by Ivan Foleyk
It was preceded by much discussion and a little hesitation, but in the end a site plan for construction of a Price Chopper superstore was approved by the Platte City Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night at city hall.
The hesitation came when it was acknowledged that the landowner/developer of the Platte Valley Plaza, Bill Mann, has not completed necessary transportation improvements such as traffic signals and turn lanes that would help with traffic flow in and around the Plaza, in which the Price Chopper store will be located.
As a result of Mann's inability to complete the transportation projects, the city previously has indicated it will not approve any further building permits within the Platte Valley Plaza until such time as Mann has completed the traffic improvements. But on Tuesday night the planning and zoning commission hedged on that stance a bit with a unanimous approval of the Price Chopper site plan. The approval included a promise that building and occupancy permits will be issued for the store so long as normal requirements are met.
"If we can't get a building permit why would we buy the property?" asked Scott Wilmoski, of Super Market Devlopers, at the meeting Tuesday night. "I guarantee you that we won't close (on purchasing the property from Mann) without the assurance that we would be able to get a building permit. I could (be forced to) sit on the property for 10 years waiting on somebody else to do something," he added before the commission had taken its vote to approve.
Improvements the city is requiring Mann to undertake have an estimated price of $550,000. In those improvements will be turn signals at Kentucky Avenue and Hwy. 92, turn signals at Running Horse Road and Platte Falls Road, and turn lanes at Kentucky and Hwy. 92 and the southbound exit ramp from Interstate 29 onto Hwy. 92.
Platte County Circuit Court recently approved the establishment of a Transportation Development District (TDD) for Mann for a portion of the Platte Valley Plaza. The TDD will allow for a self-imposed sales tax or a property tax to be assessed within the district's boundaries, with the generated revenue being used to pay for the previously listed improvements. No time frame for work or even the exact funding mechanism has yet been established by a committee overseeing the TDD.
During discussion prior to the planning and zoning commission's vote, mayor Dave Brooks and city administrator Keith Moody urged the board to be a little more patient with Mann in hopes that "we can get a little more done.”
"We're talking about something (the new grocery store) that means an awful lot to the city, sales tax wise," Brooks said.
Price Chopper officials have claimed the store will generate $1 million annually in sales tax revenue.
Moody said the city could use its leverage in the future on other undeveloped land in the Platte Valley Plaza, indicating Mann still has plans for other projects. It was suggested the city could deny building permits for those future projects instead of endangering the Price Chopper proposal.
"I'm told the city has a $300,000 letter of credit from Mann. You would only be out $250,000," Wilmoski said, indicating the city could obtain the $300,000 from Mann in that fashion and then fund the remaining quarter million dollars for the transportation projects from another source.
"What you're risking is you're playing poker with Bill Mann and whether you want this store or not," Wilmoski said.
In the early phases of discussion, chairman David Shaw seemed prepared to stand his ground on the issue.
"It's Mr. Mann holding you hostage, not this board," he said to Wilmoski.
Shaw said Super Market Developers may hold a hammer against Mann, with Mann's lack of completion of the transportation projects holding up a major sale of Mann-owned property to Super Market Developers.
"I got no hammer," Wilmoski responded.
"This is a very important decision. We need to consider finding a way to work with these people," Brooks interjected.
"Mann isn't through (developing the Platte Valley Plaza) yet and that's our ace. We do have the ability to get $300,000 from his bank that we know we can get," Brooks said.
Moody then said the city could initially pay the remaining $250,000 for improvements and "find a way to recover that from Bill.”
Shaw remarked: "I don't want Bill Mann to think his earnest money is going to pay that off," indicating Mann may be hoping the city chooses to go that route, leaving open the possibility of Mann never paying the remaining $250,000.
Shaw then said he would vote for approving the Price Chopper site plan so long as it is clear "that remainder (of the Platte Valley Plaza) doesn't have a spoon of dirt turned on it until we see what we need to see.”
Bill Knighton, who serves on the planning and zoning board and is also an alderman, expressed some reservation before voting in favor.
"We play dodge ball with Bill Mann all the time," Knighton said at one point.
Shaw and other commission members agreed signalization is going to be very important because the new grocery store will increase traffic flow in that area tremendously.
After approving the Price Chopper site plan, the commission approved another motion, this one informing the board of aldermen that the planning and zoning commission will refuse to consider any additional site plans or final plats from Mann until satisfied with the transportation issues.
Price Chopper is expected to open as early as September or October of 2008. Operating hours initially will be 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
"There is no intent of making this a 24-hour store but we would not want to be precluded from that should it warrant that," Wilmoski said.