Columbia City Council to select potential TIF projects

Saturday, February 15, 2014 | 6:16 p.m. CST; updated 6:38 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 15, 2014

COLUMBIA — With seven proposed developments put on hold, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine and City Manager Mike Matthes are pushing for a tax-increment financing plan that could fund $70 million in infrastructure and other city projects.

Columbia City Council has been asked to select the projects that could be funded by the proposed taxing district.

Although the council's decision Monday night won't establish a downtown tax-increment financing district, it could bolster the plan, which has been criticized by council members, the public and the Boone County government. 

Those opposed to the creation of a downtown taxing district are concerned that the approval process has been rushed, especially with the city in the process of revising its zoning regulations.

Opponents of the plan also argue that the proposal could divert future revenue away from other taxing entities that rely on downtown property and sales taxes and that other funding options — raising utility rates or voter approved bonds — have not been considered. 

But if council members approve the long list of projects on Monday, it effectively means the city has no other way to pay for those projects unless the proposed taxing district is established, Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said.

Of the $70 million in proposed projects, $20 million would go toward sewer, water, electric and stormwater improvements that city officials said were needed immediately to allow developers to start building. 

The other $50 million could fund future projects, like $2.8 million to expand the city's high-speed fiber-optic network, $4 million for downtown streetscape improvements, $5 million to expand Elm Street east to College Avenue and $18 million for a new parking garage that would be located south of Broadway. 

Trapp said he thinks that tax-increment financing is the only way to fund the infrastructure that is needed to allow the commercial and high-density residential developers to begin building.  

"I don't think it will be that difficult of a decision to say we can't fund these any other way," Trapp said. 

St. Romaine has argued that Columbia residents would not support new bonds or rate increases to fund downtown infrastructure because of "tax fatigue." 

Trapp said that improving infrastructure to allow more high-density development downtown should be encouraged and that tax increment financing is a good way to do that.  

"It's right within our planning documents," Trapp said, referring to development plans that go back as far as 2006. 

Increasing high-density development downtown is smart city planning that could eliminate urban sprawl, Trapp said. 

"I would rather grow up then out," he said. 

But Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas have raised concerns about how much developers should pay for the needed infrastructure and how these projects would fit with the city's future zoning rules. 

Skala said that developers are "lining up" for C-2 zoning, a zoning designation that regulates commercial development and encompasses much of the downtown region. However, the council is considering changing the zoning regulations that could limit building heights, create parking space requirements, and increase the space between roadways and buildings.

Skala said he is concerned that if the six high-density residential developments are built before zoning rules are changed, it could have a negative impact on the downtown.

"C2 has all types of privileges and no responsibility," he said. 

Trapp said he didn't understand the arguments against moving forward with building plans downtown. He said that he approves of the building plans that he has seen and that using a taxing district to fund infrastructure is no less equitable than any other funding method. 

"It makes a lot of sense to allow taxes from development to pay for the infrastructure of that development," Trapp said. 

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

Projects in proposed TIF district

Several new infrastructure projects have been added to the list of Columbia's tax-increment-financing district proposal for this year. The Missourian graphics team mapped out the sanitary and stormwater projects in the proposed TIF area. | YICCHENG LIU/Missourian

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ann Peters February 16, 2014 | 7:56 a.m.

More option are,
Plan C - City Ordinance 22-97 allows constructing public improvements by levying a special assessment and issuing a tax bill against the property benefitted by the improvement.

Plan D - City Ordinance 22-231 allows constructing sewers by levying a special tax bill assessment on the property in the district.

Plan E - City Ordinance 22-241 allows constructing sewers by levying a special assessment on the property in the district.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 16, 2014 | 10:39 a.m.

Well at least Trapp has his head screwed on right. Skala seems to be anti-growth of any kind. Skala and Hoppe need to realize that this town is not the retirement community they want it to be and join the rest of us in reality where Columbia is a very young and growing town.

I have not heard Schmidt way in on this issue at all; hopefully he can help get development moving again before he leaves so his single term is not a complete waste.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 16, 2014 | 11:33 a.m.

JackH: "Skala and Hoppe need to realize that this town is not the retirement community..."

I guess I never thought anyone had a "retirement community" in mind as the goal. Not to say it isn''s just I never thought of it.

I just figured some folks wanted the same-o-same-o sleepy college town devoid of blue-collar workers and a continuing and significant influx of tax dollars from elsewhere in the state to keep us going. Kinda like a "private oasis" of sorts. I believe these same folks would, if allowed, only permit moving into the community if an equal number left...a community INS at the city borders, if you will.

And, you know what? So long as the rest of this state keeps the tax dollars flowing and increasing for Columbia higher education (and medical and insurance), those folks are probably right!

I'm not saying I like it though....'cause I don't. I think it leads to stagnation, especially if the rest of the state's taxpayers continue their poor view of this city.

We aren't feelin' the luv......except the narcissistic kind.

Probably the only way to counter this is via balkanization and growth of surrounding, incorporated areas, a "splintering" if you will. Missouri town history is replete with "no room to grow" outcomes, and none of them are pretty.

(Report Comment)

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