Crestwood aldermen vote 6-1 to OK Sappington Square CID

By BURKE WASSON

First, the Arban/Crain House was moved to make room for new businesses at Sappington Square in Crestwood.

Now, aldermen have moved to establish a community-improvement district, or CID, that could help fund up to $2.5 million of the estimated $13.653 million project.

That possible $2.5 million funding — which will be accumulated from a 20-year, one-cent sales tax at Sappington Square — yields a private-to-public funding ratio of $5.46 spent by the Sappington Square Corp. for every dollar that could be gained from the public tax.

Specifically, the CID revenue will fund such infrastructure upgrades as stormwater-prevention improvements, traffic improvements, parking-lot construction and landscaping.

While the corporation will not yet reveal which businesses will open, they have said that Sappington Square should see its first stores open next summer.

During the board’s Oct. 24 meeting, aldermen authorized the one-cent sales tax through the CID by a 6-1 vote.

Board President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3 was opposed, and Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby was absent.

Miguel initially put the formation of the CID on hold by voting “no” on a second reading of a bill approving the tax-incentive district after Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland voted in favor of the second reading.

But after aldermen and Mayor Roy Robinson expressed a willingness to schedule a special meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31, to again vote on the CID ordinance for Sappington Square, Miguel reconsidered his vote for the second reading.

“I’m willing to give up that night (Halloween) with my family to take care of that,” Bland said.

“Since this was bungled beyond belief, we can come in on Halloween,” said Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher.

“I will reconsider my vote if the board wants to move forward on that,” Miguel said.

After Miguel’s motion for reconsideration was approved, the second reading of the bill was passed 7-0 before the board approved the Sappington Square CID by a 6-1 vote.

Miguel stated that while he is not opposed to the formation of a CID and definitely favors the development of Sappington Square, he questions whether the $2.5 million requested is too much. He also was concerned about the Sappington Square Corp. making any interfund budget transfers for the project if certain categories in the budget could be funded with perhaps less money than originally estimated.

“Looking at the request for the petition, the request is for $2.5 million,” Miguel said. “But I do not see a breakdown of the categories for which funding is requested. I think it’s important that the board know exactly where the monies are going to go … I think these items should be spelled out in detail. I think the board should consider a statement in the CID that unused amounts in any one category not be transferable to another category. Otherwise, essentially what we’re doing is giving the developer a check for whatever that bottom-line amount is.”

City Administrator Frank Myers said that because the city will have representation on the Sappington Square CID board, Miguel’s concern about certain budget expenses and interfund transfers are alleviated because the CID board controls the spending.

“One of the things the city has done in the past to kind of safeguard itself to make sure it controls the purse strings of these CIDs and TDDs (transportation-development districts) is that it had majority control of these boards,” Myers said. “And this particular petition before you this evening for the creation of this district gives the city control of the board. And if you control the board, the board votes on these expenditures. And the board that’s going to be governing certainly has procedural issues they can do to manage these costs. We have a CID that’s in effect right now where the board is going to have to make a decision on a request for reimbursement from a particular developer. We’re working with legal counsel and doing the due diligence. So there’s those controls that are in place with this petition that’s before you this evening. That said, would it be better to have a policy and work all these issues out? I agree. But this is a fast-track project as I understand it that’s been worked on for several years. There’s been some eminent-domain issues that had to get worked out, a business that has been acquired and moved out, a house that has been moved. And there is some urgency to meet businesses that want to relocate in other spaces and other commitments to retailers to locate by June in 2007 that we move forward rather quickly …”

“I understand the urgency,” Miguel said. “There is always urgency when something comes to this board … I’m suggesting that there’s policy issues here that we’re kind of rushing through. And the imposition of this sales tax, once we pass on this ordinance or petition and approve a 1-percent sales tax, then that power is given to the five-member board. And it will be a 1-percent sales tax for the next 20 years. Now do we want to pass a sales tax for the next 20 years? Do we want to become known as the city with the 1-percent sales tax?”

“I think the answer to that is do we want to be known as the city without any new businesses going into our developments in our city?” Robinson said.

In response to Miguel’s concerns, Bland said he agrees that aldermen should more closely look at the city’s policy on its economic-development tools. However, with the Sappington Square project already having a development contract approved by the board in January and discussions on the project dating back to mid-2005, Bland said he does not believe the project should be delayed any further.

“Alderman Miguel, you bring up several good points,” Bland said. “I think there are some policy things that maybe we do need to look at in the future. With future projects, we’ll have that luxury … I would be highly amenable to be involved in setting up policies for the future.

“However, this is not a future project. This is a project that’s been sitting for quite some time. We finally get a little bit of movement literally and figuratively, and now we’re talking about I don’t know. My fear is that we do have momentum now. We’ve cleared the Meineke shop. We’ve moved the house.

“We’re starting to move trees out of there. It’s looking very different every time I come home. What I sure don’t want to see is us kind of balk on this tonight. The city attorney says that everything seems to be standard operating procedures. I’m comfortable with that as well. We take a pass on this, we be inclined to take a slow route, we may very well see a muddy pit up there at the corner of Watson and Old Sappington (Road). Now you may not drive by that every day. I do. And that’s not something that I care to see. And I think I speak for my constituents and I don’t think they want to see that either. We’ve got momentum. This thing’s moving forward. I would like to see it come to fruition as well,” Bland said.