The trail of TIRZ/Management District horrors continues. This time it is the Montrose Management District (MMD).
The MMD was formed in 2011 from the merger of two earlier improvement districts which had been authorized by the Legislature. Since the merger in 2011, MMD has collected over $12 million in assessments from businesses in the Montrose area. Last week, a District Judge ruled that the petition used by MMD to assess a tax against Montrose businesses did not have the requisite 25 signatures. Of course, the fact that the Legislature passed a law that would allow as few as 25 property owners to authorize a tax on hundreds of property owners is absurd on its face. But MMD, according to the Court’s ruling, could not even meet this ridiculously low bar.
Most problematic for MMD is that the Court ruled that it must reimburse the $6.5 million in illegally collected assessments.
[Click [here] to see the Court’s ruling.]
Of course, the MMD does not have anywhere close to $6.5 million. According to its most recent audit, it only had about $600,000 in cash at year-end and according to recent monthly reports, it appears to have even less now.
But MMD’s problems don’t end there. After it levied the 2011 assessment, property owners in Montrose began collecting signatures to dissolve the MMD. According to the statute, that requires property owners owning 75% of the land in the District. Pretty fair don’t you think? It only takes 25 property owners to authorize an assessment, but 75% of everyone in the district to undo it. Just in case you had any doubt about our Legislature being in the bag for these special districts.
Over several years, the dissident owners collected nearly 900 signatures which they contend constitutes over 80% of the land in the MMD. But when they submitted the petitions, MMD took a page out of the City of Houston’s playbook and invalidated about a third of the signatures. One of the property owners I interviewed said the MMD invalidated his petition on the four properties he owned without anyone ever contacting him to verify whether he owned the properties or had actually signed the petitions.
When you look at how the MMD has been spending its money you can understand why the vast majority of business owners in Montrose want to dissolve the district. The following is a table of the revenue and expenses taken from the MMD’s audits.
From 2011-2017, the MMD has collected over $12 million from Montrose businesses and has spent about $11.5 million. Forty-three percent (43%) of its expenditures, right at $5 million, have been for administrative expenses, legal fees and business development expenses. The management consultant for the MMD alone has been paid nearly $1.5 million and is currently being paid over $30,000 per month. No wonder the property owners want to get this monkey off their backs.
Management districts and TIRZs were originally formed to assist neighborhoods with redevelopment. If they are doing their jobs, they should be welcomed by the businesses and residents they serve. Increasingly though we are seeing situations like the Uptown TIRZ and now the Montrose Management District where these entities are at war with the neighborhoods they are supposed to be serving. And to make matters worse, the bureaucrats and lawyers running these districts are getting rich in the process.
Hopefully the next Legislature will take a hard look at these special districts. But given some of the conflicts of interest that abound with respect to these districts in the Legislature, that may be wishful thinking on my part. More on that topic soon.
The next meeting of the MMD Board is next Monday (November 13) at noon at University of Saint Thomas, Carol Tatkon Boardroom, 3807 Graustark, Houston, TX 77006. Parking is available at the Moran Parking Garage. The vast majority of Montrose business owners who are opposed to the continued existence of this district should show up at this meeting and make it plain to the board: Go away!