By Elsa Maxey
Fort Bend County’s latest agreement with the City of Sugar Land for participating in a Tax Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) allows for it to expire at a later date than initially agreed upon, extending the duration four more years to 2042.
However, in a motion to approve the county’s participation in the TIRZ, previously endorsed as a memorandum of understanding, and a corresponding interlocal agreement with the city, Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson injected language making it clear that the county’s participation would exclude payment of “any and all past and future costs to construct the sports stadium.” Commissioner Patterson said that “the TIRZ agreement since day one has been we will participate and we will not be a part of repaying for the construction of the baseball stadium.”
He said that conceivably 10 years from now someone could look at the agreement which would not state “you can’t do anything to the baseball park with this money.” In other words, “you can’t spend the county’s 50 percent on the baseball stadium,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Morrison affirming his understanding of the county’s participation in the TIRZ, which would authorize road expenditures, for example.
“Several entities came in during boom time and it never made economic sense,” said County Judge Bob Hebert, noting that Sugar Land put a deal together “and this is type of projects TIRZs are reasonably designed to benefit.”
Steve Robinson with Allen Boon Humphries, LLP representing the Imperial Redevelopment District, which is the overlay management district for the development of the district’s infrastructure, was at the meeting. He told commissioners that Sugar Land created the TIRZ in order to finance the infrastructure within the Imperial Redevelopment District, which includes the historic district and the area across from the airport, some 840 acres. “This project has obviously gone through the downturn session and is now under development again and we are finalizing the financing and project plan to finance.”
Robinson said the city’s participation would involve a contribution to the district of 50 percent of city taxes and 50 percent of city sales taxes generated in this area of the TIRZ, and the county’s participation would be 50 percent of the property taxes from within the district. “The Imperial Redevelopment District, which is the largest payor of the infrastructure for this project would be levying a tax over the entire area, which pays roughly two thirds of the overall cost of the infrastructure within the project,” including the environmental remediation of the historical district, said Robinson.
Robinson stated that the county’s projected contribution was cited at $42 million, referred to as “absolutely pure speculation,” by Commissioner Patterson, “because today our beginning base is $11 million, and today our taxable value is $9 million, so until that value gets above $11 million, our contribution is zero.”
The TIRZ agreement is for 30 years for an area previously owned by the Texas General Land Office. Reportedly, there were no taxes being paid on the portion other than the historic district. Until the site is developed will it generate taxes, and assuming the tax rate stays the same, the county may get $2.5 million more in new taxes for a property that is presently undeveloped.
“I am glad it is 50 percent and not 100, that is some improvement,” said Commissioner Morrison of the terms in the TIRZ agreement for an area he said “is indeed blighted property.” In spite of his stating that he does not like accepting these types of deals, he said he would vote in favor, presumably because of the nature of the needy property.