City approves smaller TIF – for now

Future financing for Big M awaits county decision

Submitted Photo A rendering by Ackerman Estvold shows the proposed renovation of Minot’s Big M building.

The developer proposing to renovate Minot’s downtown Big M building would need to come up with another $450,000 in private investment under a Tax Increment Financing change approved by the Minot City Council Monday.

However, that change is based on the Ward County Commission upholding its previous 3-2 vote not to participate in a TIF. Discussion on the TIF is on the commission’s agenda at its meeting this morning.

Commissioners have sought more information, including the analysis of a city-hired independent consultant regarding the financial feasibility of the renovation by EPIC Companies, with or without a TIF.

The analysis released late last week by the city indicated the project is feasible, but only with a TIF.

The TIF in this instance would take 90% of the additional taxes generated by improving the building and use those tax dollars paid by EPIC to pay off city bonds. The purpose of the bonds would be to largely to cover EPIC’s cost to abate asbestos in the building.

The requested TIF was $2.7 million over 20 years. Without the county agreeing to participate and give up its share of 90% of the taxes for 20 years, the TIF is reduced to $2.25 million, leaving the developer to account for the difference.

The city council considered tabling the matter to first see what the county commission might do. A motion to table failed 3-4.

Council member Paul Pitner said if the county changes course and decides to participate, the council can change its vote as well. But he didn’t want to leave the matter on the table.

“Because I’m afraid of the message that it sends if we are going to stand by and wait,” he said. “What message does it send to developers that look to invest in our community?”

He added a TIF isn’t just an incentive for developers, but it is a tool for communities to address blighted properties.

“This a tool for cities. This is a tool for counties – to help investors make projects work, to make our community better, to move our community forward. We’re talking about housing, commercial space, generating sales tax, removal of financial and health liabilities in the heart of our community,” he said.

Council member Lisa Olson said her vote to table wasn’t to oppose the project but to follow the recommendation of city staff and make sure everything is done right.

The council ultimately voted 7-0 to approve the plan for the TIF, although Olson noted, “I feel a little bit like our hand is being forced because I am in support of the project but I wish it would have been done in the right order.”

Council members Mark Jantzer and Mayor Shaun Sipma also supported the new plan after initially voting to table.

Council member Tom Ross said either way the council’s decision goes, the Big M project will be before the council again June 6. A development agreement with EPIC Companies still needs to be approved.

“But let’s put it on their shoulders,” Ross said of the county. “We’ve given them every opportunity to support this. I hope they make the right decision. But we can’t sit back. We have to move forward.”

Minot Public School District already has voted to support a TIF. Under state rules on TIFs, Minot Park District would follow whatever action the city takes.

Blake Nybakken, chief operating officer for EPIC, said the company looks forward to the county reversing its initial decision to not participate.

“I would say that would get us to the finish line, but what I think it really does is it lets us get out of the starting blocks. We still have a long road ahead of us with the actual project, but if they do elect to participate in some fashion tomorrow, that will definitely get us going,” he said.

EPIC has proposed apartments, condominiums and commercial space in the former bank building, built nearly 60 years ago. The building saw various other uses after the bank closed in 1990. It has been largely vacant for about 20 years.


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