Council approves charette report, considers tax-increment financing for downtown

Monday, November 19, 2012 | 11:24 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A 2010 plan for downtown was dusted off and approved by the Columbia City Council on Monday.

The plan — a 2010 charrette report — was approved, but tax-increment financing wasn't approved even though it was part of the report.

The report is not an amendment to the city charter nor is it an ordinance, but now that it has passed, the ideas for the area it details are considered an official reference point for the city.

"I will vote to accept this, and I will make it very clear that in no way do I endorse a downtown TIF district at this point," Mayor Bob McDavid said.

Tax-increment financing works like this: A property's tax is frozen at its current rate, allowing project-driven property tax revenue to be funneled into the development. Tax-increment financing can pay for up to 20 percent of a project's cost over a 23 year period, according to a previous Missourian article.

In 2009, a TIF was approved for The Tiger Hotel renovation and a mixed-use building at Tenth and Locust streets, according to the Missourian article.

However, if a TIF district is established — for example, covering several city blocks — funding from one part of the district can be used in other parts of that district, according to the charrette report.

The report recommended several changes for downtown Columbia, including "large scale development opportunities" such as the former Osco Drug building, "building upon African-American history and culture," increasing pedestrian safety and biking access, constructing housing developments and "streetscape improvements." The proposed changes centered around the North Village Arts District and the Providence Road and Broadway areas, Tony St. Romaine, deputy city manager, said.

"By adopting this report, I don't think you are doing anything that's prescriptive or regulatory in nature. You're simply adopting a course of action," St. Romaine said. "Things like TIF districts do not get approved simply by adopting a plan."

Brent Gardner, Downtown Leadership Council chairman, said his group uses the charette report as a reference when discussing ideas for downtown.

"It seems to me that it needs to have more official status. ... It's been vetted, it's been paid for, it's been done properly. I think it's a very important document," Gardner said.

Carrie Gartner, Community Improvement District director, said the board voted to "support the concept of the charrette." Specific details of the report, however, were mentioned as concerns: the proposal for a TIF district,  downtown development authority and form-based codes.

"My board has said that it is too early at this point in the conversation to make decisions about any of those. There aren't enough specifics on the table," Gartner said.

Supervising editor is Karen Miller.

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