As in many other communities that have a BRA similar to ours, citizens and some public officials have misconceptions about the Brownfield program and especially the Brownfield TIF. The misconceptions fall into these general categories:
Misconception ONE: “Brownfield is a contaminated property”. As such, property owners are concerned about the stigma of owning a “polluted” property and they are also concerned that they may be liable for the contamination. First, a property may be a Brownfield because it has a lot or very little contamination. But, it can also be considered a Brownfield if it is Blighted, Functionally Obsolete or contains Historic resources (buildings, etc.).
Therefore, any of these properties would qualify for several financial incentives to assist with its redevelopment. Note that such financial incentives are NOT available for “clean” properties. For example, many properties along the Manistee River Channel and Manistee Lake shorelines contain contamination due to the fill material, such as ash, coal, slag, foundry sand and other waste placed there during the historic uses of these properties going back to the late 1800s, well before the current owners acquired these properties.
Second, State law provides liability protection for owners of “Brownfields” as long as they have not caused the contamination, they have not done anything to spread it or make it worse, and they have met certain minimum State requirements at the time they acquired the property.
Misconception TWO: “By authorizing Brownfield TIF reimbursement the BRA gives our property taxes away”. Concerned citizens and public officials need to remember that: “you cannot give away something you don’t have”! Brownfield TIF can only be generated from increased taxes IF and WHEN a property gets redeveloped and by doing so it increases in value. Brownfield TIF is used to repay some of a developer’s or property owner’s redevelopment expenses because the cost of redeveloping a Brownfield is incrementally higher than a non-Brownfield site. If there is no private investment there is no redevelopment project which equals to no increase in taxes which equals to no TIF.
Keep in mind that the base property tax, which is the tax paid before redevelopment starts, will continue being paid and captured by the taxing entities (City, County, etc.) whether the redevelopment takes place or not. Also, after the redevelopment expenses have been repaid using the Brownfield TIF, all increased taxes will go to the taxing entities for many years into the future. Finally, the “school” portion of the incremental taxes captured by the BRA for repayment of the redevelopment expenses is “reimbursed” to the schools by the State, so there is no loss of tax revenue for the schools.