Sunday, July 26, 2009

Biz Columnist Schuster Blasts City/County Downtown Land Grabs

COLUMBIA, 7/26/09 (Beat Byte) -- In a surprisingly pointed condemnation of public encroachment on the private sector, Columbia Business Times (CBT) columnist and former city councilman Larry Schuster Friday blasted the Columbia City Council for approving two local TIFs and took the Boone County Commission to task for buying up large chunks of once privately owned, property-tax-paying downtown land.

Warning against overly-liberal use of "blight" to secure tax incentives, Schuster intimated that he sees the term as a self-serving misnomer with regard to any parcel of downtown Columbia's legendarily pricey property.

"For the city council to approve each of these TIF applications, a host of acrobatic flips and tumbles have occurred. Beginning with the Tiger Hotel application, they have concluded that the treasure of downtown is in imminent danger of loss or dilapidation -- quite a stretch for even the most imaginative among us," Schuster writes in this week's CBT, a publication owned by Tiger Hotel principals Dave Baugher and Al Germond. "In the case of the Trittenbach application, they have overlooked the applicants’ public testimony that the property they seek to redevelop is among the most expensive real estate available within the city limits."

Schuster then points to an irony of downtown redevelopment: so many public agencies have swallowed once-privately held land that a tax revenue crisis of their own making now requires incentives like TIF and CID to correct.

"City Manager Bill Watkins points to the decline of sales tax revenue and business licenses in downtown as evidence that this particular interference is necessary," Schuster notes. "However, between the city and county governments, blame for the bulk of revenue declines can be laid at their feet. The Daniel Boone Building expansion itself removed two businesses from the private sector. In addition, the county’s acquisition of the Johnston Building, the Johnston Paint & Decorating Building and the Guarantee Land Title Building are further examples of recent moves from the private sector to the public, tax-exempt sector of the downtown economy.

"These acquisitions of prime real estate by public entities who pay top dollar fuels the exit of private enterprise that generates tax revenue. The downtown community is thus divided among those who accept the buyout and those less fortunate to hold properties that are not adjacent to public entities."

And, as Schuster says, divided between those who receive tax incentives and those who don't.


Street Do-Overs -- Providence Wall, Broadway Break -- Draw Gasps

COLUMBIA, 7/26/09 (Beat Byte) -- Is it just radio show callers, or have two street do-overs caught Columbians off guard? A huge wall running down the center of Providence -- perhaps to divide football parking crowds -- has appeared without any local media fanfare across from Reactor Field on one side and what I call Stadium Foothills on the other.

And once four-lane Broadway has suddenly become 1+ lanes at Clinkscales, where I've already seen several cars using a new right-hand turn lane to go straight.

It's above my pay grade to find out what's going on with both the Providence Wall and Broadway Bust, but based on disgruntled phone calls and confused drivers, I doubt I'm the only one with questions.

Criminal Parade Continues at Benton-Stephens 8-Plex

COLUMBIA, 7/26/09 (Beat Byte) -- The Tiger Car Wash chain owners may need to wash out tenants at their Benton-Stephens 8-plex. Following up a February story of dozens of arrests, fires, and SWAT team action at 1411 Wilkes Blvd., the parade of tenant arrests continues unabated. Since then, police have made the following arrests, stretching into late July (this month):

Jamall Chavez Cambell, 22, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., probation-and-parole violation, out-of-county warrant, $5,200 bond.
Jamall Chavez Campbell, 22, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., misdemeanor warrant.
Marco Damon Campbell, 24, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., out-of-county warrant, $7,500 bond.
Marco Damon Campbell, 24, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., careless and imprudent driving, driving without a license, $5,114.50 bond.
Marco Damon Campbell, 24, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., two out-of-county warrants, possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, $5,000 bond.
John Robert Allen, 26, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., first-degree trespassing, stealing, $1,000 bond.
Natasha Deeann Hunter, 35, of 1411 Wilkes Blvd., possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana.

Owners Gregg and Amy Morgan purchased the eight-unit complex in March 2005 with help from a $602,000 mortgage from First National Bank (FNB) of Columbia. The mortgage, which includes another property, was refinanced at FNB in 2008 for $770,000, according to public records on file with Boone County. The Morgans and FNB then consolidated the note last December with several other properties for $1,520,000.

With former Emery Sapp and Sons VP Roland Bartels, Gregg Morgan also owns a chain of Tiger Car Washes and the Briarcrest Apartments at 105 N. Garth. In the four years since the Morgans purchased the Wilkes eight-plex, authorities have made 30 resident arrests, or an average 7 arrests per year, nearly one every other month. Apartment residents have also endured two fires.

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