Friday, May 7, 2010

Grandview Officials Revise Vote on Truman Corners

By Seann McAnally

There’s a difference between voting to make the Truman Corners TIF voidable, and actually voiding the shopping center’s TIF, Grandview Aldermen clarified last week. 

On April 13, the board found in a 4-2 vote that the developers of the shopping center had shown cause why the TIF should not be voided, and that certain parts of the plan should be amended to make it easier for the developer to find tenants for the center. 

But that vote left a bad taste in the mouth of a few aldermen, who felt that the developer hadn’t really shown any evidence that the plan shouldn’t be voided. In fact, they felt that the city’s attorney, Joe Lauber, did a good job proving that the shopping center is actually worse off today than it was when the TIF was formed 13 years ago. 

However, the board didn’t want to take the TIF away entirely, but to give the developer more time and tools to make a success of the shopping center, which has consistently lost tenants, sales tax and property value over the life of the TIF. 

At a work session the following week, aldermen Steve Dennis and Annette Turnbaugh said they would have voted differently if they had clearly understood the legalese of the ordinance. 

“Saying the TIF is voidable isn’t the same as saying it is voided,” Dennis explained. “I do believe the TIF is voidable, but I didn’t want to see it immediately dissolved.”

He said he didn’t realize he could vote that it was “voidable” without actually voiding it. 

Turnbaugh agreed. 

“The choices we had didn’t clarify that we could deem it voidable and still go on and have negotiations (with the developer),” Turnbaugh explained.

At the April 27 meeting, Dennis introduced a motion to rescind the earlier 4-2 vote that the TIF was not voidable. Instead, the board passed a resolution that the TIF is voidable, and that the developer has six months to show some real progress on the center. 

The board will hold a public hearing in October to give the developer another chance to show why the TIF shouldn’t be voided. 

So in the end, nothing has changed from the previous vote, other than aldermen Dennis and Turnbaugh are now on record as saying they believe the TIF is voidable. 

The developer of the property is technically UMB Bank, but the bank holds the property as a trustee, and bank documents state they have no direct responsibility over the management of the center. 

Attorney Bill Moore, of the King Hershey law firm, which specializes in helping corporate clients receive, keep and modify tax increment financing and other development incentives, asked on April 13 that the board change the TIF contract to make it easier for shopping center management to secure tenants. 

Specifically, the developers want a stipulation removed that the old Montgomery Wards building must go to a 150,000-square-foot tenant. When that happens, “phase two” of the project kicks in, and the developer will be required to make further improvements to the shopping center. 

The deadline for that came and went two years ago. Meanwhile the owners of the property have successfully appealed multiple tax assessments, which lowered the value of the property – a practice city attorneys called “contrary to the purpose of the TIF.” 

The board directed city staff to negotiate with the developer to amend the TIF so that a smaller store in the 25,000 to 50,000-square-foot range, such as a Marshalls or TJ Max would satisfy the requirements of the plan. 

While city officials were hesitant to be directly quoted saying anything negative about the center, most said the developers simply haven’t done everything in their power to make the shopping center a success.

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