• Commission says no to retail plan

  • With a national department store retailer on board, a tax increment financing project at Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 in Independence appeared ready to move forward, according to a developer.

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  • With a national department store retailer on board, a tax increment financing project at Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 in Independence appeared ready to move forward, according to a developer.
    That might change, however. Four years after the Independence TIF Commission and City Council both unanimously approved the original Blue Ridge Crossing East agreement at the site of the former Blue Ridge Cinema, the developer is asking to amend his original plans – and the TIF Commission isn’t so eager to say yes this time.
    Commission members voted 5-4 Thursday evening to not recommend approval of the amended agreement to the City Council, which has the final vote.
    Following a lengthy explanation from Spencer Thomson, a Kansas City lawyer representing the developer, Cinema East LLC, on why the changes were necessary, no commission members spoke publicly on why they were about to vote one way or another.
    Several behind-the-scenes meetings, with officials from different taxing jurisdictions, have taken place since the developer submitted the TIF amendment proposal to the city last December, Thomson said.
    Those in opposition included Steve Potter, director of libraries at Mid-Continent Public Library; Allan Markley, superintendent of the Raytown School District; Mark Trosen, deputy director of Jackson County Parks and Recreation; Daniel Moye, Jackson County development incentive coordinator; and Brian Blankenship, associate superintendent of the Raytown School District.
    Votes in favor of the amendment included Vaughn Cornish, Martin Kuny, Tammy Parson and Sue Shirk, who chairs the TIF Commission. These members don’t represent one specific taxing jurisdiction on the commission, like those who voted in opposition.
    The proposed changes call for three buildings on the site with more than 70,000 square feet for an anchor tenant, a retail building with several tenants and one restaurant, instead of the original plan that called for 40,000 square feet of development in six buildings. The project costs would adjust from the original plan of $8.6 million to about $15.3 million.
    Thomson announced the anchor tenant Thursday evening as Burlington Coat Factory, a national retailer that sells discounted coats, clothing and home furnishings. Burlington Coat Factory has no locations in Eastern Jackson County, but Thomson said the company also plans to open a site in Grandview in the near future, in addition to keeping its existing space near the old Bannister Mall in south Kansas City.
    “Interestingly, Burlington Coat Factory actually came to the city of Independence, seeking input and advice on where there might be retail opportunities in the city,” Thomson said. “Ours was one of them that was provided, among others.”
    The TIF would remain as a pay-as-you-go. The city would issue no debt for the project. The developer also asked to change the life of the TIF from 15 years to 23 years, the maximum allowed under state statute.
    Pay-as-you-go TIF projects call for the developer to front all the cost of the development, in return receiving sales and property tax revenues in increments throughout the life of the TIF. The property owners make payments in lieu of taxes (or PILOTS) to a special allocation fund, and property taxes are basically “frozen” for the life of the TIF.
    Page 2 of 2 - In relation to the PILOTS of the TIF, the developer did offer to pay out $30,000 annually out of any amount that goes over the projected revenue.
    “… That offer, as I understand it, was not acceptable to the other taxing jurisdictions,” Thomson said.
    So, as recently as Wednesday, the developer substituted that offer instead with a 5 percent offer on PILOTS that would produce immediate revenue for all of the taxing jurisdictions within the TIF.
    Burlington Coat Factory is projected to open by this year’s winter holiday shopping season, if the amendment moves forward, Thomson said. By that time, roughly five years will have “ticked off the clock” for the TIF agreement, since it started in early 2009, Thomson said.
    The TIF Commission is a recommending body, and the City Council will consider the issue at an upcoming meeting.
    “The reality is that if this project isn’t amended, this project can’t proceed under this approach that we have,” Thomson said. “There’s no way we’ll be able to put Burlington Coat Factory (there) without the additional TIF revenue that we’re requesting.”

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