editor:
I was not surprised to hear that the Paulson Christmas Tree Farm (Kraewood) had attracted a plan for residential development. Kraewood is pristine: 12 acres of undeveloped land in an existing neighborhood in the city of Northfield. Public utilities (sewer, water, gas, electric and streets) surround the property.
What surprises me is the developer’s request for $6 million of city financial assistance to develop this gem of a property. The six million would be in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), an upfront payment to the developers paid back via captured taxes on the project for the next 20 years.
TIF was passed into law in Minnesota to assist re-development of distressed parcels, such as brownfields, or damaged properties (such as the Archer House) that would not be redeveloped but for public assistance. Is Kraewood a distressed parcel? Is it likely the Kraewood development would occur without public financial assistance? Difficult to answer those questions until we see the details of the request.
I gained considerable knowledge about TIF during my years of service on the Northfield City Council. I served as a First Ward council member, November 1989-January 1995; and as Mayor, January 1995-January 1998. During that time, I worked on numerous TIF projects, all of which featured public disclosure of financial plans and project numbers.
I recently contacted the city of Northfield asking if I could get information about the request of TIF for Kraewood. I was told in an email that some of developer’s TIF request would be public, but other parts would not be shared with the public. I want to know why not? Northfield taxpayers deserve to know the details of any request for city TIF assistance. If a developer desires public financing, the numbers should be public.
Without the opportunity for citizens to examine all the details of a TIF proposal, it is hard to know if we (the taxpayers) are an equal player, or being played.