Why No TIF Bone For Otis?

by Travis Mateer

I had to do a double-take when I saw it in print. I mean, it was only two years ago when Adam Hertz had that delightful debate with Missoula’s TIF-addicted Mayor, John Engen. And now, this:

Otis LLC is looking to develop a 39-unit apartment building on the corner of Scott and Otis streets. The project was intended to provide housing deemed affordable with a target hitting 68% of the area median income.

Project manager Adam Hertz said it’s a well-designed and needed project but was now on the verge of becoming nonviable due to escalating costs and unexpected delays in permitting.

“It’s really challenging to hold those rents and make this project viable with such drastic increases in construction costs, in addition to an interest-rate environment that hasn’t been friendly to us. This project is on the verge of viability.”

An even bigger cringe-factor for this former critic of TIF handouts is the fact this puppy of a project, Otis LLC, already got a nice chunck of TIF change last year. And now they want more.

Last August, MRA approved Otis LLC’s request for funding in the amount of $315,000 to aid in the construction of public infrastructure, including water and sewer extensions, sidewalks and other necessities.

But on Thursday, the developer sought an additional $275,000 to cover rising market costs. Transportation costs for the project have increased 30%, PVC needed for plumbing is hard to obtain, and contractors are busy elsewhere in the city and hard to get bids from, according to Kody Swartz of Woith Engineering.

He added that the lift station that serves the area doesn’t have the capacity to support the Otis apartment project. That wasn’t known until the permitting process began, and it would add another $45,000 to the project.

“I think it was an oversight by city engineering due to the capacity caused by the Vallagio, which is a great project and a project I support, but not a project we want to pay upgrades for,” Hertz said. “That’s a big elephant in the entire area and all of the projects going on in the area.”

Great attempt to scapegoat the city, but the reality is EVERYONE is dealing with shit costing more money. The amount of money I’m burning through in just gas alone really pisses me off, but I’m not expecting other people to pay my gas bill for me.

This isn’t just another development project looking for a TIF handout, it’s a glaring example of where the rubber meets the road when it comes to supposed principles. I guess being a fiscal conservative taking a stand against an out-of-control TIF-sniffing regime just evaporates when one’s own project is facing “viability” problems.

Speaking of rubber meeting roads, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency is throwing more money at its master-plan obsession to change some one way roads downtown into TWO WAY roads. Isn’t that exciting? (emphasis mine)

A long-planned but highly complex effort to convert two of Missoula’s major downtown streets from one-way to two-way traffic got a big boost in public funding on Thursday.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board of commissioners voted unanimously to commit $233,563 in Tax Increment Financing for design work to figure out how to convert Front and Main streets to two-way traffic. Essentially, the money is for a “scope change and amendment” to the original contract the city has signed with a local engineering firm. 

The entire project is estimated to cost between $8 million and $9 million, and some of the planning funds will come from three Urban Renewal Districts that encompass portions of the downtown area. The agency has the discretion to use new property taxes in those districts generated by new development. To pay for the entire project, the city will have to use a combination of sources, including federal infrastructure funds. No exact timeline on the project is set in place yet because the designs aren’t completed.

Yes, after TWO disbursements of public money, this design firm is, like, you know, REALLY close to completing the design. That’s pretty damn funny, considering the DENIAL the Otis puppy project received.

I wonder why some projects can get MORE money, but other projects can’t? Hmmm. That sounds like a Monday kind of problem.

Have a great weekend!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why No TIF Bone For Otis?

  1. It’s pretty simple: the virtue-signalling Missoula City Council majority PROTECTS AND SERVES THE RICH while OFFERING CROCODILE TEARS and ECONOMIC CLEANSING to the rest. I posted about this yesterday on FB. The Council majority selectively and hypocritically applies its various policy goals in a manner that always seems to enrich fat cats, displace people from housing they can afford, and replace them with idle rich who already comprise 40% of Missoula’s population and derive 100% of their income from collecting rents and dividends — these are almost all relatvely new arrivals with median annual incomes of ~$1.2 million.

