A hotly-contested request for tax increment financing failed to win the approval of the Tax Increment Financing Commission on Monday night. The commission said the request didn’t meet necessary legal requirements.
The Commission voted 8-3 against recommending that the Columbia City Council approve the TIF request to help fund a second tower of the Broadway Hotel. Commission members Andrew Beverley, Michael Kelly and Andy Waters were the three members who voted to approve the proposal.
The council will have the final say in the approval of the TIF request. Former assistant city manager Tony St. Romaine has been working with city staff through the TIF process and said the council will likely hear the proposal at its meeting on Nov. 20 and vote at its meeting on Dec. 4.
David Parmley, owner of the Broadway Hotel, is asking for about $2.1 million to help build the second tower, which would be behind the existing tower at 1104 E. Walnut St., next to the Short Street garage. Parmley expects construction would cost $20 million. He has said he can’t build the tower without the incentive, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The TIF Commission had to decide whether Parmley’s proposal meets the legal requirements for tax increment financing. The property must meet the legal definition of a “conservation area” and pass the “but for” test.
According to state statute, a conservation area is defined as a property where at least half of the existing structures are more than 35 years old and which is detrimental to “public health, safety, morals, or welfare.” The “but for” test means that the property would not be developed without TIF.
The commission gave another opportunity for public comment on the proposal Monday night, and residents who spoke were mostly opposed to the proposal. Residents were mixed in the first public hearing on Oct. 4, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said property values in the central business district, which encompasses downtown, have grown at about three times the rate as they have in all of Columbia over the past decade.
He said MU is the major catalyst for development downtown, pointing to the several high-rise apartments built for students over the past few years. He said the commission should consider the “but for” test and ask whether the property would be developed without TIF.
“I believe, based on the explosive growth downtown, that the answer is absolutely yes,” Schauwecker said.
Columbia resident Alyce Turner said she sees the discussion surrounding the proposal partly as an assessment of downtown after years of development.
“We’re finding that downtown is worth a lot more than it was a few years ago when (Parmley) maybe bravely decided to redo the falling apart Regency Hotel, which we all applaud him for,” Turner said. “But today is not then.”
She said she doesn’t see the lot where the second tower would be built as a danger to public health.
“That property is worth a lot of money,” she said. “It’s not blighted.”
Columbia resident Eric Williams said the city would be setting a dangerous precedent if it approved the request.
“For a property owner to say, ‘I can rent my property and purposely get it into disrepair to meet this requirement and get free money from the government,’ is beyond conceivable,” Williams said. “I’m pretty sure it could be easily cleaned up, and not become a blighted property, very quickly. I think the market is good enough in Columbia that we do not need to be giving out corporate welfare to multi-millionaires.”