CSGA chairman refuses to respond to alderman’s question about group

By Mike Anthony

Seconds after alleging the process used to redevelop the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads was “illegal,” Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance Chairman Kelley Isherwood of Oakville walked out of the Crestwood Aldermanic Chamber, refusing to answer an alderman’s question about his organization.

The opening of a new Kohl’s Department Store in October marked the final chapter in a process that began more than six years ago to redevelop the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads. During the Dec. 9 Board of Aldermen meeting, Isherwood alleged the process used to redevelop the corner was illegal and pledged to “challenge it from this point forward.”

Under the terms of an amended redevelopment agreement, the developer of the northwest corner of Watson and Sappington roads, THF Realty, is eligible to receive up to $2.285 million in tax-increment financing. In addition, the amended pact created a transportation development district and a community improvement district, two funding mechanisms that will bring the total assistance package THF Realty is eligible to receive to $3.5 million.

During his comments, Isherwood also criticized the board’s decision to have a financial adviser conduct a feasibility study to determine whether there could be a private placement of bonds that will be issued to fund the TIF obligations for the redevelopment project.

In a Dec. 9 memorandum to the Board of Aldermen, City Administrator Don Greer noted that when the redevelopment project was initiated, “it was conceived that the TIF would consist of multiple businesses, run over 10 years and require a public issuance of TIF obligations.”

At that time, the board had selected A.G. Edwards to provide financial consulting services for a fixed fee of $20,000.

“It is currently estimated that the payout will be less than five years,” Greer’s memo stated. “With this limited time period, a private placement of the obligations may afford the city an opportunity to further compact the payout period beyond simply having the developer, THF Realty, hold TIF notes for the life of the project.”

In his memo, Greer recommended that the board have WM Financial Strategies conduct a study to determine the feasibility of a private placement of the TIF obligations. The cost of the study is $3,000 and should the city approve a private placement of the obligations, WM Financial Strategies would execute the sale for an additional $3,000.

“These costs are both recoverable under the TIF and are $14,000 less than what was originally contemplated,” the memo stated.

Aldermen voted 7-0 with Ward 3 Alderman “Bernie” Alexander absent to adopt an ordinance approving the agreement with WM Financial Strategies. The action nullifies the previous selection of A.G. Edwards as financial adviser for the project because no agreement for the firm’s services ever was executed, City Attorney Rob Golterman told the board.

During a period for public comment near the end of the meeting, Isherwood said, “… I have to respond to the discussion relative to the Kohl’s. And the reason I have to do that is I have gone back and I have looked at all the documentation on the TIF Committee meetings from the beginning of that project. I have all of your ordinances and I have studied that project and I can say it is the most convoluted TIF I have seen in any municipality in this region and I will point out to you why.

“You had monies designated for certain specific reasons for a specific project. That project did not take place. There was a year-and-half delay for THF to find a new developer, I mean I’m sorry, excuse me, a new tenant and you did not use the monies as they were projected to be used in the first place. I say to you the school district was not communicated with. You could have reopened the TIF Commission and this delay on behalf of THF, had we been there, it would have been illegal. Your whole process was illegal. I will challenge it from this point forward. This refinancing agreement is wrong. I will give you details when we have the state audit,” the Oakville resident said.

After Isherwood concluded his comments, Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan said, “I’d like to know who the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance is. Is this an organization that’s been registered with the state of Missouri? Sir, are you not going to answer my question? Not surprising. Thank you.”

As Isherwood turned his back on Fagan and walked out of the Aldermanic Chamber, Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe said, “There’s your answer.”

Fagan said, “I guess my answer is abundantly clear.”

Mayor Jim Robertson said, “That’s certainly something that can be verified.”

Fagan said, “I’d like to find out.”

During an interview last week, the Call asked Greer to comment on Isherwood’s remarks.

“You know, quite candidly, I wasn’t paying attention to Mr. Isherwood’s comments,” Greer said. “Mr. Isherwood’s not said anything that — I don’t know what to say, I wasn’t listening. I’ve grown very weary of listening to Mr. Isherwood, he’s not said anything productive in any conversation I’ve — no, I can’t say that, I’ve not really had a conversation with him. I believe he, if my memory serves me correctly, there was something about some illegalities or something about the TIF, I don’t know. I know that the school district is aware … There’s a requirement if there’s a material change in the project that we should go back to the TIF Commission, that’s already been ruled on, there’s not a material change in the project.”

In October 2000, then-City Attorney Shulamith Smith said the proposed changes did not meet the legal requirement to have the proposal sent back to the TIF Commission.

Greer continued, “The reality is that this is a very good project. It’s much better than what was originally discussed six, seven years ago. We have a single-source major retailer and the TIF is considerably less than what was originally anticipated. So that pays the obligations off sooner. That gets the incremental taxes back to the taxing jurisdictions quicker. We’ve added a TDD (transportation development district) to it and are using the TDD to help pay it down even faster. I mean we were looking at 10 years and now we’re looking at less than five,” Greer said.

“… It’s a quality development. It’s a benefit to every citizen in the city of Crestwood …,” Greer said. “Mr. Isherwood is against everything. I don’t know what he’s for. I’ve never heard him say what he was for, and people who are against everything don’t get much ear time from me. I grow weary of listening to people who are against everything. I’ve not heard a productive word from him.”