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Pressure for Ellisville Walmart Vote Mounts

The loss of the electronics retailer Best Buy, which is scheduled to close within a month, was a major talking point of Wednesday night's Ellisville City Council meeting.

in Ellisville, which is scheduled to close within a month, was a major talking point of Wednesday night's meeting of the Ellisville City Council, which again deferred voting on a TIF for Walmart developers.

Although the council did not cast any final votes on the deal, the evening did preview council members' stances on the issue, which newly sworn-in Mayor Adam Paul said he was in no hurry to pursue.

Paul was sworn in Wednesday evening after being April 3 elections, which proved successful for Paul through a campaign centered around opposing Walmart in Ellisville.

The Sansone Group, who is facilitating the project with Walmart, would collect half of all new sales tax generated at the site under the proposed deal, with stipulations that the money being spent on surrounding infrastructure. The project was estimated to produce for the city's roughly $9 milion budget, but was of Ellisville’s TIF Commission earlier this spring.

The project also has been criticized by , a residential complex next to the development site whose owners sold their property to the Sansone Group. Under a relocation policy the board is expected to vote on, residents at Clarkchester likely would qualify for relocation compensation of up to $1,000 per household.

Support for a Walmart TIF
Members of Ellisville’s business community, meanwhile, have largely been supportive of the move to draw Walmart to town.

George Sackett, who works closely with the Ellisville , asked the council to vote on the TIF proposal immediately, in part because of a desire to avoid losing amenities provided in the deal.

“I think that if a developer came here without the benefit of the TIF, we would lose many of the benefits that are being negotiated now, including things like additional trails and open space areas,” Sackett said at Wednesday's meeting at .

Sackett also said Ellisville’s business reputation would be damaged if the TIF negotiations fall through, which could hurt the city’s efforts to attract other new businesses.

“With the announcement of the , we’re only enhancing the need for us to proceed with the development in this area.”

The Balancing Budget Act
Paul and Council Member Matt Pirrello spoke earlier this month about that could help compensate for the absence of a new retailer in light of what Pirrello has described as growing operational costs for Ellisville. Among the measures discussed were charging fess for services such as leaf and brush pickup. The two council members also discussed contracting the city’s law enforcement duties with St. Louis County Police, which Paul said he opposed.

In a rare break from decorum Wednesday night, council members Dawn Anglin and Linda Reel separately questioned the mayor’s plans to maintain the city budget. Anglin directly asked Paul to elaborate on his remarks that expanding the city’s population should be prioritized ahead of attracting businesses.

"And I’m asking how would we do this if our commercial (business base) is failing, they continue to fail (and) our services are cut, how are we going to attract people to come and live here?” said Anglin, who was one of two incumbent board members who lost their mayoral bid to Paul this month.

 “I’m not denying the fundamental important of redevelopment in our area,” said Paul, who cited concerns about the locale of the proposed Walmart at Manchester and Kiefer Creek roads in relation to other businesses.

“You have a Best Buy on Manchester (Road) and 141 that’s essentially comparable with a TIF and a Walmart, and then you’ve got our standalone Best Buy,” Paul said. “It’s essentially the same location in the same place as the 141 location.”

Blue Lights Ahead?
Preliminary votes for the proposal to grant Walmart’s developers a TIF district and to establish a relocation policy for displaced residents narrowly met a required supermajority with five of the seven votes needed to advance. Paul and Council Member Michelle Murray, another board member who ran for mayor this spring, both opposed the measures.

Despite pleas from the public and fellow board members for a final vote soon, Paul said the council may opt to wait months or even a year before casting final votes on the proposals, in part to consult with city staff amid his first weeks in office, Paul said.

“So in my opinion, if there’s a time to hurry up and wait, that time is now,” Paul said.

Pirrello and others reiterated Wednesday that the development for a Walmart has been a project roughly 6 years in the making.

The council is scheduled to next meet Wednesday, May 2.

