Metro Councilman Dwight Hudson wants to see more information before he can support developer Mike Wampold’s request for Tax Increment Financing to help cover the cost of developing new infrastructure, retail and public facilities at Harveston, located at Nicholson Drive and Bluebonnet Boulevard.
The Metro Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would create an economic development district, which would use 2% of any new sales taxes generated within the district to finance development of a new supermarket-anchored retail center, multifamily and commercial space, a K-12 charter school, church, sheriff’s substation and new fire station.
Though Harveston, which currently has only single-family residential units, is not in Hudson’s district, it is within the boundaries of the prospective city of St. George, meaning any tax money Harveston gets to keep would not go to St. George, provided St. George survives a court challenge and eventually becomes reality.
Hudson says Wampold’s plans for Harveston—which include donating property for the school, fire station and sheriff’s substation—are attractive, particularly because the area is in bad need of a new fire station. He says the response time of the St. George Fire Department to nearby University Club is 10 minutes, which is too long.
But Hudson wants to compare the value of Wampold’s donated land against the amount of taxes the retail development will generate over the life of the economic development district.
“We need to be able to see the financial projections,” he says. “We need to see how much money we are giving up to get these land donations, so I am anxious to see if this is advantageous to the taxpayer.”
Councilman Chandler Loupe, who is sponsoring the ordinance to create the district, acknowledges he has been critical of TIFs in the past. But he says the revenues generated by the new retail development at Harveston will go to support infrastructure and public facilities that will benefit the entire community at a time when too many young people are leaving the area.
“Anytime someone wants to build something that would make my kids want to stay in Baton Rouge, I’m for it,” he says.