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Board denies Branson Adventures’ TIF

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The Branson Board of Aldermen on April 24 shut down a proposed public financing plan for the Branson Adventures project.

CP Branson LLC, led by local developer David Cushman and a team of out-of-state consultants, sought $115.6 million in tax increment financing and sales tax revenue to cushion the attraction’s expected cost of nearly $446 million.

The board voted 5-1 – with Alderman Bill Skains casting the only affirmative vote and Mayor Karen Best absent – on the first reading of the financing bill. With the decision, Branson spokeswoman Melody Pettit said a second bill reading will not be held.

Cushman was unable to attend the meeting, citing “personal reasons” in a statement sent to Springfield Business Journal following the meeting. He requested a new hearing date, but aldermen denied the motion prior to casting their votes.

“As a lifelong resident and hopeful developer to this project, I wanted nothing more than to present our final round of points and answers,” he said.

Pettit noted CP Branson can reintroduce the TIF proposal in six months, per city statute.

Cushman said the board’s decision “sends a clear and negative signal to anyone considering bringing transformative business to this market.”

“The fact that we have delivered countless data, answered even more questions and delivered the world’s foremost tourism economists to Branson didn’t matter,” he added. “Branson today, tomorrow and after will be as these aldermen wished.”

In the statement, Cushman pledged to “find a home for the adventure traveler of the Midwest to enjoy.” He previously told SBJ that Branson Adventures would not happen without TIF approval.

“That’s a pretty low standard,” said Patrick Tuohey, director of municipal policy for free-market think tank Show-Me Institute, who attended the meeting from Kansas City to give testimony against the TIF plan. “The but-for analysis in this case was an affidavit from the developer, who said, ‘I won’t develop this without a subsidy.’”

The plans for Branson Adventures called for a hotel, customizable whitewater rafting course and an indoor waterpark, among other amenities, on 302 acres adjacent to highways 76 and 376. Financially, the plan sought about $80 million in tax increment financing and roughly $18.6 million in city-pledged sales tax revenue.

Prior to the board meeting, city staff collected some 100 inquiries from the public and held at least one study session.

Branson resident Michael Hynes attended the meetings and examined the TIF plan. After the vote, he said key questions asked went unanswered by city officials.

“It was obvious that the average person did not understand how ‘the use of taxes raised within the TIF’ really works,” Hynes told SBJ. “The TIF allows a governing body, which is set up to manage it, to establish and collect ‘sales or use taxes’ from the people who do business only within the TIF. Factually, the TIF would never receive any tax money or funds from the city of Branson. This fact was never addressed by any city staff or the aldermen.”

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