TIF projects hit another roadblock with application revisions, public hearings

Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 6:42 p.m. CST; updated 11:34 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — The dreams of two developers proposing multimillion-dollar downtown projects will have to wait months before they can even think about beginning construction.

Both developers have applied for tax-increment financing, an incentive tax break that invests money from the site's property taxes back into the project, but in a Tax Increment Financing Commission meeting Thursday, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine alluded that a public hearing regarding each application is still several months away.

"Obviously, the developers are very eager to get going, and we want to get these things moving as quickly as we can," St. Romaine said. "But at the same time, we want to make sure we do our due diligence."

Owner John Ott has been talking about renovating The Tiger Hotel for the past two years. Similarly, Nathan and Jonathan Odle, owners of Trittenbach Development, have been talking about their eight-story retail, office and residential building for more than a year. Both are eager to get started, setting approximate completion dates for 2010, according to their tax-increment financing applications.

The Tax Increment Financing Commission had planned to hold several work sessions to go over the applications in-depth, as well as to request additional information from each developer.

"We do want to see you (members of the commission) set that public hearing as soon as possible," attorney Craig Van Matre said at the meeting. "But we recognize the need to have supplemental information."

One reason for the delay is the state of the applications. In a letter to each member of the commission, St. Romaine said that several revisions would need to be made to the application to "correct errors" and meet some standards required by law. The numbers in each application might change significantly, cautioned Mark Grimm, special counsel to the city.

"If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't spend a lot of time focusing on the numbers in the application," Grimm told commission members.

Once the commission members feel comfortable with the applications, they will set a public hearing date, which requires at least 45 days notice.

After the public hearings, the commission will make a recommendation to the Columbia City Council.

Each developer paid a $10,000 application fee. If either project is denied, the developer will receive that money back.

Commission members also briefly discussed some design principles the Downtown Leadership Council might recommend in its report to the City Council. The council has talked about requiring downtown projects, approved for tax-increment financing, to follow the principles, such as no front parking lots or blank walls.

The commission will meet at 3 p.m. March 19. The location is yet to be determined.

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Jimmy Dugan March 6, 2009 | 10:31 a.m.

The fact that we are using OUR tax dollars so that John Ott can make money off us is REDICULOUS. I want TIF financing for my home if John Ott is going to get it to waste on the Tiger hotel. The Tiger will not add any jobs, we should be supporting projects that bring NEW development to town and create NEW jobs........

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand March 6, 2009 | 2:16 p.m.

If there's a solid business case for this project, then they should have no problem lining up investors once the economy starts to rebound. If there isn't, then they need to rethink this. The public shouldn't be the lender of last resort.

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