To the editor:
Some 30-plus years ago, Sunset Hills had a grocery store. It was called Rock Bottom and was located roughly in the current location of David’s Bridal and Bed Bath and Beyond. It was a no-thrills grocery. Growing up in Sunset Hills, I can remember shopping there with my parents.
At the time it was one of the largest sales tax-producing businesses in Sunset Hills, which was a much smaller city. When it closed in 1989, the city’s finances took a nose dive.
I was working for the city’s parks department while going through college, and the financial situation was so bad that we had to ration toilet paper that was put in the picnic shelter at Watson Trail Park.
Now, Sunset Hills has the opportunity to secure the latest grocery concept to enter the St. Louis market. Amazon only targets higher-income demographic areas, and they offer a unique experience.
Sunset Hills approved a Community Improvement District (CID) that would levy up to a 1-percent sales tax on those who choose to shop at the store. While this would increase the local sales tax rate, surrounding municipalities like Crestwood and Kirkwood already have higher sales tax rates. Kirkwood is set to ask voters to raise theirs in November to fund streets, and Dierbergs will be asking for the same at the old Crestwood mall project.
The tax would subsidize improvements, such as demolition, traffic and public utility relocation. Many years ago, I worked with then-Sen. Anita Yeckel to pass the legislation in Jefferson City authorizing the CID sales tax in St. Louis County to provide municipalities the ability to form public-private partnerships to deal with vacant commercial properties that can become an eyesore without having to utilize tax-increment financing.
This redevelopment is an opportunity to reinvigorate an important part of Sunset Hills’ commercial (sales) tax base with a minimal investment being made by those who choose to shop there, and I’m glad my hometown will be able to utilize it.
Editor’s note: Mr. Conley is city administrator for St. Ann and previously served as the assistant city administrator in Crestwood.