Crestwood mall proposal ‘picking pockets’ of Lindbergh, community

To the editor:

It’s been fascinating to observe developments in two distinctly different news stories over the past couple of weeks.

In Paris, workers were so irritated over the French government’s indifference to address the rampant scourge of pickpockets in the Eiffel Tower area that they forced a daylong shutdown of the monument in protest. I’ll get back to that point in a moment.

Meanwhile, back in south county, the sentiment that something should be done to remedy our community’s albatross — formerly known as the Crestwood Mall — appears to have been placated by a slick mixed-use proposal from UrbanStreet Group. A closer look at the proposal, however, leads me to believe that no deal is better than the bad deal in store for Lindbergh Schools and its constituents.

In an unprecedented move, UrbanStreet Group is seeking tax-increment financing, or TIF, for residential property. Typically reserved to redevelop commercial property, a TIF can offer attractive incentives to revive businesses and redevelop shopping destinations to benefit the community at large. By forgoing collection of taxes, the community technically shares with the developer in the recovery of redevelopment expenses.

While the community expense-sharing applies to residential redevelopment as well, a TIF for residential property is markedly different in its application, as it deprives public schools of property-tax income to educate the students housed in the development.

The result? Over $200,000 in taxes not collected each year through the proposed tax incentives will go into the pockets of UrbanStreet Group. Further, students will show up to be educated at Lindbergh Schools without a nickel of property-tax income to cover the expense associated with their education. In the end, UrbanStreet Group will have deftly arranged for others to pick up the tab. “Picking up the tab” means that the Lindbergh community — not UrbanStreet Group — will have to pay the price for the additional teachers and facilities that will accompany the inevitable additional student enrollment.

Here’s where I circle back to the Paris news story. The Crestwood mall proposal, in its present form, is literally picking the pockets of Lindbergh Schools and the community at large.

I hope our leaders in Crestwood demonstrate the courage and common sense to not rush to fund this project using a residential tax incentive that’s a bad deal not only for our public schools, but also the community as a whole.

If not, when the time comes to pick up the tab for the new students, we all certainly know where to look for our wallets.