Two weeks have passed since the Apopka city Commission voted to table a motion regarding the granting of a STIF district near the 414 and Marden Road area. MMI Development is asking for this because they are offering to build an interchange in that area, giving easier access to their development projects, and by extension, the new Florida Hospital currently under construction. Synthetic tax incremental financing districts create funding for public/private projects by borrowing against FUTURE increase in tax revenue created by businesses and other projects expected to move to the district because of the main project; in this case, an interchange. That is why these are gambles at best; we are being asked to hedge our bets and quite possible, our futures, to obtain instant gratification and not worry about what tomorrow holds. What tomorrow could hold is a sluggish or failing economy; plans and visions that change; bankruptcies. What tomorrow could hold is Apopka taxpayers with a millstone around our necks that could take years, if not decades to remove.
Two weeks have passed, and this item is once again on the Apopka City Council meeting agenda for this Wednesday Sept 2, at 1:30 pm. This agreement was given to the Commission about 4 weeks ago; both Commissioner Arrowsmith and Commissioner Ruth were right to ask questions about an agreement that clearly neither fully understood. Mayor Kilsheimer’s smug reply to these questions was that the City had been negotiating this agreement for over 9 months, and to push this project back anymore would be “unfair” to those already counting on this agreement. The consensus was that the City was not saying NO to this agreement, only that more time was needed to study and understand this complex agreement and thus a motion to table this until the next meeting. The next meeting is upon us; have the Commissioners had time to fully review this agreement and get satisfactory answers to their questions? Does this agreement sufficiently protect the taxpayers of Apopka, or will we be stuck with a huge mistake if this gamble doesn’t pay off. The Mayor, CAO Irby and City Attorney Shephard would do well to answer any questions raised thoughtfully and respectfully, not in the arrogant, almost mocking tone taken lately with people who dare ask questions. Questions I have: Who is counting on the agreement? Why are these people or entities counting on this agreement to go through? Have certain commitment already been made to others before an agreement was even presented to the Citizens of Apopka for a vote?
The big question remains: who will actually benefit from this STIF, the taxpayers of Apopka or MMI Development. If this is not a mutually beneficial agreement to all involved, especially the Apopka taxpayer, I would respectfully ask our Commissioners to vote NO on this STIF.