A proposed development at a prominent corner of Sugar Creek, U.S. 24 and Sterling Avenue, has become a key issue in the city’s three-way race for mayor.

A proposed development at a prominent corner of Sugar Creek, U.S. 24 and Sterling Avenue, has become a key issue in the city’s three-way race for mayor.

“The biggest problem Sugar Creek has is they have not progressed with the projects they have promised,” says candidate Matt Mallinson.

Stan Salva, mayor for 14 years and seeking another four, sees progress on the retail development – once called Sugar Land and now renamed Heritage Landing – to be anchored by a grocery store.

“The retail component will happen, we just need to move forward,” Salva says.

Candidate Leonard Fullbright also says he sees the project going ahead and says the city got hurt when the economy soured.

“They hit the bubble when real estate went bust, and their developer got caught in that. ... You can’t blame the mayor for that,” he says.

Mallinson said he considers Salva a friend, but all three have sharp words over how City Hall should be operating.
Voters go to the polls Tuesday. Also on the ballot are City Marshal Herb Soule and alderman candidates Joseph D. Kenney Sr. and Stanley J. Sagehorn. All are unopposed.
Mallinson has been on the Independence Board of Education since 2009 and says he would stay on that board as well. He said when he decided to run, the first thing he did was contact the Missouri Ethics Commission and was told there was no conflict of interest.

The Missouri secretary of state’s office this week referred questions to the Missouri attorney general’s office, which said it has not reviewed a situation exactly like this one but referred to two previous attorney general’s opinions. In one, a person was allowed to hold two positions, and in the the other the attorney general deemed some combinations of two positions as incompatible.

Can he do both jobs, while running his business, Matt’s Medicine Shop?

“Yup,” Mallinson insists.

“Once I grab ahold of a job, I don’t let go until the job is done or I holler uncle – and I don’t holler uncle,” he said.

Development issues
Several years ago the city demolished a small strip center with a Blockbuster, plus close to 30 nearby homes to make way for the development.

Mallinson says there are a lot of questions, and he suggests that the city has invested $10 million to $12 million so far without any return and says profits would go to whichever private party the city ends up selling to.

Mayor Salva dismisses those figures.

“My opponent has put out a lot of wrong information, a lot of negative information,” he said, adding that the city has spend less than $5 million, none from taxes. The city has spent money from BP – the descendant of the company that once ran the refinery in the city – for redevelopment.
“Somebody needs to tell Matt Mallinson that there were no tax dollars involved,” Salva said.

Fullbright, who says the mayor has done a good job and can’t see what he might have done differently, also defends the city’s effort so far.

“Everybody wants to make it look bad, and that’s just politics,” Fullbright said. “I couldn’t have done any better than Stan, and neither could Matt.”

Salva said the Pasantino family, which has several grocery stores, has commited to the site, and he pointed out that the city has brought in a new developer, David Edwards, who has succeeded with other redevelopment projects.

“So the project is coming along good,” Salva said.

But it’s been several years since the demolition at the site, and Mallinson says City Hall should have more to show by now.

“Even with economic downturns, you can still have growth,” he said.

“There are no signed contracts,” he added. “The only thing signed is a letter of intent – a non-dated letter of intent.”

Audit the city?

Mallinson says City Hall needs to be more open and transparent. One local couple has contacted a state senator about getting a state audit, which requires a petition to the state auditor. Mallinson said he supports that idea.
“The more I’ve gotten into this race, the more people have come to me with stories,” he said.

The mayor’s response?

“That’s fine. We have an audit done every year,” he said, adding that the city wins awards for its audits and the reports are public.

The mayor pointed to other progress in the city, such as beginning work near the old refinery on a new city entrance, one piece of what could become the Lewis & Clark Expressway, from the northern part of the city to Interstate 435 near the Bayer plant in the East Bottoms of Kansas City. That’s a large project, and Salva concedes it will require winning a sizeable amount of federal money someday, but officials say it would take up to 100 large trucks a day off city streets.

“That expressway will do wonders for this city,” Fullbright said.

Mallinson pointed to the engineering challenges involved.
“I’m not sure it’s the best thing for the people of Sugar Creek,” he said.