By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin’s work with a Texas firm to redevelop the city won unanimous approval Monday night from the City Council.
“This means the city is taking the next step in rebuilding and redeveloping” from 2011’s historic tornado, said Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean after the meeting.
“I think it’s a historic night in Joplin,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “It’s one of the best opportunities I think we’ve ever seen, and I look forward to next Monday night.”
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, of Sugar Land, Texas, at a work session of the council next Monday will outline $800 million worth of proposals ranging from housing construction to a performing arts complex.
“We’re pleased with the confidence bestowed in Wallace Bajjali,” said David Wallace, the firm’s president, after the council’s decision, adding that the firm looks forward to making the presentation of its initial plan next week.
Asked when he will start holding public forums on the proposals, Wallace said the council will be called on at its next regular meeting, set for July 16, to make some funding decisions that would allow the development firm to proceed with its work. Then the developer will start holding public input sessions to present its ideas to residents.
The mayor said she thinks residents will support the projects.
“Once the community has seen them, I think they’ll be excited about it,” she said.
In discussion about the contract during the meeting, City Attorney Brian Head said it sets out a general structure for the partnership between the firm and the city, but that there will be contracts on each individual project that will establish the details.
The pact grants Wallace Bajjali exclusive development rights unless another developer creates a project that does not require any city incentives or is not similar to any of those proposed by the firm.
The city will pay half of the certified costs of pursuing projects, with a cap of $1 million, Head said. The city will specify what costs are allowed, and the costs will have to be documented. The firm also will pay up to $1 million of those costs.
An early termination clause that would penalize the city for pulling out of the contract in the first five years without cause drew council debate. The penalty for ending the contract in one year is set at $5 million. It decreases by $1 million each successive year.
“Aren’t the termination costs excessive?” asked Councilman Bill Scearce. He said he thought the amount of the penalties boxed the council into a corner if the panel did not want to proceed during those early years.
Rohr said he and Wallace negotiated the termination penalty clause after Head and the Wallace Bajjali attorney reached an impasse on whether to set an expiration on the contract. The developer did not want a specified duration, but Head said he insisted that there be a way to end the partnership. It can be terminated without penalty if there is cause.
Head said the firm’s development fee is set at 5.75 percent of the projects, and that Wallace Bajjali must determine how to derive that fee from the project’s investors. Tax money such as Community Development Block Grants can be allocated to finance projects but cannot be used to pay the developer for services, the council was told.
In other action, the council granted commercial zoning for a 44-acre tract of land at 44th Street and Connecticut Avenue to be developed by Leawood resident David Powell.
The request to designate the land as C-3-PD drew opposition from several Leawood residents, who objected to commercial development near their village.
C-3 zoning allows many types of heavy commercial use that the city staff does not favor for the site, city planner Troy Bolander told the council. He recommended C-2-PD.
Powell told the council that he has clients who are interested in building a nursing home on the east 20 acres of the land and medical offices on the remainder.
Councilman Morris Glaze pointed out that the city’s zoning code does not allow nursing homes in areas zoned C-2. Powell said he would agree to lesser zoning of C-1 on that part of the tract.
The council approved C-1-PD zoning for the eastern section and C-2-PD for the rest of the land. The designation as a planned district will require that landscaping buffers be constructed to reduce the impact on neighboring houses.
A LANE TO BE CONSTRUCTED around the campus of the new Mercy Hospital being built at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard will be named Mercy Way as the result of council authorization Monday night.