By Emily Younker
In a special session Friday, the Joplin City Council endorsed the creation of a tax increment financing district to help finance redevelopment projects in the wake of the May 2011 tornado.
The ordinance, which passed in a 6-3 vote, will take effect on Tuesday.
It creates a 3,100-acre district in the center of the city encompassing the tornado zone and part of the downtown.
Future increases in property taxes and a portion of the sales tax revenue generated within the district will be directed over the 23-year life of the district to a number of redevelopment projects.
David Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the master developer, has said up to $57 million in tax revenue could be generated to secure bonded indebtedness to help finance some of the $800 million in projects.
Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said after the meeting that she voted to support the plan because she thinks it will spur development.
“This is going to go hand in hand with our rebuilding and redevelopment in the city,” she said. “All of this is to benefit the city; all of this is to enhance the city’s growth. We’re doing this not just for us, but for the generations to come.”
Dissenting votes came from Bill Scearce, Jack Golden and Trisha Raney.
Scearce said in prepared remarks that he was uncomfortable with the speed in which the proposal has moved through the local government. The proposal was formally introduced to the city at the beginning of October, recommended for approval by the city’s TIF Commission two weeks ago and considered Friday by council members on an emergency clause.
“I have some grave concerns about the quick passage of these TIF projects,” he said. “Why is there such a rush to pass this TIF?”
City Attorney Brian Head said one reason was for the developer to purchase several properties that the owners wanted to sell before the end of the year for tax purposes. Wallace also has said that for the TIF district to be established using 2012 property valuations, the council must have taken action by Dec. 31 or risk losing a portion of the anticipated revenue by using 2013 property valuations.
Golden said during the meeting that he was concerned the plan would require the city to become the owner of many of the outlined projects. Head said the “bulk of the projects” would not be publicly owned.
After the meeting, Raney said she was not necessarily opposed to the proposal, but she voted against it because she wasn’t convinced that redevelopment would not occur without it and because of its size. The district is 100 times larger than the 31-acre Northpark Crossing TIF district at Fourth Street and Range Line Road, and the 38-acre 1717 Marketplace TIF district at 17th Street and Range Line Road. It will be the largest TIF district in Missouri.
“I just wasn’t completely comfortable with it, and I felt like it was too big of an issue for me to be able to vote for it,” Raney said.
The council also approved, in a 7-2 vote, a separate ordinance authorizing the TIF projects and designating the city’s Joplin 353 Redevelopment Corp. as the developer of them. Scearce and Raney cast dissenting votes.
The redevelopment projects include $258 million for housing, $56 million for mixed-use residential over retail and commercial space, $74 million for a medical office building, $20 million for a Joplin Public Library/theater complex, $45 million for a consolidated government office complex, $68 million for a performing and visual arts center and Union Depot restoration, $73 million for a downtown education complex, $55 million for a multipurpose event venue and sports complex, and $70 million for a hotel and convention center.
Head said more detailed proposals for the projects will come to the council for approval as the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. finds subdevelopers for them.
“By this action, you are approving each of the projects conceptually,” he said, of the ordinance approved Friday. “You are not approving the detailed projects of this TIF plan.”
Friday’s vote wraps up nearly three months of discussion and debate over the effects the proposal would have on the taxing entities located within the district.
Officials with the Joplin School District, in particular, had outlined what they said would be “financial challenges” to the school system as a result of the proposal. They said the district would cause an immediate loss in revenue to the school system by freezing assessed valuations at a post-tornado level, resulting in a minimum of $1 million in lost revenue annually, and could create significant growth in enrollment as new students moved into housing developments in the district.
The proposal, as agreed to by all parties earlier this month, includes a $13 million payment to the school district to cover revenue losses as well as annual payments per student to cover operating costs and potential construction costs associated with increases in enrollment.
The city’s TIF Commission, which includes representatives from the city and the other taxing entities, voted unanimously on Dec. 14 to recommend the proposal to the council.
The Joplin City Council also approved uncontested rezoning requests for properties at 2221 N. Florida Ave.; at 3003, 3015 and 3023 S. Connecticut Ave.; at the southeast corner of 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue, and at 1934 Murphy Boulevard.