TIF commission votes 7-4 for Creekside development

A tax incentive plan for the controversial Creekside development at Interstate 435 and Highway 45 in Parkville will go before the city’s board of aldermen for approval next month.

The Parkville Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission met Tuesday, Feb. 26 to consider an application for TIF for the development. After a three-hour meeting, which included a public hearing, the commission voted 7-4 to recommend approval of the TIF plan to the Parkville board of aldermen.

Park Hill School District representatives on the board — superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd and assistant superintendent Dr. Paul Kelly — along with members Hilary Murray and Mike Svetlic voted against the recommendation.

The development, which includes commercial, residential and industrial components including a private baseball complex, would jumpstart construction at the intersection which has sat mostly unused since its annexation into the city in 2000.

The TIF application breaks the project into 14 redevelopment areas totaling 124 acres. Construction is expected to begin this year with all phases complete by 2025.

Total project costs, according to the city report, are about $335 million, with the developer seeking $52 million in reimbursable project costs through TIF and other economic incentives including payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), economic activity taxes, hotel sales tax rebates, community improvement district (CID) revenue, transportation development district (TDD) revenue and Chapter 100 sales and property tax abatement.

The TIF plan allows for the allocation of the incremental increase in property taxes generated by the redevelopment area in the form of PILOTs. For years 1-11, only 50 percent would be assessed, 65 percent for years 12-17 and 75 percent for years 18-23. The sliding scale should minimize the impact on taxing jurisdictions, according to the city’s report.

As part of the application, the city commissioned a financial “but for” study from Springsted — at the developer’s cost. At a report given during the meeting, Springsted’s representative said the project would not move forward without economic assistance.

The developer commissioned a blight study from Sterrett Urban, which found the area to be blighted according to three of five criteria.

Commission members and Parkville resident Weston Coble questioned the findings of these studies.

Pat Sterrett, owner of Sterrett Urban, showed commissioners a series of photos of debris — much of it left over from NID sewer improvements completed a decade ago. Photos also showed aging farm buildings and old roadways.

Svetlic questioned if this truly constituted blight.

“Half of Platte County would be blighted if those pictures are indicative of blight,” Svetlic said.

Svetlic was also critical of estimates from the developer that claimed the Park Hill School District would receive $43 million in new taxes over 25 years from Creekside.

Cowherd and Kelly said the district did not support tax abatement on residential development at all and had limited tolerance for abatement on commercial development.

Despite statements from the developer that they had worked with the district to minimize the impact of the commercial abatement, the administrators said that the population growth created at Creekside could push the district into building another elementary school on the west side of the district.

While the district would receive property tax income from the residential development, the income would not cover the costs needed to educate the additional children and build a new school.

“That doesn’t begin to account for the cost of additional classroom space,” Kelly said. “We would need to eventually raise taxes to cover construction of new schools.”

In light of this information, Svetlic called for a motion to table the recommendation for one week to allow the commission to further study the ramifications of the TIF plan. His motion died without a second.

Commission chair Jackie Snyder said she felt the commissioners had thoroughly looked at the plan and were ready to vote.

Member Michael Sobba agreed, commending the city and former mayor Bill Quitmeier for their foresight in annexing the property to avoid the gridlock situation at Interstate 35 and Highway 152 at Liberty.

“There’s no risk to the city for crying out loud — how can you not vote for that,” Sobba said, moving to approve the recommendation.

Svetlic said while the city may not be at risk, entities such as the school district could be.

During the public hearing, Coble also questioned the risks to the school district, while most present spoke in support of the TIF. Parkville Economic Development Council (EDC) executive director Nathan BeVelle read a statement from Platte County EDC executive director Alicia Stephens in support. Roxen Koch and Cory Miller, who have also served on the Parkville EDC, also spoke up in support.

Just hours before the meeting, Citizens for a Better Parkville issued a statement that an open records request sent last week asking for “All records of or reflecting plans, discussions, decisions or other communications related to any tax incentives related to the proposed developments at or near I-435 and Hwy. 45.”

The group is a political action committee formed last fall that has been critical of the development plan since it first became public.

Citizens for a Better Parkville said the city’s response was a promise to provide records in 45 days, noting that this is would be well after the TIF could be passed into law and the Tuesday, April 2 municipal elections.

The group’s founder Jason Maki has made 20 open records requests of the city since the Creekside development came to attention and has been less than pleased with what they consider a sluggish response from the city. Maki’s attorney submitted a letter to the Missouri Attorney General in January, requesting an investigation into alleged violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law.