The court’s approval of a proposal by developer Stan Kroenke to form a transportation development district along Stadium Boulevard marks the pending formation of the city’s third such special taxing authority.
Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler on Tuesday approved the request by Kroenke’s TKG Management to form the taxing district, which plans to levy a half-cent tax on sales within its boundaries to pay for a new entrance to the Biscayne Mall site.
While city officials support the Kroenke-led district, they’ve opposed a much larger proposal by developer Raul Walters, who wants a taxing district that includes his multiple shopping centers to pay for a $15 million overhaul of Stadium Boulevard near Interstate 70.
Columbia officials, meanwhile, are preparing their own petition for the formation of a master transportation development district they hope would absorb both the Kroenke and Walters plans.
No matter the outcome, it’s all but guaranteed that a transportation development district will be the entity to finance and carry out improvements to Stadium Boulevard, which all the parties agree are necessary.
While shoppers at stores along Stadium Boulevard would shoulder the costs and realize the benefits such a district would bring, some city officials worry an increased reliance on special taxing authorities to finance major road projects might carry repercussions for the rest of the city.
Some of that concern stems from the fact that such districts levy taxes on top of those already imposed by the city and county. At the Columbia City Council’s annual retreat in May, both City Manager Ray Beck and Mayor Darwin Hindman suggested an increase in the number of districts could lead residents to believe they’re taxed enough.
“It could make it difficult to pass future ballot initiatives,” Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash said in a recent interview.
Another concern is the effect a proliferation of such districts might have on the city’s relationship with the Missouri Department of Transportation. The additional tax revenue, Beck has argued, might prompt the department to mark Columbia self-sufficient and to send its money for major projects elsewhere.
That apprehension is particularly relevant to the debate over how best to finance improvements to Stadium Boulevard, because it is a state road. City officials question how appropriate it is to make shoppers pay to rebuild a road under department of transportation jurisdiction.
“Stadium is a state road,” Beck said. “Why shouldn’t MoDOT help pay for it?”
One alternative to allowing a transportation development district to rebuild Stadium Boulevard would be to simply wait until the state gets around to doing it. But department of transportation attorney Bryce Gamblin said such an approach would be short-sighted.
“It is worth it to the cities and the developers to do this now,” he said.
The city has only $10.3 million in unallocated capital improvement money and estimates it can generate only another $7.2 million between now and 2010. A spring report from the Public Works Department lists a total of $100.7 million worth of road projects it would like to complete between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2008. Walters’ plan alone is expected to exceed $15 million.