Commission tables TIF applications for downtown Columbia

Friday, June 5, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:51 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — After nearly three and a half hours of presentations and public discussion, the Tax Increment Financing Commission moved to postpone a decision about its recommendation to the Columbia City Council on two downtown properties until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“Given the amount of information provided I think it would be worthwhile for us to deliberate on our own and have further discussion at a subsequent meeting,” said Bruce Walker, who proposed the motion to move the vote.

Columbia citizens crowded in the mezzanine conference room at the Daniel Boone City Building for their first opportunity to voice public opinion on two TIF matters that have garnered attention from the city. Opinion tended toward a lack of support for tax-increment financing for the two projects, though several encouraged the developers to move forward without tax-increment financing.

Most of the citizens who came forward either lived or worked in the downtown area. 

“I’m not opposed to the proposal here, but I just think it does need to be done in the private sector,” said Adam Guy, downtown business owner.

During the presentation for The Tiger Hotel, for which the developers are requesting $1.7 million in tax break for renovations totaling $4.4 million, the values of having a destination boutique hotel were emphasized. 

“The other Big 12 college markets have boutique hotels, and they function quite well,” said John Ott, one of the developers of The Tiger Hotel. “It becomes a destination in and of itself.”

Erick Creach, a member of the team presenting for The Tiger Hotel, compared the proposed boutique hotel to others such as the Hilton President hotel in Kansas City and the Hotel Bothwell in Sedalia.

“If Sedalia has one of these destination hotels, why doesn’t Columbia?” Creach said.

Several parents came forward and expressed their concerns with how the proposed financing would affect Columbia Public Schools. 

“I am concerned primarily about the education because the school board is going to come back to the city of Columbia for a property tax increase because they don’t have enough funds,” said Mike Kevins, a parent of four. 

The $17.1 million mixed-use development proposed for Tenth and Locust streets received similar types of mixed reviews.  

Some focused on the definition of blight, one of the three requirements found within the city’s description of requirements for tax-increment financing, saying that property in downtown Columbia was worth too much to be considered "blighted."

Attendees were generally in favor of downtown development.

"The issue before you this evening is who should pay for it," said David Klarich, who represented a group called Citizens Against Unfair Taxation.

The commission will revisit the issue Tuesday.

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Arnie Fagan June 5, 2009 | 10:54 a.m.

Actually, other than the people who were hired to formally represent the developers, consensus was approximately 10 to 1 AGAINST using our precious public school dollars to bail out the millionaire owners of the Tiger Hotel in their failed business investment.
Consensus was also strongly against using public monies, which is also allocated to go to the public libraries, to sweeten a fancy high-rise apartment building with a fitness center and a pool in which the public will not be invited to swim.
I think the School Board and the Library Board need to formally vote on this issue, or else the next time they come to the public for more tax money, we can all tell them, "No," because they refused to oppose giving away about $5 million of our money.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock June 5, 2009 | 12:22 p.m.

I agree this article doesn't reflect just how many people were opposed to the TIF projects and what those reason were. Basically people need to ask themselves should the government finance the private sector. There were some really strong points against the projects. I mean if approved the city is creating a unfair advantage in business. They are allowing a developer to get free money to improve his business while others are left to fend for themselves.

(Report Comment)
Arnie Fagan June 5, 2009 | 12:53 p.m.

I agree with Allan. Those speaking out against the project included some of the most successful long-term entrepreneurs in Downtown.
I think Allan and the attorney representing CAUT (Citizens Against Unfair Taxes) also raised some significant questions about the Conflicts of Interest and true motivations of those in favor of these projects.
I also found it interesting that Jay Burchfield resigned from the Commission immediately before the meeting due to Conflict of Interest issues. I think that after he was appointed by the Mayor to the TIF Commission, Jay was brought onto the Board of Directors of Boone County National Bank. Is Boone Couty National Bank set to provide financing for the 10th and Locust project? Hmmmm.
From my research, these Conflicts of Interest are just the tip of the iceberg. The "Good Old Boy" network is trying to pillage the Downtown, and a lot of folks are fed up with it.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand June 5, 2009 | 1:32 p.m.

What happened to all of that Cumulus money?

(Report Comment)
Arnie Fagan June 5, 2009 | 3:49 p.m.

