‘No’ vote kills second reading of measure to develop two lots at Big Bend Crossing

Aldermen will meet Thursday in special session to again consider proposal


An ordinance moving forward plans to develop two empty lots at Big Bend Crossing died last week when a “no” vote for a second reading of the measure was cast by Crestwood Board of Aldermen President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3.

A special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. today — Feb. 22 — at the city’s Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive, for aldermen to consider a second reading of an ordinance that would lead to construction of a medical building on Lot 1 and a retail area on Lot 3 of Big Bend Crossing.

City Administrator Frank Myers said Friday that city officials were advised by Metropolitan Urological Specialists that it received a 10-day extension on its closing date to purchase Lot 3 from its original developer — the Novus Development Co.

Metropolitan Urological Specialists previously bought Lot 1 from Novus and originally had planned to use the lot for a mixed medical/retail center.

The contract to purchase Lot 3 was set to close Feb. 15 and was contingent on aldermen approving first and second readings of an ordinance allowing only medical use on Lot 1.

But when Miguel voted “no” for a second reading of that ordinance Feb. 13, the pending contract essentially was prevented from closing Feb. 15. Under the City Charter, to adopt an ordinance, at least five of eight aldermen must vote in favor of it and at least one week must elapse between introduction and final passage unless an immediate second reading is approved by unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen.

A roll-call vote for a second reading was supported by six aldermen. Miguel voted against it and Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder abstained after Miguel voted “no.”

Miguel said before the vote that he was skeptical of Metropolitan Urological’s plan to eliminate retail shopping on Lot 1 and move it to Lot 3.

Reflecting on his “no” vote last week, Miguel told the Call he is concerned that changing the use on Lot 1 from medical/retail to strictly medical will deny the city roughly $100,000 per year in sales-tax revenue that he estimates could be collected on Lot 1.

“I voted ‘no’ because I’m not willing to give up the sales-tax revenue,” Miguel said Friday.

The board president said he reached that $100,000 annual sales-tax estimate by taking sales-tax estimates calculated by Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Inc. for the once-proposed MainStreet at Sunset shopping center in Sunset Hills and applying them to Big Bend Crossing.

“I used those numbers because they were the best that I had,” Miguel said. “They were really the only numbers that I had. To, again, come up with a ballpark (figure) just to get some kind of idea what kind of sales-tax revenue a restaurant could provide.”

But a majority of aldermen said last week they would prefer approving the development of both vacant lots at Big Bend Crossing — even if the city would lose previously approved retail space on Lot 1.

“What we’re seeing here and we’re looking at right now are folks that want to put an entire package together and a project that’s going to maybe not meet every one of the needs that we had when we started this project years ago,” Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland said. “However, it’s still a vast improvement over what we have … This, to me, seems like an opportunity to turn the page and put together a project that will, in my mind, vastly improve the quality of life here in Crestwood. And I guess I look at it as that’s kind of what we’re about here. Like I said, I’d love nothing more than retail all over the place. However, I don’t see that happening. So I am prepared to support this project as it stands.”

The decision to move the retail component originally proposed as part of the medical facility on Lot 1 was made by developer Hensley Construction to save money.

The cost of purchasing and developing retail on Lot 3 in addition to developing the medical facility on Lot 1 is actually “about $10 million cheaper” than it would have cost to construct the mixed medical/retail center on Lot 1, according to Metropolitan Urological attorney Brad Cytron. Patrick Hensley of Hensley Construction said this is because his company no longer would have to worry about constructing a two-floor, concrete parking garage on Lot 1 that would have been necessary for both medical and retail use.

Cytron also indicated to aldermen that the developers would be willing to delay construction on the medical facility until work has begun on the retail project proposed on Lot 3.

Last fall, aldermen unanimously amended the city’s original contract with Novus to ensure that Lot 1 could have medical use added to its original designation of retail stores, restaurants or a hotel.

Big Bend Crossing, a $20 million project spread across 17 acres southwest of Big Bend Boulevard and Interstate 44, has been a source of controversy since Novus sued the city in 2002. Novus President Jonathan Browne filed suit after aldermen rejected his request to approve First Community Credit Union on Lot 3 of Big Bend Crossing.

Like Miguel last week, aldermen in 2002 rejected that request because of a perceived loss of sales-tax revenue that would result in filling a lot with non-retail use. But most aldermen last week were in favor of approving the development of non-retail medical on Lot 1 provided retail was in place on Lot 3.

That support for the project showed when three aldermen — Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher, Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel and Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby — asked Miguel to reconsider his “no” vote.

“I think the people sometimes question why we do not have buildings built in the city, why we don’t have more people that want to put their businesses here,” Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe said. “And I think what just happened now is why. I think this is just awful that we’ve done this.”

Kelleher then turned his attention from the proposed project itself to Miguel’s motives for voting against it.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kelleher said to Miguel. “It’s anti-business. And now these people, you know, their project is dead in the water. Explain yourself. Are you anti-business here? Do you want this thing built? Do you want empty buildings or empty lots in Crestwood? Is that what you want? … I get the stare. Great. That says a lot. Thank you. Thanks so much. And I’m sure these people want to thank you, too. Maybe our constituents want to thank you, too. I know I do. Great job. Thanks. I’m done.”

Regarding criticism of Miguel, Nieder defended the board president’s position and reminded aldermen that each of their votes should be respected.

“I thought that a person who voted for whatever reasons, whatever vote they had, I didn’t know it was our position to chastise him in public like we’re doing,” Nieder said. “I just don’t think that’s … I don’t want any part in doing and calling out and that type of thing, I just don’t think that’s the appropriate manner to do it. He has his reasons for voting ‘no.’ Whether you agree with him or not, that’s another story. I don’t think we should be calling him out like this.”

Kelleher later responded to Nieder’s defense of Miguel by saying that he would continue to “call out” and “chastise” the board president and ask him to change his vote.

Bland, who noted that out of respect he would not ask Miguel to change his vote, did say that he supports the project because it would not only bring more business, but also allow the city to cut ties with Novus on Lots 1 and 3.

“We’re going from a situation where we had an adversarial relationship, where — if I’m not mistaken — there was litigation, to a potential relationship where we’ve got folks saying: ‘Look, if we need to put it in writing, we won’t occupy our medical building until we break ground and give you a gold shovel on retail …,'” Bland said to aldermen. “I want to make sure that these folks walk out of here tonight realizing that we do want to work with them.”

Mayor Roy Robinson also expressed a desire to begin a relationship with a new developer and joined other aldermen by asking Miguel to change his vote.

“I’d like to ask Mr. Miguel to reconsider this …,” Robinson said. “It may seem very, very appropriate to not have to venture with Novus, and I won’t mention names. But it’s worth everything for us to move forward on this thing. You just don’t understand how important it is to get this issue out of our lives. And I respect the fact that anybody wants to vote against it. But I think we know that it’s going to happen. Just delaying is not a tactic … to let it go on creates a problem for us. And I beg you to reconsider because I know how important it is having to deal with the parties involved.”

If aldermen approve a second reading of the ordinance changing the usage at Lot 1, design plans for the project then would go to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.