Redevelopment plans by Bryan Properties LLC and BSH Springfield I LLC were approved by City Council and will receive a 10-year tax abatement on the properties slated for apartments and commercial real estate.
Council approves redevelopment plan after heated debate
At the tail end of a five-hour Springfield City Council meeting on Jan. 10, and after a highly publicized redevelopment plan was split into two parts for separate votes, a divided council approved a $20 million plan for an apartment complex with first-floor commercial real estate near Missouri State University that will give its developer a 10-year tax abatement.
Before council approved Bryan Properties LLC’s portion of a redevelopment plan that had included BSH Springfield 1 LLC’s $2 million apartment project at the northwest corner of Madison and Kimbrough, Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky urged her peers to deny it.
“This is not a wise and efficient expenditure of public funds,” Rushefsky said, pointing to language under Chapter 99 of the Missouri Revised Statutes related to tax abatements for developers of blighted areas. “If (Bryan Magers) doesn’t maintain the property, it is going to go to crap in no time.”
Magers, owner of Bryan Properties LLC, owns a majority of the properties in a 7.1 acre area west of Missouri’s State’s campus that was first declared blighted in 1964, according to Springfield Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith. Magers’ planned mixed-use complex would be south of Madison, west of Kimbrough and east of Roanoke, and feature more than 90 dwelling units in an area often rented by college students.
Rushefsky said Magers’ history of managing substandard housing in the blighted area ought to discourage council from rewarding his company with the tax abatement. Rushefsky referred to descriptions Magers provided of his properties in paperwork submitted to the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority when the area’s blighted status was still in question, scrutinizing his leasing history.
According to Chapter 99 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, blighted refers to dilapidated or overcrowded dwellings that are detrimental to public safety and health.
“Mr. Magers history is relevant to the criteria outlined by the state,” Rushefsky said. “If he hasn’t maintained his properties to this point, what makes you think he will now?”
At issue was the Missouri law that allows property owners that redevelop in blighted areas to receive tax abatements as incentives for redevelopment.
Shawn Whitney, the Husch Blackwell LLP attorney representing Bryan Properties and BSH Springfield 1, said he was glad that a majority of the council, which voted 6-3 in favor of Magers’ plan, understood the question being asked of them. He said he was disappointed in Rushefsky’s comments.
“I think her reaction was based upon limited facts,” Whitney said. “Mr. Magers has many properties in Springfield, and many of those are in great condition. She should have done her homework.”
Magers did not attend the meeting and did not return calls for comment.
The plans by BSH Springfield 1 and Bryan Properties were grouped together in the bill’s first reading on Dec. 15, and Smith had said council would need to declare a predominance of the area as blighted to be eligible for the tax incentives. Smith said at the Jan. 10 meeting, however, that it was discovered the area already had been declared blighted five times by the city between 1964 and 1980. But before council approved Magers’ plan, Rushefsky succeeded in her motion to split the developments into separate proposals by a 5-4 vote.
Rushefsky said she had no issues with the plan by BSH Springfield 1 LLC, co-owned by commercial real estate broker Tim Roth, to build its apartment complex, and Part A of the bill passed unanimously. But each member of council, and several public speakers, voiced their opinions about Part B, which featured plans by Magers. Perhaps the most vocal defender of Magers was Mayor Jim O’Neal.
“I hope that if this measure fails, Mr. Magers gets a lawyer and sues this city,” O’Neal said, calling Rushefsky’s opinions of the developer arbitrary and capricious.
Mayor Pro-tem Dan Chiles said the area was in desperate need of redevelopment.
“I don’t know anybody else who is planning on spending $20 million in this area,” he said.
City Manager Greg Burris said property tax incentives that were considered were available to all developers of blighted areas and, therefore, did not give Magers and BSH Springfield 1 an advantage over others, a concern of several speakers who spoke against the proposals.
Part B passed by a 6-3 vote, with Rushefsky, Nick Ibarra and Doug Burlison voting against it.
Smoking and alcohol bans Council tabled a pair of ordinances that call for smoking and alcohol bans in the city, allowing proposals that started as petition drives to go to the ballot on April 5.
The smoking ban would be applicable to businesses throughout the city, including tobacco shops.
Christian Hutson, owner of Just For Him on East Battlefield Road, said he would consider moving his shop out of Springfield if the ordinance passes in April.
Megan Creson, a spokesman for the Clean Air Alliance, said the group didn’t want to single out any businesses, but it did want to stand up for workers’ rights.
“There are a lot of people in Springfield who will now be able to voice their opinion on April 5,” Creson said. “We see this as a victory for not only our public health measure, but also for democracy.”
The alcohol ban in theaters, which would prohibit alcohol sales at Campbell 16 Cinema on South Campbell and other theaters with at least 25 percent of tickets purchased by minors, also will go before voters on April 5.[[In-content Ad]]