    I differ with you somewhat you re the Otis situation. The point is that this developer — who has been critical of the TIF abuse that enriches multistate development consortium partners while worsening the housing crisis — seeks to make a dent in that crisis with dwellings that a big chunk of the struggling masses of Missoulians can truly afford. That does not serve the interests of the wealthy campaign donors and cronies who pull the city marionette’s strings. Four basic Kafkaesque Axioms may be deduced from these shenanigans that are applied to accelerate the economic cleansing being inflicted on common Missoulians. I’ll just cover three of those Kafkaesque Axioms in this Comment.

    The mention of new city infrastructure corrobrates something that has become apparent; the City’s carbon neutrality policy is selectively applied, to the benefit of the fat cats and to the detriment of the rest! This is a selective exception to Kafkaesque Axiom No. 2 — “DENSITY TRUMPS AFFORDABILITY” — which was used just last week to screw over tenants reamed by the slumlords granted the Kiwanis Park easement. This new exception to Axiom No. 2 is now itself another Kafkaesque Axiom all its own — No. 3 — for the Council majority’s development decisions. Kafkaesue Axiom No. 3 was decreed two meetings go, in a fatwa by the Council’s high imam of New Urbanist Administration, Jordan Hess, as he lectured Alderman.Carlino. This occurred as Councilors considered a developers’ application for a new addition in Lower Miller Creek. Councilor Carlino moved to increase the number of permissible units per acre.

    In opposition, Imam Hess explained that *this* was not the *approprtiate place* for that mild application of the Density Trumps Affordability Kafkesque Axiom, because it would require the city to build new infrastructure, in order to connect the increased number of residents to transportation, etc., thereby increasing the city’s carbon footprint, in violation of another official city policy calling for the city to be carbon neutral by 2025. (But for some reason, that wouldn’t be necessary for the many homes in the additon as planned).


    Hess’ selective invocation of the carbon neutrality policy is ludicrous. There is no increasing the population without increasing the carbon footprint. There are few projects not requiring new city infrastructure. The city even approves new city infrastructure to gratify local tycoons, as it did with the street realignment and traffic circle — paid for with TIF — that multimillionaire real estate mogul Danny Lambros requested for South Gate Mall — infrastructure that helped Lambros sell the mall property and turn a nice profit before the anchor businesses left. Number of people affordably housed: ZERO.

    What is really going on here, is that wealthy neighborhoods are being protected from the hyperdensity being mandated in lower-income areas, taxpayer funds are handled as socialism for the rich, and actually remedying the housing crisis is verbotten because it’s bad for the fat cats’ gravy train.

    These policies of course translate to healthy campaign contributions for the majority boutique liberal councilpersons who pass feel-good, progressive, identity politics-oriented resolutions that mollify their boutique liberal constituents, as the elderly and fixed income homeowners are taxed out of their homes and working class families are displaced, while out of state speculators and the 40% of Missoulians — mostly relatively recent transplants who derive 100% of their income from collecting rents and dividends from the comfort of their TIF-subsidized luxury condos and million dollar single family residences — can smile all the way to $1.4 million TIF recipient and city creditor Stockman Bank.

    Thanks to coverage of the Otis saga, it appears that yet another Kafkaesque Axiom is being illuminated, No. 4: “TIF IS GOOD, UNLESS IT MOSTLY BENEFITS THE UNRICH.”

    I discuss this, and Kafkaeque Axiom No 1, in a pinned FB post here:https://www.facebook.com/johnkevin.hunt/


    ENDING THIS PREDATORY EXPLOITATION OF THE HOUSING CRISIS will require illumination of this paradigm and organization of the working class and tenants, the retirees, and the growing masses of class-conscious young people. We must pass initiative measures and replace the crocodile tears caucus with servant leaders who will enthusiastically aid mobilization of hundreds of Missoulians for a change of paradigm. We need citizen occupation of vacant housing and inundation of the legislature demanding return of local authority to regulate rents and adopt inclusionary zoning.

  2. Pingback: A Zoom Chron Bulletin To Inch My Reach One Hard Copy At A Time | Zoom Chron Blog

Leave a Reply