Brockhaus, Flowers vie for Sunset Hills Ward 3 seat

Robert Brockhaus

Robert Brockhaus

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lynn David Flowers is seeking to oust Sunset Hills Ward 3 Alderman Robert Brockhaus in the April 4 election.

A third candidate, Stephen Webb, 11948 Lombardy Lane, 63128, has withdrawn from the race, though his name still will appear on the ballot. The seat carries a two-year term.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates responded:

• “Sunset Manor. To seek solutions which are desired by the majority of the Sunset Manor property owners and are in the best interests of the residents of all of Sunset Hills. These issues are complex and need thoughtful, rational and long-term solutions — not simplistic emotional responses that address only a portion of the issues. Simply being against eminent domain is not a solution. Far more must be done. Working together in the best interests of all is the only way to obtain long-term solutions. I pledge to be against eminent domain abuse and for the best interests of the residents of Sunset Hills,” Brockhaus stated.

• “The most important issue is the redevelopment of Sunset Manor. This issue continues to affect the lives of the residents of Sunset Manor. Those who still live there now live in an area that is partially abandoned. There are boarded-up homes and businesses, and those folks that are left can’t sell. The area is generally in disrepair. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and it has become very complicated now that Westfield has bought property in the area and Novus has been removed as the developer,” Flowers stated.

Brockhaus, 65, 10000 Hilltop Drive, 63128, is a business consultant and owner of Progressive Management Enterprises Ltd. He and his wife, Joyce, have two adult children.

Brockhaus, who has served on the Sunset Hills board since 1998, is seeking re-election because he believes “that as a lifelong resident of Sunset Hills, my eight years as an alderman and educational, professional and community service combined with my leadership abilities have provided me with the knowledge, experience and seniority to ensure that the interest and the desires of residents are understood and fulfilled … (S)ince first elected eight years ago, I have never accepted any campaign contributions — directly or indirectly — or any endorsements. Therefore, my decisions are never influenced by others, but only made in the best interests of the residents of Sunset Hills.”

Flowers, 59, 9930 Meppen Drive, 62138, is a part-time technical consultant to AmerenUE. He and his wife, Linda, have two grown children.

Flowers, who has never held elective office, serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. He is seeking election because “I have a deep abiding concern for the welfare and well-being of my neighborhood and my community. Every day I walk the area and I see the needs of the community firsthand. I know which streets need maintenance, which trash hauler littered the neighborhood and what city crew is working in the area. The advantage to living in Sunset Hills is you get a voice in local decisions. I think the residents of Ward 3 need someone who will energetically and conscientiously represent that voice.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing — TIF?

Brockhaus said, “The city is never at a financial risk with a TIF. The entire risk is borne by the developer, the banks and the purchasers of the bonds. A TIF allows the developer, instead of paying property taxes for a fixed period of years on the increase in property value due to the new construction, to place that amount of money into the TIF fund, which eventually is used to retire the bonds. If the construction would not occur without the TIF, then there wouldn’t be any increased property value and, therefore, no additional tax revenue in the first place. Therefore, there is no actual tax loss … Just as previous city administrations had the foresight to use TIFs to allow present property taxes to remain low, so the current board sought to take the steps to allow the property tax rates in future years to remain low. The members of the TIF Commission who voted against the TIF were not residents of Sunset Hills, while all of the Sunset Hills residents on the TIF committee voted for the TIF. While I respect the opinions of non-Sunset Hills residents, I believe that our own residents have the best insight into what is best for the city.”

Flowers said, “Tax-increment financing is a method used to help finance the public and private costs of a development. This is done by removing the tax-base increases in the designated TIF district, which means that the Lindbergh School District would miss out on increased taxes in the TIF district for the duration of the TIF. Guess who will be asked to make up the shortfall? The original intent of tax-increment financing was to provide money to combat ‘blight’ in disadvantaged communities. However, TIF use in the St. Louis and surrounding area has very seldom been used for that purpose … I would find it difficult to vote for a TIF to help a developer in Sunset Hills mainly because I think redevelopment can occur without the use of a TIF. Except for the current condition of Sunset Manor, there is nowhere in Sunset Hills I would consider blighted.”

Do you agree with the direction the city is moving?

Brockhaus said, “During the past eight years that I have served as the Ward 3 alderman, Sunset Hills has added over 175 new businesses, constructed over 350 new high-quality homes, doubled the number of city parks and the number of park acres, provided quality police protection, improved every street in Ward 3 — except my own, Hilltop Drive, which will receive a major reconstruction in 2007 — and developed a reserve of $4.5 million while maintaining a tax rate that is one of the lowest in St. Louis County. In addition, office and retail spaces are in high demand, and home values continue to increase … These results didn’t happen by accident. The elected officials working closely with the city’s employees have achieved these results through good management and sound financial decisions. I am proud that I and other members of the Board of Aldermen did not yield to the expensive efforts by Westfield Shopping Centers, a very large international owner of shopping centers based in Australia, to influence our votes and your opinions.”

Flowers said, “The city does some things very well. I know there are good, hard-working and dedicated people who work for the city and I think the current administration is doing what it feels is in the city’s best interest. But there are a lot of things I think the city can do better.

“Everyone gets stale in their job after a while. Just as in any organization, you have some people just going through the motions to get through the day, and there are others who are motivated to do a job well … I also see a need for more enforcement of zoning restrictions. A lot of violations have been let go or rules not enforced. So I think, in general, the city is moving along in the right direction, but it is as if the city is on autopilot with no one doing much unless a complaint is filed.”