The developer behind the Adams Dairy Landing retail project in Blue Springs is back on track after the City Council voted 4-2 to amend an existing tax increment financing agreement and agree to apply the city’s credit rating to approximately $17 million in bonds.

The developer behind the Adams Dairy Landing retail project in Blue Springs is back on track after the City Council voted 4-2 to amend an existing tax increment financing agreement and agree to apply the city’s credit rating to approximately $17 million in bonds.

Those council members against the proposals – Sheila Solon and Ron Fowler – were not without comments concerning the issues, which were presented during a special meeting Thursday that was not televised nor subject to public input.

Solon, who has been vocal about the issues ever since the city voted last summer to back $14.5 million in bonds in a first round, said the agreement amounted to nothing but a “bail out” for RED Development. Last summer’s backing and Thursday’s agreement brings the total to a little over $30 million.

“It’s not our responsibility to risk taxpayer’s money (to back this project),” Solon said.

 Dan Lowe, a managing partner for RED, spoke little during Thursday’s meeting, though a spokesperson for the company, Chris Williams, confirmed that some changes were made to the TIF agreement, specifically changes made to the annual appropriation pledge – or when the city would be legally permitted to share in the retail center’s profits, all of which would be used to then pay down the debt service.

 “We thought it was appropriate to address this issue,” Williams said, acknowledging that it was Fowler who requested a change.

But Fowler balked at the suggested change from 14 percent to 12 percent.

“Twelve percent is too much. That’s laughable to me,” he said, adding that the city’s overall investment in the project commands about a 6 percent figure when the city begins to see money.

Solon prepared many questions for the special meeting, including concerns she had over results from a market study the City Council requested last year and received earlier this week. She said figures concerning sales “leakage” to other communities (one of the main arguing points for building the retail center) did not appear accurate.

She also expressed concern that there were dozens of areas throughout the city that were undeveloped and vacant, a possible fate of Adams Dairy Landing due to the struggling economy. Many of her points were cut short, however, after Council member Sissy Reed said she didn’t want to hear her read figures and Mayor Carson Ross stopped her.

At one point she expressed dismay that a representative from the marketing company, Canyon Research, was not on hand to answer questions but rather Dennis Mitchell, the city’s underwriter.

The meeting grew tense at a few key moments, specifically when Fowler motioned to override Ross’ decision to not allow the public to speak. That vote failed 4-2. Shortly after the meeting began, Solon questioned why the issues were being discussed and voted on during a special session, objecting to it being called at all. She said during her service as a District 3 council member, she could only remember one special meeting being called.

“That’s noted, and it’s my call,” Ross said.

Reed, an incumbent who is running for her District 2 seat in early April, was the most vocal about the proposals. She said if the city didn’t get more retail, the city would continue to lose money.

After the meeting, she said she wished that TIF had never been invented in the first place but that it was a reality the city has to face.

Ross said it was important to keep the momentum of the project going. He said the recent opening of Olive Garden and its business was encouraging, as has been other stores along Coronado Drive and Target, the first retail store to open in the center.

Council Member Lyle Shaver asked Christine Cates, the finance director, how well the first bond issuance and backing of $14.5 million had held up against incoming revenue. Cates said the city is hitting its mark, reaching about $1.5 million in December. She said periodical checks to the city’s credit rating have shown no adverse affect.

That still didn’t please George Ward, an audience member and 55-year resident of the city.

“I think the public just got ripped off, and I don’t agree that the public and (Sheila Solon) wasn’t allowed to speak,” he said.

Lowe said Thursday’s approval will allow delivery dates of supplies and the construction of parking lots to resume. An assistant for Lowe said that the next stores to open in April include Arby’s and Books-A-Million, with Michael’s to follow in early summer and Staple’s and Kohl’s to open in the fall.