Crestwood board again delays selection of bond counsel

Foote expresses concerns over Centrum’s initial plans

By Kari Williams

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen last week postponed selecting special and bond counsel for the proposed redevelopment of Crestwood Court for a second time with a 7-1 vote.

Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan was opposed. Though aldermen need to take into consideration the economic environment, Duncan told the board July 24 she worries it is “plodding along with some of these decisions.”

“The meter’s not going to run if we choose special counsel and bond counsel tonight,” she said. “I would certainly want my team assembled before the other team comes with their plans. I would feel like we have to look like experts.”

Ward 4 Alderman John Foote told the board he has grown “somewhat concerned” with Crestwood Court’s proposed redevelopment because it is “one of (the city’s) most key points.” The initial development plan proposed by Centrum Properties, which owns the mall, included a grocery store and the possibility of a fitness center and bowling alley, which the city already has “a fair number of,” according to Foote.

“I’m not entirely sure they’re going to make us the kind of return we would need to support this city because this support of this city is going to depend heavily on what we do with this mall,” he said.

Though he is not against progress, Foote said if the city does not “make the right move” the consequences are “dire.”

Regarding the proposed redevelopment plans, which Centrum Properties presented to the board in June, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said all the city has at this point is “an idea.”

“To me, that is extremely vague for me to select a bond counsel. When I select a bond counsel, I would like to see something more specific,” he said. “I’d like to know the number of dollars we’re talking about. I’d like to have more firm information on who the tenants are going to be.”

City Attorney Rob Golterman told the board the next step in the redevelopment process is the city issuing a request for redevelopment proposals. He said he believes it is important to have special counsel review the request for redevelopment proposals because the request is required by the state’s Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, Act.

“This city has never been down that road so to speak because the last time a TIF was done in this city there was not a county TIF commission …,” he said. “A lot of this is new as well, which is another reason I think it’s important that we get special counsel on board that has experience in these areas, but the timing is really all dependent on the Board of Aldermen.”

The request for redevelopment proposals “simply outlines what the developer envisions the project to be,” Golterman said.

“It just sets forth what they believe they need for the project,” he said. “By issuing the request for redevelopment proposals the board is not, cannot, legally be agreeing to anything in terms of public finances.”

However, Golterman said he is not advocating aldermen to proceed if they are uncomfortable about the process.

Miguel said he was not prepared to select between Gilmore & Bell and Thompson Coburn — the two firms that responded to a previously issued request for proposals — because he had “other ideas.”

“It seems to me that from what I’m hearing and the way this process is now structured, you’re more than capable of bringing us to the next step,” Miguel told Golterman, who works for Lewis, Rice and Fingersh.

Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen asked if waiting to act on bond counsel selection would be harmful to the process, to which Golterman responded, he does not think waiting would do “irreparable harm.”

The city attorney also said selecting special and bond counsel but not having them do any work for Crestwood would not cost the city.

Tennessen said if the next step in the process is to put out an RFP for special counsel, or to utilize Golterman’s firm, then he prefers to “step forward and engage rather than to wait.”

Mayor Jeff Schlink said he believes everyone has the same objective — to have Crestwood Court redeveloped — but getting to that point is where opinions differ.

“How we get there, we have different opinions. Whether or not tax dollars are involved, that’s where we have different opinions …,” Schlink said.

The mayor also said even though Centrum has a request for a timetable, the city controls the timetable.

“I haven’t seen anybody on this board say we need to move this through as quickly as we can,” Schlink said. “I’ve heard no one say on this board, publicly, that we need to do everything we can to make this thing happen either.”

The mayor said he believes the board plans to look at the redevelopment process “very, very closely.”

“… I think what this board plans on doing is … making sure that this is a win for the community, while not hampering our wonderful school district, while not saddling our residents with any additional taxes based off of the way that the tax rates would be frozen there,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to direct Lewis, Rice and Fingersh to develop the request for redevelopment proposals and to approve the issuance of requests for proposals for planning services for proposed redevelopment of Crestwood Court.