Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ozark aldermen OK redevelopment plan for downtown area

you owned some property and allowed it to get in a state of disrepair. Along with some busy bodies serving on city government and local inhabitants they form a committee to SEIZE your property via EMINENT DOMAIN. The voters approved of the city taking this parcel of land to rid the area of an eyesore, now these very same people may have their own houses yanked out from underneath them. I for one say HOORAY as the good book says an eye for an eye. Just remember your property can be deemed an eyesore just as easy as that mobile home park.

Common Sense from a common sense individual.

Some residents remain concerned city will seize property in blighted area.

Chad Hunter

Ozark — City leaders on Monday approved special financing plans for downtown redevelopment, paving the way for more than $50 million worth of homes and new businesses.

Aldermen voted 4-1 to accept a recommendation made by a separate tax commission. It allows the developer to use future real estate property taxes and half the sales taxes generated in that area to help pay for infrastructure upgrade costs now.

The developer, Hagerman New Urbanism of Springfield, plans to add about 37,000 feet of retail space, lofts, more than 40 homes and 234 apartments to a portion of the 47-acre Finley River Redevelopment District, declared blighted by the city in 2004.

Several years from now, New Urbanism plans to create a "lifestyle center" with about 70,000 feet of retail space and 50 lofts.

But despite the city's promise not to force existing homeowners in the blighted area to sell, some residents Monday echoed concerns they've had about eminent domain.

"They exempted the homeowners — we still don't think that it's binding — but they won't exempt businesses," homeowner Dennis Sparrow said.

Also during the meeting, allegations again surfaced that Ozark misled voters who approved the blighting of the area. Some claim they thought they were only targeting a 2-acre, rundown mobile home park that the city eventually purchased and dismantled.

"We're not going to sit here and declare eminent domain on everything to take away people's property," said Alderman Mark Spinabella.

Politics reared its head at the packed meeting as alderman candidate Rick Amos asked the city to table the issue until after the April election because "there may be new blood up here."

"I feel that I have been misled," Amos said. "I am a citizen of this community and I voted. You didn't do what you said you would do. People I have been out talking to feel the same way."

Mayor Donna McQuay replied: "We have been going to meetings for three years and I have never seen you there. We have really tried to educate the public as to where we're headed with this and it's now become a reality."

Under the 23-year tax increment financing plan, taxing districts including the Ozark School District will lose real estate property taxes and half of sales taxes generated within the TIF district.

City Administrator Collin Quigley said that in the long run, everybody will benefit.

"We're trying to build a sales tax base, build the residential base and put the investment back into the heart of Ozark," he said. "So at some time, yes, the school and every taxing entity will be getting the full benefit of that tax benefit."

Someone from the audience retorted that it would be years before that would happen.

"Where will we be in 23 years without this?" Quigley answered. "This is one of the few examples where (a TIF) needs to be used to revitalize downtown."

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