Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pabst Farm Shopping Mall Interchange Project Fee Of Just 7% Looking Even Sweeter

Developers will bear the full cost of road improvements tied to the expansion of I-94 in Kenosha County, according to the Daily Reporter.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, WisDOT, has certain formulas that it applies to private interests that will benefit from a publicly-funded road project, and I am told that it's a relatively inexact science if and when shares get apportioned.

Transportation funding and road spending are getting squeezed by a variety of factors:

* Overblown and unnecessary spending, particularly the $1.9 billion committed to the I-94 reconstruction and widening between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line;

* Falling gas tax revenues for transportation budgets as driving and fuel consumption declines;

* Soaring prices for oil-based road-building materials, like asphalt, not to mention diesel fuel that powers the trucks, road-graders and other vehicles that deliver materials and otherwise help put projects into the ground.

So legislators will look at a variety of means in Wisconsin and Washington to get more money into the system, since none of our political leaders have the will to reduce road-building to reasonable, sustainable levels.

That means higher gas taxes, boosted vehicle registration fees, first-time tolls in Wisconsin, property tax, income tax and bonding increases, and other methods to squeeze more money out of taxpayers and motorists to keep the highway/political complex fully fueled and oiled.

Which brings me back to the deal cut earlier this year to build a $25 million interchange in Western Waukesha County at Pabst Farms to serve an upscale shopping mall that has had an on-again/off-again planning history.

Plans come and go, but the interchange has been approved.

The assessment to the mall developers for this privately-owned mall?

$1.75 million, or 7%.

The other shares - - $1.75 million to Waukesha County, $400,000 to the City of Oconomowoc (now there's a bargain, too), and $21.1 million to state taxpayers.

That would be you and yours truly.

The state could have assessed the mall owners a larger percentage, but didn't.

Why not?

Because with a full diamond interchange already built, the rest of the so-called freeway reconstruction plan across Southeastern Wisconsin will thus have one interchange already done years early, making the remainder of the Waukesha County segment west of Milwaukee a fait accompli for WisDOT.


Jim Bouman said...

Pabst Farms developers could hardly come up with more than pocket change to throw into the pot of money needed for an I-94 interchange at Sawyer Road. A 7% assessment would likely deplete their working capital. This development looks more and more like deja vu, recalls the smoke and mirrors Francis Schroedel and Rainbow Springs fifty years ago.

They don't need an interchange; they need (desperately need) people to buy lots, they need commercial tenants. They need the cash to pave streets and put in utilities.

Next chance you get while driving past Oconomowoc (get off I-94 at Sawyer Rd. or Hwy. 67) take a spin through the desolate unfinished projects at PF.

The two really big chunks of the development, Phase II (Eastlake Village) and Phase III (Interlaken Village) of the single-family housing cannot even be located. The developers have removed the self-mocking "Coming Soon" signs that were beginning to fade in the sun. And the whole of those two bigger,later phases is planted with corn and soybeans.

We would do well to put Pabst Farm Developers on the spot: What is the likelihood of the housing that was planned ever coming into existence? What is the likelihood of the Regional Mall ever being developed? Are you sufficiently capitalized to survive a long wait?

A lot of public money will be at stake, depending on the answers. All the highway interchange money that hangs in the balance could (certainly should) be reprogrammed to address deferred maintenance on existing roads and development of better transportation plans, which means light rail.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping track of this development Jim.

It's truly sprawl at its finest, if we build this interchange for them I'm sure more lots will sell (as people jump from one subdivision to another).

The whole thing is absurd and rather depressing.