December 19, 2012 - Though Crestwood Mayor Jeff Schlink said he can "break ties all day," he declined to do so last week when the Board of Aldermen deadlocked 4-4 on approving a planning consultant for the proposed redevelopment of Crestwood Court.
"The reality is when we're dealing with something that's as large as this, that divides a community, as well as the folks here, and obviously the board, I can't be the one that just nudges this over the hill each time," Schlink told the board Dec. 11. "If this is going to go forward, it needs to go forward with the support of the board, which is essentially the support of the community."
Ward 1 Aldermen Mimi Duncan and Darryl Wallach and Ward 4 Aldermen Dan Tennessen and John Foote voted in favor of selecting Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, for planning, technical and redevelopment consulting services.
Ward 2 Aldermen Bob Deutschmann and Tim Trueblood and Ward 3 Aldermen Jerry Miguel and Paul Duchild were opposed.
Centrum, the mall's owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., proposed an open-air entertainment and retail venue earlier this year that would include restaurants, a movie theater and a bowling concept.
The roughly $121 million project includes economic assistance through tax-increment financing, or TIF; a transportation development district, or TDD; and a community improvement district, or CID.
The economic assistance totals roughly $34 million — a roughly $8 million decrease from the original proposal. The CID and TDD sales-tax requests were reduced from 1 percent to 0.75 percent.
The proposal also includes a provision for the use of eminent domain, though Centrum officials have said they do not intend to use eminent domain to redevelop the property.
Duchild told aldermen if they voted no before, voting no again will help "bring the developer back to the table." A "no" vote, according to Duchild, is the "leverage that we have."
"Don't give up your leverage," Duchild said.
But Foote said he believes the city needs to approve PGAV as the city's representative to "make sure (Centrum's proposal is) correct for the (Lindbergh) school system and for the city."
Vic Pildes, of Centrum Properties, told the board the city has a "willing partner" in Centrum.
"We've reached out to the city. We've reached out to the school district. We've reached out to the public for input," Pildes said. "We've responded to some of the input we've already gotten from you regarding the rate of TDD/CID taxes, regarding the issue of eminent domain."
Miguel told his fellow aldermen if they were: "satisfied with Centrum's proposal as is"; willing to give Centrum the power of eminent domain; and willing to "give Centrum a blank check" to vote yes.
"On the other hand, if you have reservations concerning unanswered questions about any of the aforementioned, then vote no," he said. "If you want to bring Centrum back to the table for a meaningful discussion, then vote no."
Wallach said his vote does not condone the use of eminent domain or approve of $34 million of TIF.
"That's just another phase down the road," Wallach said.
Jim Mello, an attorney representing Centrum Properties, told the board it does not have to agree to Centrum's redevelopment plan through its approval of PGAV for planning services.
"Right now we're just speculating," Mello said. "We're not moving the process forward because we're not getting the consultants in to prepare those types of information."
Resident Diane Albright told the board it does not seem like any final decisions are being made with the selection of a planner.
"This is an opportunity to move forward and yet we're not saying yes to everything that's going to happen," Albright said, "And, in fact, it is changing as it goes along. You don't know the stores or the final plan because they don't even know the plan to my understanding."
Martha Duchild, wife of the Ward 3 alderman, noted that PGAV, in a memo to the board, stated negotiating the redevelopment agreement should not occur at a board meeting.
"This invites public input that is ill informed and not helpful," the memo stated.
Martha Duchild said the public will make the project a success — and will "partially fund this project."
"I would say that excluding the public from this process is a mistake and I would also recommend that the board not retain the services of PGAV," Martha Duchild said.
When questioned about the city's ability to back out of the redevelopment process if it does not agree with the plans, City Attorney Rob Golterman said at this point the city "has committed to nothing in terms of approving a final plan."
The city's next step, however, is to approve a planner, who would prepare a development plan, according to Golterman.
That plan then could go directly to a TIF commission, or return to the board for "review and comments" before going to the TIF commission, Golterman said.
Foote said he does not want the city to be in a situation where, a few years down the road, "we went right off the cliff and didn't do due diligence."
"There's too much riding on this not to be right," Foote said.
Golterman said the board is "free to modify the recommendation from the TIF commission."
"Those are the issues that will all be incorporated into a development agreement, which is really the final phase," the city attorney said, "and it's in that agreement, that which the board has complete approval over, (that) would address things, could address things like eminent domain and other issues that might still be out there."
What aldermen voted on last week, according to Pildes, was "merely to hire a professional to advise (city officials) on some of the issues in our proposal."
"You can certainly direct that professional to specifically examine certain issues if they're of concern to you," Pildes said. "You're being asked to hire a professional so that we can move the discussion forward at our cost.
"I don't know what you could find fault with in what you're being asked to vote on."