• Independence City Council approves TIF plan changes

  • A rare occurrence took place Monday night as the Independence City Council overturned a recommendation made by the TIF Commission.

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  • A rare occurrence took place Monday night as the Independence City Council overturned a recommendation made by the TIF Commission.
    Council members voted unanimously to approve changes proposed by the developer of Blue Ridge Crossing East, a plan first approved in 2009 for the long-struggling former Blue Ridge Cinema site.
    In the 20 years that Independence has used TIF, it’s one of the few times that council members chose to vote differently than the TIF Commission had recommended, City Manager Robert Heacock said.
    District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir, whose southwest side of town includes the TIF project, said she took an informal survey of U.S. 40 between Blue Ridge Cutoff and Interstate 70. She counted more than 20 vacant properties, as well as a handful of occupied businesses that are for rent or for sale.
    “We are continuing to lose business in southwestern Independence,” she said, “and it’s time for us to start putting some things back.”
    The redevelopment of the former Blue Ridge Cinema site near I-70 and U.S. 40 calls for an anchor tenant – Burlington Coat Factory – as well as a retail building with several tenants and one restaurant. Burlington Coat Factory is projected to open by this year’s winter holiday shopping season.
    The amendment changed the project from 15 years to a full 23-year TIF, as allowed by state statute. Projects costs will increase from $8.6 million to $15.5 million, with the reimbursable costs for the developer also increasing from $1.9 million to $4.4 million.
    The original TIF plan passed four years ago with unanimous support from both the TIF Commission and the City Council, but on March 7, the TIF Commission voted 5-4 to recommend denial of the application.
    Raytown School District Superintendent Allan Markley said the TIF amendment would negatively effect nearly 9,000 children in the Raytown School District. He was among the five TIF Commission members who voted to recommend denial of the proposed changes and spoke again before the council Monday.
    While Markley said he agrees the project is a good fit for the area, he said the financing is what causes concern for the Raytown School District. In his five years as the district’s superintendent, Markley said, he has seen the district’s assessed valuation decrease by nearly $100 million, as well as experience an underfunded Foundation Formula.
    Markley pointed to the recent ending of the Winchester TIF in Kansas City, which will bring about $4 million to Raytown School District from the project’s special allocation fund.
    “Residents in our community are beginning to realize that they are the ones who pay for these projects through higher property levies for taxing jurisdictions because of revenue being taken by these projects,” he said.
    Heacock said the project’s risk is entirely on the developer and that the city won’t incur any debt with the TIF.
    Page 2 of 2 - The property taxes currently generated on the former Blue Ridge Cinema site – about $13,000 annually, roughly $8,500 of which goes to Raytown School District – will still come in through the amended TIF plan, Heacock said. Future property tax revenues will go into a special allocation fund to reimburse the developer for incurred development expenses.
    District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg said the city of Independence is fortunate to land Burlington Coat Factory as a tenant. The retailer currently does not have a location in Eastern Jackson County.
    “In this post-recession economy, we’re lucky to land any development at all,” Gragg said, “and we’re extremely lucky we landed it in a blighted area of town.”

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