Gratiot DDA tax plan renewed following two years of expiration

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 11, 2019

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Clinton Township Downtown Development Authority has renewed its tax increment financing, or TIF, plan.

The revised ordinance was introduced at a May 13 Board of Trustees meeting and was unanimously approved May 28. The DDA was originally approved by the township in the summer of 2002 as a method of providing regulatory changes, capital improvements and financial assistance, and to spur other methods of growth in the commercial district of the Gratiot corridor.

A TIF plan is a base assessment that is created based on all commercial properties in a DDA area. Any additional tax revenue, such as new developments and other improvements, are captured by the DDA to allow for needed future enhancements.

However, when township Planning Director Bruce Thompson took over his current position in October 2018, he realized that the township’s TIF plan had expired in May 2017. The DDA never went away during that two-year hiatus.

A drawback is that the base year had to be adjusted from 2002 to 2019, with the collection of tax increments beginning after this current year.

“The first thing we needed to do was get them back up and running,” Thompson said, adding that the DDA now has a valid TIF plan.

Supervisor Bob Cannon said the DDA was an outgrowth of the wants of a small group of business owners back in 2002, what he called a “real positive shot in the arm” until the 2008 recession struck. It promoted the corridor and major events like the Gratiot Cruise.

As to why the TIF plan expired, he said he was “not sure who should have known” to file the paperwork. Thompson said as the planning director, he is basically the “director of the DDA.”

“There’s no way I could know (the TIF plan expired) right before I got here,” Thompson said. “It won’t happen again. It’s something that needs to be monitored and administered by this office.”

Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said that when the TIF plan expired, all the commercial properties within the district were frozen at the base.

“When the taxes are collected for those properties, the different taxing authorities keep what they had in that base year, and any growth is then captured by the district — and that provides a revenue stream to do the improvements that are necessary and approved by the downtown development board,” Gieleghem said.

The growth and revenue witnessed in the DDA area — from median plantings, to amenity richness and additional lighting — began to decline during the economic crisis, as values declined.

Once the TIF plan wasn’t renewed, money had to be refunded to other taxing authorities. Having a base year of 2019 is important if another economic downturn does occur, as it would jeopardize a steady funding mechanism.

“The fact is, we had a DDA for Gratiot Avenue that was making significant improvements, and we’ve had to put a lot of those projects on hold because of the township’s failure to do what was necessary to keep that momentum going. There was a real void and a real lack of leadership, and people asleep at the switch,” he said.

Cannon believes the corridor will thrive as long as business owners in the DDA continue to build up one another, work together and buy each other’s products. Thompson was successful in his former planning role in Westland, he said.

Thompson said that once revenue starts being generated again, business owners can continue projects they previously envisioned.

Gieleghem said he is happy with the direction that Thompson has taken the township since he came on board, detailed in the township’s years-long future Master Plan.

“As we age as a community, how do we improve our infrastructure?” Gieleghem said. “How do we focus our energies on creating great commercial districts? How do we create better experiences for our residents?”

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