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Frisco, Texas
[United States]
Posted on : Jun 07, 2012

The Exide Technologies lead-acid battery recycling plant has long been a contentious issue in Frisco. When it was confirmed late last week the plant would cease operations, little was known about what its closure would entail. That changed this week, as the city has begun formulating plans for the land.


Perhaps the most obvious benefit to the city's real estate addition is the potential for business opportunities. Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said there are multiple reasons why the deal's business implications will benefit both the city and its residents, however.


"There's not just one benefit from the deal -- there's several beneficial things for the community," Maso said. "Of course one aspect is it's a prime piece of property in the center of our city that can have some very beneficial uses. Another is the industrial use in the heart of the city will no longer be operating. The adjoining property values and uses should also improve; I've heard from adjoining property owners and they're pretty excited about this [deal]. So, overall, it's a very beneficial business deal for the community moving forward."


Maso and the Frisco City Council had been looking at several routes to get rid of the Exide plant since 2008. Litigation was one route under consideration, although the group decided working with Exide would be the best course of action for all parties, Maso said.


"As we've told our residents, we have many tools available to us, and we worked many of them in parallel -- in other words we weren't focused on one thing," he said. "About three months ago the council asked the board of adjustments to look at amortizing the non-conforming use [of the land], and that trigged many different things, such as potential litigation."


After considering the city's options, Maso and City Manager George Purefoy met with Exide's executives to discuss the possible options for the closure of the plant. The meetings went well, resulting in a deal Maso said is beneficial to the city and its residents as well as Exide.


The land transfer isn't being directly paid for by the city of Frisco, however. The Frisco Economic Development Corporation and Frisco Community Development Corporation will pay Exide $45 million for 180 acres of undeveloped land surrounding the Exide plant. Exide will retain ownership of the 80 acres of land the plant currently resides on.


Maso cites businesses as key to the development of the 180 acres Exide is selling due to the land's prime location by the Dallas North Tollway. The city is also looking at public and government facilities such as a training center for fire fighters and public parks, however.


One component of the deal Maso and the city wants to make clear is that it will not result in any property tax increase for Frisco citizens. Instead, Maso hopes, the city will benefit from new development on the land. The city expects commercial property values to increase as a result of development, which will then increase the city's commercial property tax collections.


"The Economic Development Corporation and Community Development Corporation were created through elections many years ago, and they're funded by sales taxes, not property taxes," Maso said. "The mission of the Economic Development Corporation is to invest in opportunities that create jobs for our city. No projects are losing funding; this is an allowed and needed use -- this is actually an opportunity for the EDC to meet its mission."


Health ramifications were one of the major concerns from Frisco citizens regarding the Exide plant's operations in the city. In late 2008, Exide submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to increase emissions at the facility.


"Obviously we're not a health organization, but I can tell you our citizens were very concerned about the plant being here," Maso said. "We heard from our residents that this was an important issue. Because we are a representative democracy, so we took that input and everything we've done has been based on that input."


After the plant ceases operations before the end of the year, Exide will have to receive approval and permits to dismantle its facilities. Maso expects the plant to be entirely dismantled by July 2013. Next, Exide will commence cleaning up the land to comply with state and federal laws, which Maso believes will be completed by 2014.


While Exide will retain ownership of 80 acres, the city has obtained the right to purchase the land once its cleanup is complete. Maso said the land Exide is retaining has a higher toxicity level than the 180 acres being transferred, meaning its cleanup will take longer.


"There are currently no plans for that land and the city has the right of first refusal on it," Maso said. "The rest of the land will be cleaned up on behalf of the city by Exide, and that's very minimal contamination -- we've already done the testing. That land will be very useful for the city's development going forward."


When all considerations were taken into account, Maso said, the deal simply worked.


"Overall, it's been a fairly broad concern from our residents about the use and potential ramifications of the plant," he said. "It was more about the growth of Frisco and the need for our citizens to feel comfortable living here. Frankly, Exide was good to work with, and we came up with this solution that's beneficial to them as well. In the end I think it's going to work for everybody."

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