MIDA And Wasatch County Discuss Changes To Memorandum Of Understanding
Paul Morris, the executive director of the Military Instillation Development Authority, spent an hour with the Wasatch County Council on March 11th reviewing the Mayflower Resort, the MIDA project area and an overview of some of the changes proposed to the county and MIDA’s memorandum of understanding agreement.
In order to make the project financially viable, MIDA will retain 75% of the increased property taxes due to increased property values within the project area to improve infrastructure in the project area. Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis says although the tax structure in the MIDA project is confusing, they’re planning to better communicate how the structure will ultimately work.
“There are a couple of us that understand the figures because we’ve been immersed in them so much,” Davis said. “Sometimes when we talk, we forget that nobody else understands what we’re saying. We are working on finishing up the latest projections from financial advisors Lewis Young. It our plan to work with those projections and come up with a public presentation that can be simplified. So that the public as well as the entities will understand. We have been meeting with the entities and we believe we have understanding with the school district and the other districts in the county, local government associations that are affected by this. But the public as a whole does not understand this, and so we need to do a better job.”
At the March 11th meeting Morris explained that the county would receive additional taxes from MIDA that a municipality like Heber or Midway would not give to the county under normal circumstances.
“We are treated like a city under the law,” Morris continued. “So, you cannot have the energy tax, the 6% on gas and electric that we can have. You can't do the resort community tax on the 1.1%, we can do that. You can't do the 3.5% telephone tax andyou can't do the 1% transient room tax—you have your own transient room tax, but you can't do the municipal transit room tax—we're going to do the 1% transient room tax. We're going to do the 6% and the 3.5%, plus your 25% of the pie, and we’re giving that to you.”
At the meeting School District Superintendent Paul Sweat said the district had met with MIDA and the council about the project and would like a continued seat at the table. Morris addressed the idea that the tax increment structure would negatively impact the district. He says the development will generate very few school children.
“We don't want to harm the school district,” Morris explained. “The rough numbers are that the pie, the 25% of this big pie will more than offset the actual number of kids that are going to be created. But if that's wrong, yes, I think we should have a different agreement.”
Morris says there will also be residual impacts, other developments outside of the area that benefit the school district and the county at large. Morris also says he often hears that the development would’ve happened without MIDA, but because they’re involved 75% of property taxes are taken away from the county. Morris refutes that claim says there’s no data to back it up. Pointing to landowners and the counties previously failed efforts to develop.
“They wanted to make money,” Morris said. “The government wanted it to be developed that way, and you got a 40-year history. So, you can't say, ‘Oh, it's the recession of 2008 that stopped it.’ What about all the other great times before and the great times after?”
Morris said that Extell CEO Gary Barnett told him from the beginning of Extell’s involvement in the project and several times since that he would not be involved in the project if not for the MIDA tax increment.
“We are not giving away money that didn't otherwise need to be done in order to make this quality investment happen,” Morris continued. “Before them were several property owners. I met with one that was a multi-billion-dollar fund that was looking at buying the Mayflower. When they looked at all the costs and the clean-up and all that, even with MIDA they were like ‘ehh I don’t think this is going to work.’ They called and said sorry and wandered off. We met with several of the people that were looking at the property. So, we're very fortunate to have somebody that had the deep enough pockets and the patience to work through this.”
At their March 17 meeting the MIDA board approved their new MOU, while county manager Mike Davis indicated that the county will likely do the same in a future meeting.