by Max Brantley
NLR Mayor Pat Hays promised developer Bruce Burrow that the city would subsidize his shopping center and by golly he's going to subsidize it..
The mayor has set a public hearing Dec. 28 to establish the Dark Hollow TIF (tax increment finance) district and freeze the virtually non-existent property tax rates there for existing taxing entities. In time going forward, once the district is activated, any increase that normally would come with building of a shopping center will instead go to help build the thing for Bass Pro Shops and others, not to schools, the city and county and various other property tax recipients. Legal questions remain about TIF use in Arkansas. This district, in fact, could eventually make the test case of taking tax millage voted for schools and using it to subsidize developers. There is still a chance, too, that another suit will be filed by a plaintiff with standing to challenge the environmental assessment made of filling Dark Hollow by the Corps of Engineers.
This ain't all, by the way. Mayor Hays also has another TIF district in his sights in the Baring Cross neighborhood, the old Vestal nursery property that has been targeted for a planned community development.
That hearing will also be Dec. 28. It doesn't meant the projects will go forward until the City Council has more details. It will be interesting to see if the NLR School Board again voices general resistance to TIFs.
A major issue in Dark Hollow is some $8 to $9 million in needed road improvements. Hays says the city has about $2 million set aside. That means they'll come looking for state taxpayer support for the rest. Other sporting good retailers and various other competing merchants might not like the idea so much.
Hays, naturally, sees things differently. "We'll be investing in the future. We'll be making something that happen that otherwise wouldn't happen."
Even without the TIF finalized, Hays said it's possible Bass Pro construction could begin in March or April and be completed within 12 months.