Advance of $353 million in tax relief for 'downtown' Chesterfield projects

Advance of $353 million in tax relief for ‘downtown’ Chesterfield projects

CHESTERFIELD — A plan to create a “downtown” Chesterfield cleared its first major hurdle on Monday when a special commission recommended it receive $353 million in tax incentives.

The commission voted 9 to 3 to recommend that the city council grant a tax incentive to two projects poised to create thousands of new apartments, restaurants and offices in a major section of Chesterfield. The project requires approximately $3 billion in residential and commercial development, including a redevelopment of the Chesterfield Mall.

A St. Louis County appointee to the commission, Jay Nelson, and appointees from the Parkway and Rockwood school districts voted against the incentive, called tax-increase funding, or TIF.

The TIF is expected to be presented to the city council, which has the final say, at its December 5 meeting. The city plans to spend $10,000 to distribute a direct mail to residents about the incentive.

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Terrestrial Developers The Staenberg Group and CRG lead the projects.

The Staenberg Group wants to demolish the Chesterfield Mall, at Chesterfield Parkway West and Wild Horse Creek Road, to make way for its part of the project, which includes a 259-room hotel, nearly 3,000 housing units and millions of square feet of office and retail space.

CRG has plans for nearly 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, a public plaza with a floating stage and garden, and more than 565 housing units just west of the mall.

The recommendation follows weeks of debate where the school districts of Parkway and Rockwood clashed with the city of Chesterfield over the TIF and the number of students the new developments would attract.

The TIF would divert some of the new taxes generated by the projects to a special fund used to pay for new infrastructure, such as parking lots and roads, for both projects. The TIF would be in effect for 23 years and would freeze the property tax at the current level. As the value of real estate increases, the TIF would “capture” the increase in property taxes from the base rate and use those funds for other purposes. The TIF would also capture 50% of sales taxes and utilities from the development for other uses.

The districts argued that the TIF would divert the money needed to educate the more than 800 students who would have to live in the developments and who would mainly attend three schools in the Parkway district. Parkway officials fear the TIF will cost it millions of dollars in revenue and force the district to add trailers for so many new students, seek increased taxes or redraw school boundaries. The district expects to lose between $44 million and $235 million over the life of the TIF, depending on enrollment.

The city, meanwhile, said the projects would broaden the tax base, easing the burden on the average Chesterfield resident. The districts, he said, overstated their estimates of student numbers and that they would net $216 million in additional revenue. The city predicts the developments would add less than 300 new students.

Six people spoke at Monday’s roughly 35-minute meeting, including former mayor John Nations, who criticized Parkway and its chief financial officer, saying the district would be in worse financial shape without TIF.

“Parkway did not hire anyone to advise them. They sent a staff accountant. I’m sure he’s very good at being a school accountant if you ask him how to fund a lunch program or run the bus system,” Nations said.

He suggested new developments could break away from the Rockwood and Parkway districts and create their own school district.

Monday’s recommendation is non-binding, but a committee vote against the TIF would have required a two-thirds waiver from the city council and would also have restricted the use of the money.

Chesterfield has had only one other TIF, which paid for levee and road improvements while the town attracted new business to the area after major flooding in 1993. The town generated more revenue than expected and was able to withdraw the TIF about a decade earlier, officials said.

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