Let's see...since the sale of the radio stations, John Ott bought the Tiger Hotel, the building that houses Kaldi's and Bangkok Gardens, the building that houses Starbuck's, Ingredient and the Campus Bar & Grill at Ninth & Elm, the buildings that house Blackberry Exchange and Happytime Media and Belle, the buildings that house Kayotea, the defunct Manhattan Closet, A la Campagne, the gas station at Tenth and Park, the building next to Ernie's that housed the old Art League, the Engagement Ring Center, and the enormous Berry building at Walnut and Orr. Oh, also the old Lou's Palace on Walnut, and I'm sure some others I don't even know of yet.
I think John has done a great job of developing the properties he has bought, and has already received more than $1,000,000 of State Tax Credits for these projects so far. I just don't think we need to give him another form of public money to support his investments. The Columbia Public School District, the Public Libraries and the tax-paying citizens should not have to lose so that he can gain.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock June 5, 2009 | 4:12 p.m.

The question is Arnie how many of the board members will actually remove themselves? I just love how it was put that five years ago they (OTT) would not have had to use TIF but now due to the economic climate they need it. So why can't they wait a few more years and let the credit get flowing again and then use the private sector. I am seriously if I needed a new truck (which I do) and I couldn't get credit for whatever reason do I get free money from the government? NO, I have to wait. Let them wait. It is not like the Tiger Hotel is going anywhere. As a teacher my salary has been frozen now for two years in a row. Due to the salary schedule and the way it is set up for new teachers I will have to wait for three more years before I will see a increase in pay for years in service. So I have to do without and Ott and Co. may get millions so they can get rich. I have nothing against them making money. In fact I hope they are very successful. But they should not get funds for their projects while teachers and the children have to make sacrifices.

(Report Comment)
Arnie Fagan June 5, 2009 | 4:40 p.m.

I think you raise an interesting question, Allan, about how many TIF Commission Board Members will actually remove themselves from the Commission or at least the vote. Perhaps more importantly, How many of them SHOULD remove themselves from any discussion and/or vote due to Conflict of Interest issues.
It seems to me that anyone who either works for a bank or is on the paid board of directors of a bank that is set to provide multi-million dollar financing for a TIF project should recuse themselves due to Conflict of Interest issues. Even if they aren't doing anything wrong, it is the appearance or potential for wrongdoing that is troubling.
Does anyone know how many of the TIF Commission Board Members work for one of these banks or are on the paid Board of Directors? I think the actual number would shock the Columbia Public School Board, the Library Board and the general taxpaying public. Can we get a count?

(Report Comment)
Abraham T. Dyer June 5, 2009 | 5:03 p.m.

Ok. Two big points seem to be at the head of this issue.
First, aren't commissions of this nature meant to be objective, so that they may present well-studied, unbiased findings in order to come to an educated decision?
Second - speaking of education - let's all take a wild guess what the average student, faculty member or staff member in Columbia's public schools would say if presented with this proposal. Spending those funds for private development is bad enough, but more importantly, the issue clearly shows the epidemic status our city council has reached when it comes to ignoring the pulse of the Columbia populus.

(Report Comment)
Arnie Fagan June 5, 2009 | 5:26 p.m.

Great point, Mr. Dyer. These commissions should be objective and come to well-studied, unbiased conclusions and decisions. Unfortunately, the TIF Commission has six members appointed by the Mayor, many of whom could not be expected to be unbiased because they work for, or on the paid boards of, the very banks that are in-line to finance these multi-million dollar projects.
Isn't anyone in the press doing their homework? When I attended the World's Finest School of Journalism, we were taught to find the answers by "following the money." One simple question, "How many of the TIF Commission Board Members work for or are on the boards of directors of these banks?" Can I get a count?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dugan June 9, 2009 | 12:47 p.m.

•Bruce Walker -
•Andrew Beverley - CORRUPT BANKER
•Nikki Krawitz -
•Teresa Maledy - CORRUPT BANKER
•Ernie Wren III
•Tom Schauwecker - CORRUPT TAXER
•Michael Vangel - CORRUPT MARKETER
•Jim Ritter (Columbia School District Appointee)
•Tom Rose (Columbia School District Appointee)

(Report Comment)

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