Alexandra April 19, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Mayor Paul ran a fantastic meeting last night. I believe he brought up some interesting points, one being the less than 50% full Lifetime Fitness development. The population here can not support all of this retail and we should, as he stated, look into moving in a direction that considers expanding our population base. Beautiful Condominiums is an option, and should be considered by the council members. Maybe they are out of touch with why they are in the position they are and who placed them there. The public elected them to guide and direct the best interests of the city. The city has loudly and clearly expressed the fact a TIF is not an option for us, but they are choosing not to listen. Mayor Paul got elected because he is the only one listening and that is admirable. Parents in this area desire to give their children the best, and the best around here is to send their children to the Rockwood School District. This would assist them in making that a reality and assist the city in creating an actual community-feel, which is far more appealing than a sea of retail.
Dan Duffy April 19, 2012 at 11:40 PM
The Ellisville Best Buy closed because of their own TIF up the road. Now the closing is being used as a justification for more TIF. What irony!
Michael Rhodes April 20, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Who is the developer for the condominiums and where do they want to build them? Wonder how that would work out with the recent housing crash. Can this developer really build quality condos and expect to sell them in the current market conditions?
Michael Rhodes April 20, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I was surprised Best Buy kept this location open this long. They are exeriencing major revenue issues. Some wonder if Best Buy can compete in it's current form. Apparently the online retailers (ie: Amazon) are just killing them.
Alexandra April 20, 2012 at 02:37 AM
If the council understood the long-term ramifications, they would see this size TIF is not justified by this unfortunate closure. The closure is an example of large companies skipping town-to-town while harboring sales tax dollars we will never realize.
Alexandra April 20, 2012 at 02:37 AM
A city population perceives big box store coming to town as hope, due to the fact it is viewed by the masses as growth and recovery. Unfortunately, a TIF in this particular situation is a form of corporate ‘Cayman Islands’. The developer can overstate the cost for a project which is offset by the TIF, and they don't loose any money. Their net economic cost, minus fees paid for development is nominal. This is similar to an 'inflated partnership basis transaction', which if this transaction was between private citizens such an act would be illegal and would go to jail. If we are looking to gain a mere 600k in revenue, because 50% of the sales tax revenue goes to the developer, handing out 13-15 million dollar incentive package makes no economic sense.TIF districts are for areas that are capable of realizing a substantial increase in property values capturing NEW tax revenue as a result of the development to meet their debt service obligations in full and on time. If the tax base does not grow as projected, debt repayments will be put in jeopardy. We as citizens need to all engage in writing all of the city council members to make them listen to us. I hope they are able to put their pride aside and do what is in the best interest of our city.
Alexandra April 20, 2012 at 06:41 AM
@ Michael: Condos can be sold or rented darling; interesting concept. Our multifamily housing units are so desirable because they are located in the Rockwood School District. If you actually lived in Ellisville, maybe you could speak to some of the residents in a condominium unit and understand the appeal. There is an opportunity to grow the population and retail at the same time. Creating a community, as Webster Groves has, which has been extremely successful with their out of the box thinking approach.
Charles Pavlack April 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM
"TIF districts are for areas that are capable of realizing a substantial increase in property values capturing NEW tax revenue as a result of the development" You mean like a development that would replace an abandoned auto dealership, three service-related businesses, and a number of old apartment buildings which yield only $15,000 in tax income annually with a big box that would bring in $600,000 annually? Sounds like the definition to me. And if you were paying attention at the city council meeting this week (which I think you might not have been, because of your description above of how Mayor Paul handled the meeting), you'll know that the council members ARE doing what they believe is in the best interest of our city. Just because it doesn't agree with what YOU think is in the best interest of our city, doesn't mean it's not what THEY believe is. Could you tell us what your background is, either in property development or city administration, which allows you to pass judgement on this project, or on our outstanding city staff, other than that it's not what you want?
K James April 20, 2012 at 08:11 PM
A; If condo's were to go in that space, the price would be so incredibly high that it would rivel Clayton. Look at the cost of just the land and who would ever want to live by one of the busiest car intersections in the state?????
Alexandra April 20, 2012 at 08:29 PM
The Clarkchester residents are fighting pretty hard to keep their home, have you asked them who would want to live near that intersection? Just a guess, but it must not be that bad, or they have wonderful windows to cancel the noise factor. Side note: that is A LOT of question marks. =)
