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Mitchell lawyer carves TIF niche

One name has been associated with tax increment financing in Mitchell more than any other — Don Petersen. Petersen, an attorney at the Mitchell law firm Morgan Theeler, has represented developers involved in 12 of the 13 tax increment financing districts, or TIF districts, created in and around Mitchell since he worked on a TIF district to aid the construction of the Highland Conference Center in the mid-2000s.

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In a TIF district, financing is issued for infrastructure improvements, such as roads or sewers, to aid development within the district boundaries.

New taxes from construction in the district — or higher taxes, in some cases, because of improvements made in the district — are then captured for an agreed upon period of time to pay off the initial financing.

Since the Highland Conference Center TIF district, which provided $1.8 million to aid construction of the facility in southern Mitchell, Petersen has been involved in TIF districts that have provided millions of dollars to fund public infrastructure improvements around new developments in Mitchell and Davison County.

Why has Petersen become the go-to lawyer for TIFs in Mitchell? There simply aren’t many lawyers who work with TIFs in the area, he said.

“Because I was doing them, other people hired me to do them,” he said. “You end up developing a niche.”

Petersen, a general practice lawyer, does work in areas of the law outside of TIF districts.

“They come in streaks,” he said, referring to TIFs. “Earlier this year, I had three different ones going, which is unusual.”

Petersen said he simply acts as a go-between for the developer and government entity, typically the city or county.

“My job is to present the project plan and appear in front of the various committees, and answer questions about the project and the plans,” he said.

Petersen noted he is not directly involved in securing financing for TIF districts.

“I have nothing to do with the financing,” he said. “The only thing I’m doing is putting together a project plan and presenting it.”

TIF districts have been useful in aiding development in the city, Petersen said.

“I really think they’re a good tool. They’ve really worked well for the city of Mitchell.”