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Tax Abatement Redo: Council takes fresh look at city incentives

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Springfield City Council is reviewing a potential redo of available property tax abatements to help remedy blight within city-approved redevelopment areas.

Under a state-allowed “workable plan,” certain developers still could garner 10-year-long abatements, though no longer at 100 percent of the increased value of the property.

City Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner said the proposed abatement revision would establish a baseline abatement of 50 percent, with developers accumulating points to qualify for up to 75 percent abatements for single-project redevelopments.

Kerner said existing abatement guidelines would remain in place, but the city would add additional policies and priorities in approving the tax relief, such as blight verification.

“We’re not going to approve property tax abatement to rehab a building that wasn’t even in existence at the time the blight was approved,” she said, for example.

The additions also include a “but for” test.

In that, proof would be required to show that a project would not otherwise happen. Proof, according to city documents, includes a project budget, detailed financing, project income and expenses – with and without abatement – and a development schedule.

To achieve an abatement greater than 50 percent, Kerner said, a scorecard also would be imposed.

Additional points essentially would be awarded on such factors as whether a development aids a financially distressed area, increases community benefit or improves public safety, landscaping and environmental stewardship.

The city also would enact new notice requirements, with additional notifications to property owners within 500 feet of a project, registered neighborhood organizations and any impacted taxing jurisdictions.

Kerner said the city would treat redevelopment plans covering multiple projects with similar respect to the existing guidelines, still allowing a 100 percent abatement.

Multiproject redevelopment plans would have to be renewed every five years by council, with the but-for requirement waived.

Redevelopment plan applications submitted prior to Oct. 16, 2017 – when the city imposed a moratorium on new applications – would be grandfathered in, meaning the new policies and priorities, if approved, would not affect past projects.

On March 26, council is expected to review and discuss a proposed ordinance creating the changes.


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