COLUMBIA — Developers in north Columbia are looking to beef up the infrastructure in a commercial development near the intersection of Missouri 763 and Brown School Road, and they now have a public tax to pay for it.
At its meeting Monday night, the City Council narrowly approved the creation of a Community Improvement District by a vote of 4-3 after a hotly contested debate.
Five groups, the largest of which are North 763 Lands LLC and RPM Land Company LLC, asked the council to approve the proposed 40-acre district just east of Missouri 763 and immediately north of Brown School Road. The district will remain in effect for 25 years.
The district is the first of its kind in Columbia, City Manager Bill Watkins said. The project has been in the works since April, said Rob Wolverton, a developer with North 763 Lands LLC.
Monday night’s proposal calls for a ½ percent sales tax in the area. The proposal also includes a potential property tax that would not exceed $1 per $100 of assessed value and a special assessment that would not exceed 25 cents per square foot in a year.
The new district is very similar to a Transportation Development District: Both add a small, local sales tax to pay for infrastructure improvements to a defined area.
However, the community district requires council approval and oversight, while a transportation district does not. Wolverton also said they decided to go with a community improvement district because it allows more flexibility in what the money can be used for including signs within the development and security.
In its approval of the measure, the council included a stipulation that outlawed the subsequent creation of a transportation district.
Council members found themselves dealing with a double-edged sword — approving the community district would make way for public taxes paying for improvements to a commercial development, while denying the proposal could lead the developers to create a transportation district, something that the council has no control over and generally opposes.
“This is a better version of something we don’t like,” said First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, who voted against the proposal.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser had a slightly more favorable view.
“I don’t think many of us like TDDs, and now we have the opportunity for a CID where we have more control,” said Nauser, who voted for the measure. “We do have some more oversight, as opposed to them going directly to the state to form a TDD where we have no control.”
The developers say the revenues will pay for infrastructure improvements inside the development, including streets, sewers, security, landscaping and water lines, and they anticipate the total project cost to ultimately exceed $1 million. In their petition, developers estimated an initial five-year revenue of $220,000.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade was fiercely opposed to the measure, saying that improvements made inside of the development should be paid by the developer, not by the public.
“I believe this is bad public policy,” he said. “I believe it’s a big step in a wrong direction.”
Like a transportation district, the approved community district will be governed by a five-member board of directors. The first five will be appointed by the developers and then the positions will be filled by appointees of the mayor and council.
Wolverton told the council on Monday night that the board would not be paid and that an advisory member would be included from the adjacent homeowners’ association.