State Supreme Court ruling on TIFs favors City of Eau Claire

By  | 

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Eau Claire in a case involving funding for the Pablo Center at the Confluence. In a decision handed down Wednesday morning, the court voted 5-2 to uphold an appeals court decision that ruled in favor of the city.

"This decision is a big win for economic development in Eau Claire and the state of Wisconsin," Douglas Hoffer, assistant attorney for the City of Eau Claire, said to WEAU 13 News on Wednesday. "We've been confident from the outset the city of Eau Claire acted in accordance with Wisconsin law, and we're gratified to see that the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with us."

Justice Annette Ziegler wrote the opinion for the majority, stating the case from Voters With Facts, the plaintiffs in the case, “was properly dismissed as to declaratory judgment because it fails to state claims upon which relief may be granted.”

Justices Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly wrote a combined opinion in dissent, saying “Our court (and the court of appeals) sidestepped the complex substantive issues, incorrectly applied the law, and deprived Plaintiffs of their rights.”

“Tax incremental financing was intended as a very, very limited device to spur development that otherwise would not happen. It has, I think over the years, turned into something else,” Richard Esenberg, representing Voters With Facts, said to WEAU 13 News on Wednesday.

A lawsuit, filed by the group in 2014, was aimed at tossing out the Eau Claire City Council's decision to use TIF money to help fund the Confluence Project.

The case has challenged the Eau Claire’s Confluence Project and the use of Wisconsin's tax incremental financing – or TIF – law. Both sides gave oral arguments on this case before the state’s highest court in February.

"It's turned into a routine tactic by municipalities - sometimes use legitimately, sometimes not - without any real limiting mechanism in a way for taxpayers to protect themselves,” Esenberg said. “After today's decision, they have even less ability to protect themselves."

While the State Supreme Court sided with the City of Eau Claire, it has ordered a circuit court to review whether the city properly extended cash grants for the Pablo Arts Center at the Confluence.

"We're confident, with a very limited nature of this review and the high standard that needs to be met, along with the very substantial record that was before both of these bodies, the circuit court is going to quickly dispose of the limited amount of this case that's left," Hoffer said.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Supreme Court has ordered a circuit court to review whether city officials in Eau Claire properly extended cash grants to for downtown renovations.

A group of taxpayers sued in 2015 alleging the city failed to justify creating tax incremental districts to fund the project and cash grants for renovation work amounted to illegal property tax breaks for the developer.

Eau Claire County Circuit Judge Paul Lenz dismissed the case, finding taxpayers failed to show standing.

The Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision Wednesday affirmed Lenz's decision but ordered a lower court to review how the city determined the tax districts were necessary.

The state Justice Department has warned if the taxpayers prevail it would jeopardize numerous economic development projects, including incentives for Foxconn Technology Group's Mount Pleasant campus.


EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Eau Claire in a case involving funding for the Pablo Center at the Confluence.

In a decision handed down Wednesday morning, the court voted 5-2 to uphold an appeals court decision that ruled in favor of the city.

Justice Annette Ziegler wrote the opinion for the majority, stating the case from Voters With Facts, the plaintiffs in the case, “was properly dismissed as to declaratory judgment because it fails to state claims upon which relief may be granted.”

Justices Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly wrote a combined opinion in dissent, saying “Our court (and the court of appeals) sidestepped the complex substantive issues, incorrectly applied the law, and deprived Plaintiffs of their rights.”

A lawsuit, filed by the group in 2014, was aimed at tossing out the Eau Claire City Council's decision to use TIF money to help fund the Confluence Project.

The case has challenged the Eau Claire’s Confluence Project and the use of Wisconsin's tax incremental financing – or TIF – law. Both sides gave oral arguments on this case before the state’s highest court.

"The issue here is the circumstances and the methods by which taxpayers can go to court and say 'Look, you're giving our money away to a private developer, under circumstances when you are not permitted to do it under the law,'" Richard Esenberg, the attorney representing Voters With Facts, said to WEAU in February after the arguments.

To that, Douglas Hoffer, assistant attorney for the City of Eau Claire, replied that day: "We feel confident that the definition in the language in the statute supports the work that the city of Eau Claire did and we feel very confident that the city of Eau Claire acted in accordance with the expressed language of Wisconsin's TIF statute."



 
The comment sections of our web set are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from the viewers but we are not obligated to post comments we feel inappropriate or violate our guidelines. Here are some of the criteria you should follow when posting comments:

Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. Children and families visit this site. We will delete comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.

We will delete all comments using hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our web site.

Comments should not attack other readers personally.

We will delete comments we deem offensive, in bad taste, or out of bounds. We are not obligated to post comments that are rude or insensitive.

We do not edit user-submitted comments.

As a host WEAU 13 News welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However, we have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason WEAU 13 News reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.
powered by Disqus