K James April 20, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Alexandra I love question marks... and extra periods. I have to type a whole lot in my job with all caps so punctuation marks make my points. Sorry. The sad fact is that anyone who would actually build housing on that land would pay millions and the residents of clarkchester would most likely be unable to afford living there. Yes they would have wonderful windows, very expensive windows. and would still not solve the fiscal problems. The city planner is charged with the task of trying to direct developments that will have the 'highest and best' use of the land. Face it A, the Manchester corridor is zoned commerical, and NO ONE will ever change that, it is just too visible an area to ever put housing on.
Alexandra April 21, 2012 at 09:36 AM
One of the issues with Ellisville is the population base. Mixed-use properties is an idea. The city planner, Ms. Hood, has taken this city in the wrong direction and is not effective at this point. It is sad to see, and unfortunate for us, but she has not been able to portray our city to potential developers in a light that others could envision building and growing in. A quality a city planner should have is foresight. Ellisville has not defined itself, and this is our opportunity to do so, and not to remain on the current path of being just an extension of Ballwin and Wildwood.
K James April 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Alexandra; I take it that you have been a city planner? You have working knowledge of what a city planner does and the balancing that has to be done? Its easy to be the armchair quarterback on a sunday afternoon.
Alexandra April 21, 2012 at 06:42 PM
'Armchair quarterback' that is an interesting statement. Are you a city planner with the working knowledge of the balancing that has to be done? If so, what city? I am sure we all would like to view your work. I am viewing the current state of our city and the reflection should be under review.
K James April 21, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Alexandra, I am not a city planner,nor am I sitting here espousing how bad ours is. I know Mrs. Hood, and know that the job she has to do is not easy. My point was that it is easy to sit here and bash people when you have no idea how complicated their position actually is.
K James April 21, 2012 at 06:46 PM
ESPECIALLY when she cannot defend herself in social media.
Alexandra April 21, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I am not bashing her, I am acknowleding her work that needs to be improved upon. It is unfortunate that I hit a nerve with you since you know her personally, but it is the truth what I have said. We are in a difficult economic climate, and a position one might have performed well in when we were not facing such challenges, might need to have a second look at this point. If the complication is too great for her to handle, the city should find another that might be more efficent and effective for what Ellisville needs now; this is speaking in the best interest of our city, not a personal attack upon her. I do not know her personally, and I am sure if you are defending her she must be a great person to have such a great friend. Friendship and business are two different animals and should never be mixed.
K James April 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Alexandra; Ada and I are not personal friends, I only know her professionally and she has always been curtious to me. I have found her always professional, and she takes her direction from the planning and zoning committee, the city manager and indirectly the city counsel. The planner carries out that direction. She can make recommendations. and please let me be clear Alexandra, I just think that she can be made an easy target because she is not allowed to respond or defend herself on this thing.
Alexandra April 23, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Look, I am not a malicious person, and it is apparent you are relentless in defending her, which I applaud you in your determination. We are referencing public positions, and as a private citizen I can speak my opinion freely. People criticize the President of the United States, Senate members, Congress members, city planners, and I can go on and on. The reason my focus was on her is due to the fact her job description is ONLINE, in full view of everyone. I am not attacking HER for goodness sake. I can, as a private citizen speak my opinion. In quote from the Ellisville site: 'The Planning Department is also responsible for administering the City’s adopted ordinances relating to Zoning, Subdivision, Signage, and other land use regulations. Through the administration of such ordinances, the Planning Department hopes to plan and guide the development, redevelopment, and growth of the City, and to encourage high standards of architectural, site, traffic, and landscape design, and to encourage public participation.' This is public participation, and hopefully it is taken as constructive criticism so our city can think out-of-the-box and BEGIN to define itself. There is no need to cry a river behind the issue, she is in a public position for crying out loud, it comes along with the territory. Her being in a public position, should not take any comment to heart if she feels like her job is being done the best she can. She should laugh at these online debates to be honest.
Alexandra April 23, 2012 at 03:11 PM
