McClain County Commissioners approved a legal services agreement during their July 19 meeting for a Tax Increment Finance district Project Plan, which if eventually approved, would place public financial assistance in the hands of a private developer.
The legal services agreement is between the McClain County Commissioners and the Center for Economic Development Law, who will be primarily utilizing their employees Jeff Sabin and Emily Pomeroy, according to the agreement. The Center for Economic Development Law has been involved in legal services for TIF agreements throughout the state and has a long history working with government entities on the legal issues of TIF districts.
County Commissioner Wilson Lyles said, “This is just very preliminary with the hiring of this firm. There is no cost to the county. The folks who are interested in doing this are picking up any fees associated with this.”
According to the agreement, Southwind Hills Land Development, LLC, had approached the Center for Economic Development Law asking for assistance with a possible development in McClain County. If eventually approved, the private developer would receive for an agreed upon time, any new taxes created in the district to pay for public infrastructure.
The agreement also indicates that Southwind Hills Land Development would also pay for the county’s legal costs incurred in consideration of the private developer’s project plan and related economic development agreement.
The agreement further states that the costs of these services would be provided by the developer, but the Center for Economic Development Law would represent McClain County in its interests.
The following are services to be provided by the Center for Economic Development Law:
• A TIF agreement which would provide public financial assistance to the developer to fund public improvements.
• Drafting of the Project Plan to facilitate the developer’s proposed project.
• Preparation of documents for a TIF and Project Plan including analysis, financial impact, commissioner’s agenda items, and resolutions.
• Consultation regarding procedures and actions for formal consideration of a TIF and the Project Plan.
• Other necessary and appropriate actions with respect to approval and implementation of the Project Plan and TIF.
“We are learning right now about a TIF itself, and the things this organization would like to do,” Lyles said. “If it benefits all of the citizens of McClain County, that’s our thought before any decisions are made. We are exploring our options.”
The agreement also provides for McClain County “to retain all authority to approve, reject, modify or amend any action that the Board of County Commissioners determine to be in the best interests of the residents of the County. As well, nothing in the agreement creates an obligation by the County to approve a proposed Project Plan or TIF.
Commissioners Glen Murray, Lyles and Terry Daniel all voted to move forward with the approval of the contract agreement.
According to The Center for Economic Development Law’s website, the firm “represents cities, towns, counties, public trusts, and other local public entities in Oklahoma on a range of development activities. The firm also represents non-profit organizations and development entities in structuring public-private partnerships to facilitate development, operation, or management of special projects, places, and activities. The firm offers extensive legal services in the creation of legal and financial strategies for economic and community development projects.”
Southwind Hills Land Development’s website touts that the company has more than 2,000 acres either completed, in design, or under construction. The project they are proposing for a TIF is their Selah planned community just outside the Town of Goldsby and the City of Newcastle.
According to the company’s website, Selah is “an up and coming wellness community, unlike any of its kind in Oklahoma, composed of 520 acres of front porch living, fresh air, fresh food, and focused on reconnecting family and neighbors.”
It will be “a walkable community set among acres of preserved green space with miles of nature trails that connect homes and restaurants with arts and businesses.”
Tina Adkins, spokesperson for Selah, said, “Our vision for Selah has and always will be inspired by the past, built for the future. With this in mind, Selah will be an ever evolving project as we truly listen to the needs and desires of our local community members.”
She said Selah is just 10-15 minutes southeast of Newcastle in unincorporated McClain County.
“Selah is an ungated, public space offering a host of amenities to visitors and homeowners alike such as a Pool Club with a pool house and restaurant, a beautiful lake for fishing and kayaking, walking trails throughout, a beautiful working farm providing a Farmer’s Market, U-Pick flower gardens, and space for the agriculture community and visitors to attend educational classes,” Adkins said.
She added that Selah will also house a multitude of parks and recreations such as skate parks, soccer parks, playgrounds and animals, including horse stables and boarding and even riding classes.