The tax increment finance (TIF) commission appointed by taxing entities in Ste. Genevieve County likely will meet again to clear up any confusion about the district boundary before its scheduled August 29 public hearing.
The commission accepted the district boundary as presented after a vote to restrict the district failed during the first meeting of the panel on July 9. Of the nine-member panel, no one voted in favor of scaling down the district and only one vote was cast against it.
With the commission looking over a binder of information and getting a lesson in how TIF increment financing works, the boundary discussion may have been too much for the commission to process in its first meeting.
A 270-acre farm makes up the bulk of the 295-acre TIF district and is being earmarked for future development as an industrial park.
“There was a lot of confusion about how that got put in there and why other properties weren’t put in there,” Ste. Genevieve County Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson said.
Nelson is not a member of the TIF commission but the County Commission initiated the process, made six of the nine appointments and will receive the recommendation of the panel. He attended the July 9 meeting.
Second District County Commisioner Ray Gettinger, who was selected as the TIF commission chairman, said the boundary issue would be revisited. He said some elements of the proposal “snuck in” just before the meeting.
The county had discussions with other taxing entities, including members of the Ambulance District board, which can exempt itself from having tax money allocated to the project, with a proposal for the commercial district on New Bremen Road, not including the Regency Inn and Suites motel. The motel ended up being included in the proposal.
Chauncy Buchheit, who as executive director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission, prepared the proposal for the July 9 meeting, said he was surprised about any controversy related to the boundary.
“I don’t know if it was a shock to anyone,” Buchheit said. “It could have been, I don’t know. … It’s a draft and it’s all subject to change. We’ll probably end up at some point here having a meeting a little earlier than what they had scheduled just to call people back in.”
The commission planned to meet again August 22 to prepare for the public hearing.
During the initial meeting, Buchheit told the commission members that now was the time to expand the plan, although it could be amended later through the same three-month process with a public hearing.
Ambulance District Administrator Kendall Shrum said, “This is an expanded footprint” when presented with the proposal during the TIF commission meeting. He had concerns about being tied in to deferring tax revenue from such a large piece of land for a period as long as 23 years.
The farm is listed in the proposal as Schwiegert E.L. Family Farm LLC.
Wayne Schweigert told the commission the farm had been the subject of a four-county study paid for by the St. Francois County Industrial Development Corporation to identify potential industrial megasites. He said it was one of 10 sites in the county studied, and that the study for the site included other properties surrounding his such as property belonging to the Herrman, Geisler and Otte families.
The study referred to during the meeting was said to be unavailable to the public, although Nelson said the county had received a copy of it.
Jean Heil Otte, a candidate for First District Commissioner, said she didn’t think it was fair for other surrounding property owners not to be considered.
“We should have an option to talk about it,” she said.
Buchheit said last week “To my knowledge, they were not [contacted about being included in the TIF],” and he wasn’t certain if they had been contacted about the initial study.
“What I tried to say during the meeting … just to put somebody’s property in there if they don’t have any intention on doing anything with it causes more controversy than leaving them out,” Buchheit said. “If they’re out, they can always request to come in before the hearing.
“Mr. Schweigert had indicated his property could well be available for development, and he’s the only one who did that.”
During the meeting, Schweigert offered to pull his farm out of the TIF district proposal, leaving in sewage treatment plants that are on his property. He said a separate legal description is available for that parcel, reportedly 7.9 acres.
While Nelson said that might make the Ambulance District board feel better, Buchheit said Crawford’s project would have more success if there was more development and more potential customers coming to the area.
Buchheit said Thursday that now that commission members have had “an opportunity to think it through” and review the materials they received, another meeting should be held to add or remove areas to the district.
“Now is the time to do it,” he said.