The Shrewsbury Board of Aldermen approved using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a planned Walmart development Tuesday night in a special meeting. A Community Improvement District (CID) for the area also was created.
The vote was 4-2 in favor of the plan. Aldermen Elmer Kauffman and Alderwoman Dee Wiecher voted against the plan.
Wiecher said she opposed Tuesday's vote both on principle and procedure.
"I spoke against the plan at the TIF Commission meeting," she said after the meeting. "But tonight I opposed it on procedural grounds."
Wiecher was upset that the city held two votes in one evening, as opposed to holding the first reading at Tuesday's meeting and the second and final reading at the city's next scheduled meeting.
She argued there was no reason to rush the vote. Mayor Felicity Buckley said the issue has been talked about for over two years and there was no reason to delay the vote another two weeks.
Buckley said the city was following the time line set out by CID guidelines. She said it was jut easier to vote on all the ordinances regarding the planned Walmart development on one night.
In all, the city approved four bills Tuesday. They are:
- Bill No. 2704: Designate Redevelopment Area, Approve TIF District, Approve Redevelopment Plan & Project.
- Bill No. 2705: Approval of Redevelopment Agreement and District Project Agreement.
- Bill No. 2706: Kenrick Plaza Special Use Permit.
- Bill No. 2707: Establishment of CID District.
Several people spoke on both sides of the issue at Tuesday's meeting. Many residents thanked the aldermen for taking on the issue.
Garen Miller said he appreciated the police and fire protection, the city center and the pool preserved by an increase in city taxes from a new business.
Marilyn Beck, who identified herself as a resident of the Affton School District, asked the board to consider the impact of its decision on the district.
"The decisions you make will have a long-lasting impact on the school district," she said. "There would be a loss of $3 million to the district."
The School District issued a statement on Jan. 8 opposing the TIF. The statement read, in part:
While the Affton Board of Education acknowledges the City of Shrewsbury is within its statutory rights to capture and redirect Affton School District’s property tax revenue toward their redevelopment project, the fact remains that the TIF statute is a law that enables Shrewsbury to benefit while at the same time causes hardships for Affton School District, its staff, students, and ultimately the Affton community at large.
Tracy Ring, an attorney representing businesses in the lower Kenrick Plaza, told the board his clients did not opposed the TIF or CID for the Walmart development, but had concerns with the site plan. King said there were several access easements and other use restrictions in place that would be violated under the current plan.
"We're all for re-mediating blight and using whatever financial tools are required, but they cannot support something that impacts their property values," he said. "This is in conflict with the property rights giving to lower Kenrick."
Resident Sandy Odenwald and her 14-year-old daughter Trudy both spoke in favor of the plan. Odenwald urged the council to think of Shrewsbury as a whole and keep the city alive and welcoming to others.
Several residents questioned the use of the TIF for Walmart, saying the company has a history of using tax financing deals and then leaving cities 10-15 years down the road.
"They will be gone," said Susan Favazza, who described herself as a local business owner in a CID area. "The people that live closest to it, the businesses and the Affton School District are all against it. It's a crime that some people aren't listening to the people they represent."
Other residents questioned why other local business owners were shut out of the process, just because they live outside city limits.
"At some of these meetings, non-residents were prevented from speaking," Cathy Winfrey said. "I wonder what Dierbergs would say—they have been a good merchant here and I'm sure this will adversely impact their business."
On Jan. 9, the St. Louis County TIF Commission rejected the request for $15 million in public financing for a controversial re-development of Kenrick Plaza that would bring a Walmart to Shrewsbury.
The drew an audience numbering in the hundreds and entailed more than an hour and a half of impassioned written and oral testimony during a public hearing from residents eager to weigh in on an issue many see as vital to the future of the city of around 6,000.
The commission voted 9-3 against a motion to recommend the proposed development agreement for the blighted property and the request for $15 million in tax increment financing.
Mayor Buckley said on Tuesday that the commission did not give the city any advice, just an unqualified no when it rejected the TIF.
"There was no communication to respond to," she said. "It is up to us to consider what is best for the community."
The TIF will split any increase in taxes collected as a result of the $46 million development 50-50 between the city and the project’s developer, G.J. Grewe for a set period of time.
The most current version of the plan along with a cost-benefit analysis are available on the city’s website.
For more on this story, see Affton Patch's previous coverage:
- Letter to the Editor: Kenrick Plaza TIF Decision Will Be Career-Changing for Shrewsbury Board
- County Commission Votes Against TIF for Shrewsbury Walmart
- No TIF for Walmart: Resident Tired of Subsidizing Corporate Giants
- Should Walmart come to Shrewsbury?
- Changes Coming to Kenrick Site Plan Stymie TIF Commission Inquiries
- Kenrick Developer Wants $20 Million in TIF Assistance