Developers, city to look at incentives

mku@herald-leader.com,By Michelle KuJuly 9, 2008 

Mayor Jim Newberry and seven members of the Urban County Council will be spending their summer vacation negotiating a tax incentive deal with the developer of CentrePointe.

The city “delegation” was formed Tuesday after the council's 13-2 vote on a resolution encouraging developers with projects that qualify for lucrative incentives known as as tax increment financing to work with city leaders as they apply for the financing. The resolution also called for the creation of a group made up of Newberry and seven council members to “negotiate” TIF deals.

The resolution's approval came on the same day that the Fayette Alliance — a coalition of infill developers, neighborhood associations and farmers — revoked its support for CentrePointe, a proposed $250 million hotel, condominium, retail and office complex slated to be built by developers Dudley and Woodford Webb on a prominent downtown block.

The alliance supported CentrePointe on the condition that the Webbs “meaningfully respond to the community's concerns” about the project, said Knox van Nagell, executive director of the group. “After reviewing the latest design plans, it is apparent that the developer is unwilling to work with policy leaders and civic advocates to substantially address the issues of scale, layout and the integration of existing structures into CentrePointe's final development plan.”

Much of the delegation's work will take place while the council is on its summer break. Tuesday was the council's last meeting until mid-August.

Newberry will be joined on the committee by Vice Mayor Jim Gray and council members Tom Blues, Julian Beard, Dick DeCamp, Peggy Henson, Jay McChord and David Stevens.

The delegation's first meeting with the Webbs has not been scheduled yet. All of the meetings will be subject to open meetings laws and open to members of the public.

Darby Turner, attorney for the Webb Companies, said the Webbs “welcome the opportunity” to talk to the council about including public infrastructure projects as part of the development of CentrePointe.

The Webbs say they want to build $35 million in public infrastructure — parks, parking garages, public art, etc. — as part of the project. Tax increment financing would allow the company to recoup that money over time from the tax revenue generated by the project.

If TIF money is used, the public infrastructure projects that would be part of CentrePointe will have to be decided within the next month, Turner said.

Gray and Blues both said the city is reaching out to CentrePointe's developers in good faith.

“I hope they will respond in good faith and stop the demolition until this process is complete,” Gray said.

Last week, the first of several buildings that would need to come down to make way for CentrePointe was demolished.

Council members Andrea James and Don Blevins Jr. voted against the resolution encouraging developers to work with a city delegation on TIF projects.

The council created a city policy about TIF projects too quickly, Blevins said. The council established a policy “for all future TIF projects with four days' thought. That's not enough time or thought to properly vet how to do a TIF.”

Reach Michelle Ku at (859) 231-1335 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1335.

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