Memorial City TIRZ 17 Need Not Expand for Strong Community

Friday, September 19, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 11:46 AM

Near I-10 and Beltway 8 resides a great community.  We have fantastic Spring Branch ISD schools and friendly neighbors.  Our kids play sports together in the Spring Branch Memorial Sports Association.  We have a vibrant economic area with City Centre and Memorial City.  Major freeways are a hop and a skip from our homes for easy transport.    Midway Companies and Metro National continue to add growth to the area with the construction of high rises and shopping centers.   Air Liquide is the latest corporate headquarters to announce their move to Memorial City.  We have Cobalt Energy,  Group 1 Automotive, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital, a Westin Hotel, Texas A&M University Mays Business School, wine bars, steak houses, and a full on Mall.  As Dr. Seuss says, we live in a wonderful, wonderful place.

So why the need to expand the TIRZ encompassing Memorial City and City Centre?  Tax Incremental Investment Zones (TIRZ) were created by the Texas Legislature some 30 odd years ago in Chapter 311 of the Texas Tax Code as a tool for local governments.   The purpose behind them was to take blighted areas, where no economic growth was occurring, and turn them into gentrified, economic hubs.    Municipal governments can create a TIRZ by setting boundaries of the zone and freezing those property taxes at a “base rate.”  The property taxes remain at that original base line amount and then stay within the TIRZ budget for the financing of redevelopment (and/or bonds can be issued, too).   The end result assumes pleased property owners stay put, customers spend, property taxes rise, and the economic engine revs back up, making the area habitable and happy.  The new, improved, higher property tax collected (the incremental amount) then goes to the municipal government coffers.

A TIRZ can do good things.  Not only help a crumbling neighborhood, but a TIRZ will capture the very local tax dollars and keep them within that community.  But, TIRZs were designed for specific projects to boost the economy, with specific timetables.  Why the need for the TIRZ 17 Redevelopment Authority (the legal name) to annex more land?  Land where the economic future is already bright and profitable.  The new areas under the annexation plan not only include roads through and around neighborhoods, but commercial properties that are in already hot, desirable areas (google Memorial Green).

Who exactly wants to expand the TIRZ?  The TIRZ Board itself, which is made up mostly of representatives from the businesses within the TIRZ or businesses with interests in the area.  Furthermore, TIRZ boards are appointed, not elected.  An appointed board is not accountable to constituents in the same way our City Council Member is.

Its not just our local TIRZ continuing to build their authority.  What many local governments in Texas are doing is using TIRZs to obfuscate their responsibility.  If a TIRZ is handling the contracts and updating the infrastructure, City Hall surrenders the daily responsibility of their constituency.   The Memorial City TIRZ says they would like to alleviate flooding and traffic issues in and around the neighborhoods, hence they say the purpose for their large annexation plan.  We need a mayor and council members who are willing to listen to us, not escape through a TIRZ.

I am pro-growth.  I am pro-business.  I very much support business making our community greater and stronger.  I encourage the continued construction of mixed use developments.   I am thrilled that Houston is booming.  I love that my community is a hot hub of activity.   I welcome the urbanization of Houston.  I don’t even mind the traffic because it means our community and city are economically healthy.   But I do oppose the creation of more government entities.  And do oppose the encroachment in our neighborhoods when the community is already strong and prosperous.  More importantly, I oppose an unaccountable political entity making decisions that could have a major negative impact on people’s lives.

-Elizabeth Biar

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