In a 2-1 vote the Yellowstone County Commissioners approved the proposed expansion of the Lockwood TEDD (Targeted Economic Development District) last week.
The vote followed action to remove amendments to the proposal that commissioners unanimously approved during the earlier public hearing on October 30, which would have directed 25 percent of future tax increment revenues to be retained by effected taxing jurisdictions, such as the Lockwood School District.
Deputy County Attorney Mark English recommended eliminating the amendment because it went beyond what the public meeting notices said was being considered at the hearings. The commissioners’ decision should focus strictly on the issue of whether to expand the size of the TEDD, he said, “not change the characteristics of the TEDD”. In addition, state law allows the county commissioners, who are the ultimate TEDD authorities, the discretion to direct some or all of the future revenues as they see fit.
Commissioner Denis Pitman was the dissenting vote, in recognition of the issues raised by the Lockwood School District. It was Pitman’s motion at the earlier public hearing which created the amendment. He vowed that in the future, “I will be making my best effort, to see that funds get directed to the other taxing jurisdictions.”
Lockwood School District Superintendent Tobin Novasio was the only person to speak in opposition to the expansion. He favored directing a percentage of the increment back to the taxing jurisdictions. He noted that all those who spoke in support of the TEDD were property owners who had a financial interest in it.
Novasio suggested delaying expansion of the TEDD to see if it, at its current size, is successful. “What we are asking to do is to put all the chips on the table,” he said.
Josh Starr of Town and Country Supply spoke in support of the expansion saying that his company is currently half in and half out of the current TEDD. “We want the area outside the TEDD to be included.”
Steve Arveschoug, Director of Big Sky Economic Development, the agency that spearheaded the formation of the TEDD and continues oversight, emphasized that it is the outside property owners who came forward and initiated the request to expand the TEDD. He said that he believes the TEDD will be “a positive thing…the goal is to create ready –to-go and planned industrial space that will be attractive to businesses.”
He further noted that “this is not going to happen overnight…it will take multiple years to build up the increment.” He also pushed back against claims that tax increment districts in the city have not been effective.
The existing TEDD is 570 acres. The expansion request would add 625 acres, bringing its total size to 1194 acres.
The TEDD is located at the intersection of Johnson Lane and Interstate 90