Commissioners do nothing on bond

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Mark Wineka

Kannapolis Citizen

CONCORD — The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners took no action on self-financing bonds for Kannapolis Monday night — and that was a good thing for the city.

By not opposing boundaries for a tax incremental financing (TIF) district or an accompanying financing plan, commissioners kept things going for Kannapolis to pursue special financing.

Rowan County commissioners acted similarly in November, taking no official position on Kannapolis’ plans to create a special tax district to support infrastructure improvements connected to the N.C. Research Campus.

All of that said, Cabarrus County Commissioner Coy Privette still had questions Monday about the district’s proposed boundaries and what impact a pending lawsuit could have on TIF districts in general. Privette said some Kannapolis property owners on North and South Main streets have asked why they are included in the proposed district, even though the biotech center would mainly encompass the old Plant 1and Plant 4 sites.

As proposed, the special bond district would include 864 acres, of which the campus represents 240 acres. The rest of the district is referred to as the “background’ research area.

The base value of the district today is $108.4 million, expected to increase to more than $1 billion once the campus is built out fully, according to a fiscal impact report.

Steve Cordell, Cabarrus County’s bond attorney, updated commissioners on what he knew about a lawsuit challenging the state constitutional amendment that provided for TIF districts.

Cordell said one part of the lawsuit challenges whether the language on the ballot question was sufficient to support the amendment. He said he thought the plaintiffs will lose on that question. Another aspect of the challenge goes to a provision of the Voting Rights of 1965, Cordell said.

It requires that certain types of referenda receive pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to make sure no one’s constitutional rights will be violated.

Cordell said there was some type of pre-clearance obtained for the TIF-related amendment, approved by state voters, but the question remains whether it was adequate. Cordell told commissioners the lawsuit was not meant as any kind of attack on the proposed biotech campus in Kannapolis but challenges TIF financing no matter where it might be used.

Kannapolis is hoping Cabarrus County will share equally the annual costs of debt service on $76 million of self-financing bonds, which have to be approved by the Local Government Commission. The bonds would be paid off over 20 years, but the exact amount of the bonds is still up in the air.

Cabarrus County has yet to approve an interlocal agreement saying what its obligation will be on the bonds.

Castle & amp; Cooke, the company developing the biotech campus, has told Kannapolis officials it would like to see the city issue more than $76 million in bonds.

Kannapolis has said it would be responsible for roughly $60 million in infrastructure improvements.

Castle & amp; Cooke would be responsible for about $316 million in additional improvements under the proposed plan.