The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 16, 2012

Joplin City Council authorizes master developer requests

Resident questions ability to finance $794 million

More groundwork was laid Monday night by the Joplin City Council for future redevelopment projects with little council discussion. But one resident stepped up to voice concerns about the financial magnitude of the ventures.

The council also adopted the new version of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which will set policy and designate transportation projects, land use, infrastructure and Main Street development guidelines for the next 10 years.

Part of the plan, which set development standards along major corridors such as 20th Street, as recommended by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, was adopted in March.

Among the transportation-related changes are requirements for sidewalks in certain areas such as new housing subdivisions as well as sidewalks, walking and bike paths, and crosswalks around schools that are to be built to replace those lost or damaged in the tornado.

In regard to the master developer proposals, resident Bill Pate, 111 S. Sergeant Ave., addressed the council. He questioned the amount of money and the ability to attract investors in $794 million worth of master developer projects given the state of the global economy.

“I have some anxiety that has overwhelmed my optimism,” Pate told the council of the list of 19 potential projects outlined last week at a public meeting by David Wallace, chief executive officer of the Wallace Bajjali Development Partners of Sugar Land, Texas.

Pate said that with a decline in China’s economy, debt crises in Europe and agitation in the Middle East, “I am concerned that any of those would affect private equity funds” investments in the Wallace Bajjali projects that call for that type of financing. The firm has been able to carry out large investments in projects in Sugar Land because of its proximity to Houston and the presence there of Baylor University, Pate said.

He suggested that the city reign in it’s willingness to spend money on the proposals “and not act like a man who spent like a millionaire even before he bought a lottery ticket.”

After his remarks, the council approved three resolutions sought by Wallace to start the work.

The council authorized the application of $40 million in grant funds from the federal Economic Development Administration. The money would be used toward the SPARK performing arts project proposed for downtown and for a workforce training program the school district wants to offer at Franklin Technical School. It has been agreed on that the school district would receive $3 million and the city the remainder of the grant funds if the full amount is awarded.

Councilman Mike Woolston asked what would happen if only a portion of the money is granted.

City Planner Troy Bolander said that if less were to be awarded, it would be prorated between the city and the school district.

Councilman Mike Seibert asked when it would be known if any of the money would be awarded to Joplin.

City Manager Mark Rohr said the administration will announce the awards in November.

The council also authorized city staff to submit an action plan to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency for the proposed use of $45 million in Community Development block grant funds. Bolander said the plan must be submitted by July 23, and the review process will take 45 days. He said that though HUD has to OK the plan, the agency is aware that there could be changes in the way the money is to be spent. It was given to Joplin to help with economic development and housing recovery from the tornado.

The third initiative authorized Monday would allow Wallace Bajjali and the city to develop a plan for using the Joplin Redevelopment 353 Corp. to buy land for the projects.

Rohr said the resolution would enact the policy but that a specific agreement would have to be devised spelling out the authority of the master developer, the city and the 353 board. He said that agreement would be brought to the council for the panel’s approval before any land purchases take place.

Public session

AN INFORMAL MEETING will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center regarding the proposed Silver Creek consolidation with Joplin that will be on election ballots Aug. 7.

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