Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

In Part III of this three-part blog, I offer the specifics of the Glendale GPLET and Worker Power’s public statements regarding their opposition to the GPLET.

In the Fall of 2020, Applied Economics submitted an analysis requested by and paid for by the city. Its purpose was to present future tax revenues should the city decide to incentivize the development of what, at that time, was called Crystal Lagoon (now known as VAI Resort). The report also presented two other development alternatives for the same site. Keep in mind that the information I cite from this report is based upon old numbers. Since that report Crystal Lagoon is now VAI Resort and the hotel portion of the site has doubled. In recognition of these facts, the city has commissioned an updated report from Applied Economics. It is not yet available.

The 2020 report concluded that, “The proposed incentive structure outlined here would include permit and plan fee waivers of up to $1 million and a 25-year Government Property Lease Excise Tax agreement (GPLET) on the entertainment, recreation and concessions portions of the development. The total value of the incentive is estimated at $29.7 million, in return for $700.8 million in new sales, property and bed tax revenues to the city, county and state over the next 25 years. These incentives are performance based and the amounts will be less if the project is not built in its entirety.” (Page 2, Applied Economics, August 31, 2020).

The report goes on to state, “In terms of precedent for including the lagoon, Tempe has included sections of the Tempe Town Lake in the parcels for several different GPLETs that also include various types of development along the shoreline.” (Page 6, Applied Economics, August 31, 2020).

Further, “In order to demonstrate that the proposed GPLET meets the economic and fiscal benefit requirement in A.R.S. 42-6206, it is necessary to isolate the portion of the development that would be part of the GPLET. This analysis considers the property tax impacts the GPLET relative to the amount of benefit to the property owner or prime lessee. During the 25 year term, the prime lessee would normally pay lease excise tax instead of real property tax, although the recreation, entertainment and related retail and restaurant concessions of the development are assumed to b exempt from lease excise taxes…The estimated public benefit, or value of the other tax revenues generated by the projects exceeds the property tax savings to the prime lessee from the GPLET by $176.2 million over the 25 year term.” (Pages 6-7, Applied Economics, August 31, 2020).

Lastly, “The Crystal Lagoon Island Resort could result in an annual increase in property tax revenues to schools of $2.8 million, and $3.7 million to all jurisdictions in total after accounting for the GPLET exemptions.” (Page 12, Applied Economics, August 31, 2020).

What the report said is that this property, incentivized with a GPLET earns more money per year over the 25-year period for the city, the schools, the county and the state than if it were allowed to develop sometime in the future as apartments, retail and office buildings with no incentive.

Why does Worker Power object? In an Arizona Republic story dated 7/28/2023, entitled Community group that fought Tempe’s entertainment district aims for Glendale’s VAI Resort, Jordan Greenslade, a Worker Power senior field director, claimed that this tax break was unnecessary, stating, “Greenslade explained that the tax exemption was likely an initiative that began as a means to bring growth and prosperity to an area that could benefit from the jobs and development. Though, as Greenslade noted, Glendale is not that. In fact, Glendale is booming with development.

With additions like the Cardinals’ stadium and Westgate Entertainment District, Greenslade does not see why a 25-year tax break was necessary to draw a luxury resort like VAI to a booming tourist destination.”

Let’s unpack Greenslade’s assumption. He obviously hasn’t done his homework and has no knowledge of the history of this site. Historically, it has been farmed. About ten years ago Michael Bidwill bought the site, called it Organic 101 and had planned to build a gazillion apartments and some office buildings on the site. Apparently, that was not to be, and Bidwill let the property go into bankruptcy.  About six years ago, IKEA had the property in escrow but never completed the sale, so it remained farmland.

It was obvious, despite the success of Westgate, no entity was willing to purchase this site and make a major investment in its development until ECL (now VAI) approached the city with its vision for development and asking the city to consider offering an incentive for such a massive project. The city commissioned the Applied Economics study in 2020 and based upon the facts presented in the study, entered into a development agreement.

The massive size of this development coupled with an investment of a billion dollars along with the revenue return of this project justified an offer to incentivize this project ensuring that this coveted project would come to Glendale and be a perfect fit for Westgate, the city’s sports and entertainment district. Glendale has never had a resort within its jurisdiction and its placement at Westgate on an underutilized piece of farmland made good, economic sense.

The Phoenix Business Journal on 7/28/2023, ran this story entitled, Labor group that opposed Coyotes’ arena wants Glendale resort incentives placed on ballot. The article states, “Brendan Walsh, executive director of Worker Power Institute, said in a statement that GPLETs should ‘not be used to subsidize luxury development that brings little or no benefits to working families already living in the area’.”

Mr. Walsh is offering the same brand of Kool-Aid as Mr. Greenslade. This massive development project will employ at least 1800 Glendale residents. Every possible kind of job from restaurant waitresses and bar tenders to hotel workers to retail managers to skilled tradesmen to maintain this massive property. Another 1800 jobs is nothing to sneeze at and certainly is a major benefit to “working families already living in the area.”

Worker Power on its website offer the following as its Economic Policy:

“A primary focus of Worker Power’s advocacy efforts has been to challenge the misuse of GPLETs (Government Property Lease Excise Tax) by local municipalities. GPLET is a tax abatement program used to spur development in Arizona cities. While these developments purport to bring new jobs and additional tax revenues to aid the economy, GPLETs can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars not spent on local schools and other community needs over time. In addition, GPLETs can contribute to gentrification, exacerbate the deepening housing affordability crisis in our cities, and push low-wage earners out of town.”

Where is the “misuse” of the GPLET in this case? There is none. The Applied Economics study of 2020 stated that all entities – the city, the schools, the county and the state, earn more revenue over 25 years with this GPLET than without.

In addition, Glendale is leading the forefront of Valley cities in creatively financing affordable housing within the community. In fact, Glendale’s homeless population has decreased year over year. There is no demonstration of fact by Worker’s power that Glendale is “pushing low-wage earners out of town.”

Worker Power is spouting phrases designed to gin up general citizen support with absolutely no fact to back up their baseless accusations. It’s as if just because they said it and they are a PAC, it must be true. They are looking for a cause where none exists.

The deadline for turning in their petitions was last Thursday at 5 PM. The signatures collected are in the process of being verified. They claim to have collected over 5,000 signatures but how many of them are good and can be verified?

Worker Power has no legitimate cause to follow in Glendale. Really…don’t be buyin’ their brand of nonsense.

© Joyce Clark, 2023     


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