Crestwood weighs amending pact with Novus

Medical office/retail building proposed at Big Bend Crossing


Crestwood aldermen were scheduled this week to consider whether to continue a relationship with a developer that has sued the city.

The Board of Aldermen was set to consider Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — amending a contract with the Novus Development Co. to develop a medical office/retail building at Big Bend Crossing.

Jonathan Browne, president of Novus and the Big Bend Crossing Redevelopment Corp., filed suit against the city in 2002 after the Board of Aldermen rejected Browne’s request to approve a credit union business for another lot at Big Bend Crossing. Attorneys for Novus challenged that decision in the lawsuit.

Aldermen rejected the construction of a First Community Credit Union in 2002 largely because a credit union would not generate as much sales-tax revenue as other retail stores would. The board pointed out at that time that another sales-tax producing business would generate $390,000 across a 10-year period while the credit union would collect $9,000 over that time.

Mayor Roy Robinson said that even with the lawsuit still pending, he and other city officials believe that it would be best for all parties if any planned development at Big Bend Crossing still continues before the suit is settled.

“We’re trying to work something out,” Robinson said Monday. “I can’t go into details. We’re trying to work out details with and cooperate with Mr. Browne to see what mutually we can agree to that’s beneficial to go on that property. But we didn’t want to hold up the one that he’s got a contract on. They’re ready to go. We didn’t want to hold that up with this agreement. So that’s what the board will be voting on — to change that agreement to allow that to start the process.”

Specifically, aldermen were scheduled Tuesday night to vote on changing the use of Lot 1 at Big Bend Crossing to allow for the medical office, which is expected to be occupied by a urology physicians group and some retail. That lot currently is designated for retail stores, restaurants or a hotel, and aldermen were set to vote on whether to also allow medical use.

“We were looking at hotels or restaurants,” Robinson said. “But what we were looking for is a certain amount of retail over there and we’ve gotten that in that building. And plus, we’re getting the additional medical office complex there, too, and I think some underground parking and everything.”

In a memo from Economic Development Specialist Ellen Dailey to City Administrator Frank Myers, the mixed-use medical office and retail lot consists of 42,000 square feet of medical office and 14,120 square feet of ground-floor retail. The lot, which would be constructed by Hensley Construction if approved by aldermen Tuesday night, also will include three levels of underground parking for the urology center and retail stores.

Dailey also estimates that based on the property’s expected increase in assessed value once the project is complete, the medical office/retail center on Lot 1 is estimated to generate $23,000 per year in new property-tax revenue and $40,000 per year in sales-tax revenue.

Big Bend Crossing has already seen the development of Sam’s Wholesale Club on Lot 4 and Hardee’s Restaurant on Lot 2.

Robinson said that any plans for Lot 3 likely would have to wait until the city settles the lawsuit with Novus. The credit union was proposed to be built on that lot.

“The lawsuit has not been dissolved,” Robinson said. “It’s still there, but we’re trying to work with Novus to work out a solution agreeable to both sides.

“It’s tough sometimes because past actions create a problem for some. But we’re trying to work with them to try to get the best use of that property — especially with people who are interested in developing over there. It’s an ongoing process. Hopefully, we’ll know what happens with Lot 3 soon.”

Big Bend Crossing is a $20 million project spread across 17 acres southwest of Big Bend Boulevard and Interstate 44.

In Novus’ lawsuit against the city, the developer seeks a declaratory judgment that the section of its contract with Crestwood that is in regard to permitted uses within its area is “void and unenforceable.”

The lawsuit states that Novus is asking the court “for an order declaring Section 2 of the development contract as void and unenforceable as an unlawful act of contract zoning and does not prohibit the use of property as a retail store offering financial services to the general public as set forth in the CUP (conditional-use permit) application.”

Novus’ suit contends that a CUP for a credit union would be “within the general use description of ‘retail stores’ under Section 2 of the development contract.”

Novus had asked aldermen in September 2002 to allow First Community Credit Union to construct a retail banking facility on Lot 3. The developer proposed that the credit union would have a 20-year lease with the right to exercise four, five-year extensions.

Because of concerns about the drop in sales-tax revenue that the city would see at that location if a credit union were approved, aldermen denied that request and said the redevelopment agreement allowed for retail stores — not credit unions — at that location.

Robinson, who previously said at an October 2005 town-hall meeting that the lawsuit with Novus essentially was settled and being finalized, indicated Monday that no settlement has been reached and that the city is still working with Novus to come to an agreement.

“It has not been settled,” Robinson said. “We’re working towards that direction to try to have some kind of an agreement or understanding with Mr. Browne. We’ve been working diligently to try to settle that and get those properties under development.”

Browne was not available for comment before press time.

Besides considering the further development of Big Bend Crossing, aldermen also were scheduled Tuesday night to vote on approving residential rezoning for the relocation of the Arban/Crain House.

The house, which is at Sappington Square, is in danger of demolition at its current site. As proposed, it would be moved in October to 8659 Pardee Lane.

That lot currently is zoned M-1 light industrial and is proposed to be switched to R-4 residential zoning.

Resident Tom Batsch is working with Sappington Square Corp. to contribute funds associated with the cost of moving the house to its new location. The house is planned to be used as a museum or for community purposes.