City Council of Denton Explores Funding Options

By June 4, 2014Uncategorized

Zone could help hotel and convention center project down the road

From Denton Record Chronicle by Jenna Duncan –

The exploration of the feasibility of a hotel and convention center continues to move forward as the Denton City Council on Tuesday discussed creating a tax-increment reinvestment zone to fund the project. If created, the TIRZ would generate an estimated $13.6 million to help repay construction costs on the project over a 30-year term. The zone would take up the 13-acre area where the project is planned to be built, which currently has no taxable base value. A formal hearing on the proposed zone and an ordinance to create it will be held June 17. This was the first full meeting with new Mayor Chris Watts presiding, and council member Jim Engelbrecht was named mayor pro tem in the first action of the meeting.

To create the zone, Denton County and the Denton school district will have to agree to participate, which would mean the county would dedicate 75 percent of its real property increment and the school district would dedicate 75 percent of its interest and sinking real property increment to the fund. In the deal, the city would contribute 100 percent of its real property increment. “Creating the TIRZ at this time would not make the project final or go forward in any way, it is just a feasibility mechanism that is a necessary step to determine whether the project can go forward,” said Aimee Bissett, director of economic development for the city. After the city holds a hearing, it can choose to move forward with the ordinance later in that meeting. If approved, a board would have to be appointed, a project and financing plan would be finalized and all entities would sign participation agreements. It could be concluded by August or September, said David Pettit, a consultant on the project who presented to the council. Leading up to it, though, is the potential for several actions regarding the project to be brought to the council because of required steps, such as the discussion of bonds.

The TIRZ plan accounts for the hotel and convention center to be completed in 2017, and when the contributions to the fund would gradually kick in. A preliminary mock-up of the center presented in December is currently out for construction bids, which are due later this month. The project details retail and restaurant space in addition to the convention area and 318 hotel rooms. A different project was potentially stalled after the council voted unanimously to postpone action on rezoning a piece of land that is planned to be used for a CVS Pharmacy going in on Avenue B between Hickory Street and Oak streets. It is one of four pieces of land in the planned development that will make it one lot, and is the only one not zoned for retail use more than 5,000 square feet. In the near-final plans for CVS, the portion is used as a turn-in lane from West Oak Street to the parking lot. However, the council took issue with the turn-in giving access only to CVS, as there is a new laundry facility going in next door that will probably need access from Oak as well. Since the area has a lot of pedestrian traffic, council members said they want fewer curb cuts on the street to improve pedestrian safety.

In a motion to postpone action pending further investigation of collaboration between the two businesses, Engelbrecht said he thought giving access to two businesses with one curb cut could be “a potential win for everyone.”Additionally, the council received the certification of the citizen petition to ban hydraulic fracturing, and the city attorney proposed adding a public hearing on the petition for the July 15 council meeting. This was the first time the petition was discussed by the council after it began to circulate among residents in February, and the council now has 60 days to take action on the petition or call an election on the issue.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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