To the editor:
Residential development has always been an expensive and speculative undertaking. The cost of building proper roads and providing utilities can be extraordinarily expensive, particularly in a town as hilly as Cape Girardeau.
The traditional way to keep development costs down is to build in rough rectangles with deep but relatively narrow lots. This allows a maximum number of lots to be served with a minimum amount of roads, sewers, water lines and storm drainage.
Home-buying tastes have shifted. Consumers seem to want large, sprawling lots on twisting and winding roads. Such development is exceptionally expensive when done properly.
Now enter the proposed residential tax-increment financing proposal. About 700 homes on 900 acres results in a lot size about five times greater than the norm instead of the 3,000-plus homes such an area could accommodate. Even the reduced TIF request ($9 million) amounts to nearly $13,000 per lot. The original request was for nearly $43,000 per lot.
The developer's argument that TIF revenue is essentially found money by being property tax above the current valuation does not hold water. While all of the bonds are being repaid over many years, the city and schools must still provide services. With a city budget already in crisis, this is sheer lunacy.
Let TIFs be used for the purpose truly intended: industrial and commercial development that brings in jobs, increases tax revenue and costs little in the way of city-required maintenance and services.
MICHAEL W. THIES