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3-15-07

 
   

Taxing district opposed

Formation of CID would bring Price Chopper

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

Proposed formation of a community improvement district (CID) for a Price Chopper grocery store targeted for Platte City drew some opposition from the audience at a meeting of the Platte City Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.

Formation of the district is being requested by the Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG). A special tax of 5/8 cent would be imposed on all sales at the grocery store and other retail outlets within the CID to pay for parking lot and driveway improvements within the new development.

Also, a portion of the tax would be used for public improvements, specifically going toward extending Kentucky Avenue west to N Hwy.

The grocery superstore would be built within the proposed special taxing district. The district would be located in the Platte Valley Plaza development and would be bounded to the northwest by Kentucky Avenue, to the west by Ensign Drive, to the south by residential lots and to the east by undeveloped property.

A public hearing on the district's proposed formation was held by the aldermen Tuesday. The board discussed the matter with AWG officials, AWG attorneys, and other concerned parties for about an hour before tabling the matter until the next meeting, which is set for March 27.

Charles Renner, an attorney representing AWG, said CIDs are becoming "more and more common." He pointed out downtown Parkville recently established a district. He described it as a self-taxing mechanism, noting that the 5/8 cent tax would only apply within the district and not anywhere else in town.

AWG plans to build a 50,000 sq. ft. Price Chopper in Platte City. In addition, there would be 11,000 sq. ft. of added retail space at the location.

Phase one of the project would be valued at $7 million, company officials said. The additional retail space would come in phase two.
The district may have a life of 20 years, though officials said projections show the 5/8 cent tax could be eliminated after 17 years when funding for noted improvements could be reached.
The tax would raise $920,000 to go toward private parking lot and driveway improvements. In addition, $750,000 would go toward public improvements, specifically the extension of Kentucky Avenue west to N Hwy.

The $750,000 is seen as the development's share of extending Kentucky. It is believed to be about 25% of the total cost of the road project.

At the hearing, an outspoken opponent to the proposal was Mike Rowland, an owner/partner in the Cash Saver grocery store located at Hwy. 92 and Marshall Drive in Platte City.

"They (AWG) have said without the CID this project would be a shortfall. I don't think the city should be in the business of subsidizing private business," Rowland said, adding that AWG is his wholesaler.

Mayor Dave Brooks told Rowland the CID tax is a "self-imposed tax" and would only apply within the district.

Platte City resident Ed Chomicki also voiced opposition.

"Let the millionaires (developers) pay for it, not with cash from our pockets," Chomicki said.

Another resident, David Fisher, also spoke against the idea.
"If they want to build that, then they should build it on their own merits. If they put a 5/8 cent tax on it, I'll go to Barry Road (to shop). I have a problem with taxpayers helping them build this," Fisher remarked.

Brooks said he wanted to be clear about how the system would work.

"If you don't buy groceries in that store, you don't have to pay the tax," the mayor told the audience.

Jay Roberts, representing the homeowners association of the Estates of Platte Valley, the housing division located next to the proposed grocery site, said his association would ask for retention walls and a public divider around the property. He said his group is also concerned about trash that may accumulate outside the store.

"We have property values to think about," Roberts said.

Rowland, of Cash Saver, said the project could have a negative effect on consumers.

"The city is siding with and conspiring with my competitor. If this store buries me, the consumer will dearly pay if I'm gone," Rowland said, calling the CID assessment "a conspiracy tax.”

Rowland and his partner, Alan Wiest, said they believe the new owner of the Country Mart store in Platte City, Paul Bresette, will own and operate the Price Chopper and close down the Country Mart Store he purchased recently from the Glick family. Bresette is scheduled to take over the Country Mart store in April.

Reached by The Landmark on Wednesday morning, Bresette said he is aware of AWG's intention to put a store in Platte City "but there are no guarantees that I'm going to be the one that does it.”

"I moved to Platte City to buy that Country Mart. But if the opportunity was offered to me I would take a good hard look at it," Bresette told The Landmark. "At this juncture, I'm just focused on Country Mart.”

AG officials at Tuesday night's meeting said a decision hasn't been made on the operator of the proposed Price Chopper.

Rowland said in his opinion the addition of a superstore to Platte City is about three years ahead of its time. He said that without the special taxing district being formed, there "aren't enough rooftops" in Platte City to support the superstore.

Rowland said he believes the new Country Mart owner will run Country Mart until the new store is open and then close it down. He said AWG is "cannibalizing.”

"When Wal Mart does it to them, they scream, but they do it to their own member," Rowland remarked.

Standing outside city hall after the hearing, Wiest, one of Rowland's partners in the Cash Saver store, said:

"We're pretty sure if they (AWG's Price Chopper store) get the $1 million, we'll be gone.”