Commercial realtors get political

New hire to focus on dealing with local, state governments

Because regulation of commercial development intensifies on both state and local levels, Wisconsin’s Commercial Association of Realtors (CAR) has decided to take a more aggressive posture with government entities in the state.
John Periard has accepted the newly-created position of public affairs director for CAR and its affiliated organizations Building Owners and Managers Association of Milwaukee and Apartment Owners and Managers Association of Milwaukee. Periard grew up on Milwaukee’s south side, and is returning to the area after holding a similar position with the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors. He also has related experience in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

Multiple levels
The challenge before Periard and the real estate organizations is significant as regulation affecting commercial development in Wisconsin comes not only from state government, but from counties and municipalities. Municipalities in particular are a handful, as zoning code, architectural standards and general attitudes about development change significantly at the border between each incorporated entity.
One of the first goals Periard would like to achieve is creation of a booklet outlining the development policies of each municipality.
In time, though, a more proactive approach could materialize.
"We would like to help these municipalities streamline their development procedures to be similar to Milwaukee’s," Periard said. "We could develop model rules by which development procedures could be more standardized."
According to CAR Executive Vice President Christopher Ruditys, while moving dozens of municipal governments may be difficult, the associations are not without influence.
"We have as members the most powerful brokers and developers," Ruditys said. "They have a stake in the community."

Positions staked out
The association already has a preliminary list of issues it plans to focus its efforts on, ranging from indoor air quality to the overall business tax climate.
Given positions taken by some developers on the issue, the fact that CAR supports the elimination of shared revenue — payments made to municipalities by the state to control property taxes — is surprising. Community development officials have claimed that eliminating shared revenue would halt development in the state, and make it particularly difficult to create new Tax Incremental Finance districts.
Developers have expressed concerns to McCallum as well, particularly about a portion of the bill that would establish levy limits.
"Our concern isn’t so much the shared revenue," said Sanjay Kuttemperoor, executive vice president of V.K. Development in Brookfield. "Obviously, eliminating this would drastically affect municipal budgets. But one of the items of the bill seems to be proposing a cap on the levy limits. This would prevent municipal governments from taxing to provide services to newly developed areas. The Village of Pleasant Prairie, for instance, is considering moratoriums on development."
Kuttemperoor said he did not consider Pleasant Prairie’s talk of halting development an idle threat.
"I think they are genuinely concerned," Kuttemperoor said. "I don’t think they are posturing It is these smaller communities that are affected the most because they are the ones seeing the largest increase in tax base so the cap would affect them the most."
An employee of the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA) said their organization, which belongs to the same national association as CAR, said their organization supports the governor’s budget in principal, but also has concerns with levy limits.
"We took a position on the broader principals of the governor’s budget that we needed to get the deficit under control without raising taxes," WRA Director of Land Use and Environmental Affairs Tom Larson said. "We supported the idea of full funding for schools because they are important to the quality of life in Wisconsin and for housing. We supported providing funding for the most needy of the needy. But we thought there were 100 ways to accomplish this."
Despite measures in the budget bill to allow some levy increases, Larson said he has not seen a version that would address concerns over the effect on development.
"You wouldn’t be able to take the full benefit of growth," Larson said. "That was our concern. They tried to provide for residential growth by allowing levies to increase based on the consumer price index plus population growth. But that doesn’t help commercial or industrial development."
Larson indicated that there is plenty wrong with the current system of shared revenue, and that he anticipated a replacement source of revenue would emerge from a think tank McCallum created. He said WRA would also support the elimination of unfounded mandates placed on municipalities by the state.
But for the time being, he anticipated that CAR’s position on shared revenue would continue to evolve.
"He’s been on staff for only two weeks," Larson said of Periard. "He is trying to follow the company line that we support the governor’s budget."

Redistricting a concern
The association also indicated that it is paying close attention to the redistricting process currently under way for Wisconsin’s assembly seats.
"It is essential we have people in office who understand the needs of commercial real estate," Ruditys said. "We are going to work closely with the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which has been a supporter in the past. In a typical (state legislative) session, they have more than 100 bills that affect us."
Ruditys said the association also will take a position on the widening of Interstate 43 – a position that may include expanded bus service and other options.

April 26, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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