and grow thicker skin. Maybe, she is doing fantastic, and possibly the initiatives she tries to push through get shot down. The people have no way of knowing this because there is not place we can see 'public participation' questions and answers. Possibly the city should be more transparent, because the people are very concerned and it might ease concerns if 'behind the scenes' action/ideas are more visible. I have made some strong statements which also have many suggestions. Who knows whether my suggestions or others can move forward, but at least we are making them vs. complaining and doing nothing. IF anything, she should be grateful people want to be involved in the city, it shows love for a city and its direction. No, I don't recommend any person in a public position to get involved in social media, which is an at leisure public forum. At this point, this is the only place private citizens of Ellisville can go and speak to each other at their leisure to see what can be done. Talking, asking, debating, AND criticizing are all good things for all of us. Like I stated earlier, this should be amusing if she is doing everything she can. Do you think the President is crying up a storm in bed at night? No, because he is going in a million different directions trying to get something to stick. Public forums allow people to brain storm. If you are uncomfortable with it, moving to China is always an option.
K James April 23, 2012 at 07:41 PM
BRAVO ALEXANDRA!!!!!!!!!!! I love your passion!!!!! My feelings are not to say that you are not entitled to them. I am the biggest advocate for free speech you are going to find anywhere. It is just frustrating to see you criticizing someone when you aren't involved with them and they can't defend themselves, for I am pretty sure that city employees cannot get involved in social media discussions. But Ada is very accessible, as are the members of the planning and zoning board, heck Kevin the city manager is available. We are but one voice, and the entirity(im not sure I spelled that correctly) of the community must be looked at. How will their decisions effect future and current residents. What is best to keep Ellisville self supporting for years to come
Alexandra April 23, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Thank you K.James, and I applaud your passion as well! Like I stated before, criticizing someone in America that we are indirectly involved with is a common practice. It is how we all express frustrations regarding local and national government entities. Looking at all the pieces and how they function is critical. Unfortunately, she is on the other end of the stick this time, not to say she is to blame, but not acknowledging she might play a large factor is irresponsible. Like is stated before, she might be doing great, who knows, but we have no way of knowing what decisions are being made by whom. 'City Planner' is a huge title to hold, and the job description would make one, when viewing the state of our city, address the greatest concern there. I hope the posts clarify my position on her, the city structure, and overall concern with the running of our city. A lot of people were up in arms about the previous Mayor, and why this and that is not being done or hasn't been done. Well, the Mayor does not have the veto power, planning power, and/or city management power; those are actual positions held by other people. I want what is best, and my personal opinion is, open discussion of what the people who live here is a fantastic brain-storming opportunity. Engaging accomplishes much more than just complaining and ranting.
K James April 23, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Alexandra; You are right to an extent. Ellisville is not some huge metropolis, we are a very small town, voices can be heard easily, calling your counsel representatives, emailing or notifying the city planner or city manager, or going to city counsel meetings to be heard. But this public forum, where anyone can say anything and have to go unanswered by the people who are being spoken about can be harmful. This is our city, the city government wants to hear from us, and they are VERY good about responding back to us when we talk to them. I have never once called anyone nor written to anyone that I did not recieve a call or email back with in the day. We need to work together, not be contentious to eachother. There are not layers and layers of people in our local government. If you took a few minutes you could talk to people directly in our little hamlet and they could explain to you why what is done is done. I have found this town VERY transparent.
Alexandra April 23, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Cool. I have no more energy to expend on this issue. I have been attacked by a lot of people in my short-stint of posting, and do not wish to interact for a while. So, have at it! You can have the last word, because talking in circles is getting no where. Bye.
E. Schmidt April 26, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I am truly impressed. Understands city planning AND tax issues. >>>The developer can overstate the cost for a project which is offset by the TIF, and they don't loose any money. Their net economic cost, minus fees paid for development is nominal.<<< And the developers and their big anchor tenants laugh all the way to the bank...municipalities are such rubes...they don't even realize they are being preyed upon.
Merthin April 28, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Did you read the Wall St. Journal articles this week about Joplin vs. Tuscaloosa and the exodus from California? The articles mentioned that heavy handed planning caused adverse effects.

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