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Outlets Tax "No" Vote Means Something Else

One outlet asks for a 5/8-cent sales tax; city okays 1% tax for the other.

Taubman Prestige Outlets of Chesterfield filed a petition March 1 in St. Louis County Circuit Court to set up a Transportation Development District (TDD) for the area of its proposed mall.

As a result of that "district" new tax revenue would help pay for projects with roads, parking, and more in that area.

Taubman had begun grading 49 acres next to the Hardee's IcePlex on the north side of Highway 40/64 in February.

Meanwhile, competing St. Louis Premium Outlets had been planned near the Missouri River.

There was some that would raise an estimated $30 million over 20 years.

Both a TDD tax and a CID have shoppers pay a sales tax that pays back developers for the cost of building the malls.

The During a public hearing, residents speaking in opposition to the CID tax outnumbered residents in favor by 2-to-1.

Mayor Bruce Geiger and several members of the council appeared to have their minds made up at the public hearing, and were spouting

Reading between the lines on what developers' said, it sounded like if the CID was not granted, Premium Outlets wouldn't break ground.     

The process

There were two votes on the matter. The first was to allow the CID sales tax to have a first reading on May 7. It passed 7-1. Councilman Barry Flachsbart voted against—he wanted 5/8ths percent, not 1 percent.

The —he wanted 5/8th percent, not 1 percent.

Flachsbart said he wasn't against the CID, just that it was "too high." He wanted "5/8th percent."

Afterward, I pressed Flachsbart for a comment. He said ask City Attorney Robert Heggie.

Heggie declined to comment. I asked if a lawsuit had been filed. Heggie replied, go to circuit court and check.

I did. I found the competing outlet mall developer, Taubman, has filed a petition with the courts to form a taxing district—a TDD at 5/8th percent.

Taubman wants and maintenance costs over a 40-year period.

Councilman Flachsbart, with his previous two votes, was sending a message: He wanted to see a level playing field, a fair fight between competing mall developers—not one with 1 percent, and the other at 5/8th percent.

Unfortunately, none of us seemed to hear it for what it was, until too late. 

It seems the City of Chesterfield and its leaders did not inform the public of the disparity. The council's vote for 1 percent on the CID sales tax was Monday.

Now there may be a political strategy to keep the information quiet. If the public was informed of the proposed TDD at 5/8th percent, a clear question would come up over the 1 percent. Why isn’t there a level playing field between the two competing malls?

To have a level field, there needed to be identical tax rates, or no special taxes at all!  

For officials to say "it's a legal matter and can't be discussed" seems disingenuous.

Lawsuits can be discussed in closed session, according to the Missouri Sunshine Law. And no one was asking the city for damages in the TDD court petition. 

Any elected official can talk about what was discussed in a closed session. But no one did.  

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