Formation of the MoveRolla Transportation Development District (TDD) will forge ahead after Monday night’s vote by the Rolla City Council, but not without opposition — or hard feelings.

Formation of the MoveRolla Transportation Development District (TDD) will forge ahead after Monday night’s vote by the Rolla City Council, but not without opposition — or hard feelings.
In a vote that was not a roll call, but was not unanimous, the council passed a resolution “calling for the joint establishment of a transportation development district with Phelps County.”
City Administrator John Butz said there was urgency in approving the resolution, for it is the first step in a series of steps that will end around March or April of next year. In between Nov. 2, 2015, and March 30, 2016, is a two-page timeline involving the circuit court, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and commercial property owners in a 1,200-acre gerrymandered taxing district.
Moreover, Butz explained, it will be May before proceeds from a bond sale by the taxing district can be received and actual work can begin on the transportation improvements. Among those improvements are access roads sought by the developers of Westside Marketplace, planning for an opening in time for back-to-school shopping in 2017.
Mark Spykerman, attorney for Gilmore & Bell investment bankers, attended the meeting to explain the process and answer questions about the taxing district. He said the district will be governed by a four-person board, two representing the city government and two representing the county government. The mayor and county presiding commissioner will be two of the members.
The TDD, if approved by a majority vote of property owners in the district, would impose a 1 percent tax on all the sales within the district (with some exclusions) that includes most of those along Bishop Avenue (U.S. Highway 63), Kingshighway, as well as some on Sixth Street and other streets.
Voting on the formation of the taxing district will be done by the property owners, none of them residential, and they will receive votes, or fractions of votes, based on their acreage. Notices and procedures for requesting ballots will be mailed to all property owners in the district.
The resolution authorizes the filing of a petition in circuit court for an election to form the district, and that petition includes everything the city envisions in a 25-year transportation plan.
And that list proved to be a sticking point—or rather one item on the list.
“What damage would it do to the TDD if we eliminate the 10th Street overpass?” 2nd Ward Councilman Matt Crowell asked. The 10th Street overpass and construction of an outer road from the Kingshighway roundabouts to Highway E have been major concerns for residents of Vista Drive, Hyer Court and Bluebird Lane.
Butz said the 10th Street overpass would not occur in the first phase of the transportation plan. The first phase includes the extension of Highway 72/Ridgeview Road over to the Kingshighway roundabouts area, along with certain improvements to Kingshighway and access roads in the Rolla West redevelopment area.
But, he said, leaving 10th Street overpass out of the resolution would “remove any flexibility” of using TDD revenue proceeds if the need for the overpass arises. Mayor Lou Magdits IV added that removing it from the list would not guarantee the residents that an overpass would not be built, for it could be done with other revenue sources by future councils.
Crowell, though, said, “I just can’t get behind it,” explaining that having it in the list removes the possibility that it could be built elsewhere in the vicinity. He said he understood that there would be no guarantee that the overpass would never be built.
Third Ward Councilman Kelly Long said he would not be “comfortable” removing the overpass from the list because a way across the interstate in that vicinity is going to be necessary if the city wants to see growth in the west side.
“There’s going to be an overpass,” he declared. “In my opinion, it’s going to happen.”
First Ward Councilman Jonathan Hines concurred, saying “It’s a fact of life.” He said the overpass should be kept in the list, but it should be a flexible location so it could be moved to the south. Crowell entered a motion, seconded by Fifth Ward Councilman Brian Woolley, to drop the overpass from the list. That motion failed.
But the resolution was changed to modify the designation of the “10th Street Overpass” to “Overpass in the vicinity of 10th Street” to allow its movement, at least a block either way.
In a related vote, the council approved a resolution authorizing Phelps County “to implement a tax increment financing project within the boundaries of the city of Rolla.”
Phelps County Commission was set to form the TIF Commission Tuesday but tabled the issue so County Counselor Brendon Fox could review it. A TIF will allow tax money to be used to help the developer afford to develop the site and provide access to it.
At the close of the meeting, during the citizen comment portion, the council received an earful from the residents who will be most affected by an overpass and an outer road.
Elaine Grover, who lives on Vista Drive, said leaving the overpass in the resolution, even with a slight modification to its location, will eliminate any flexibility in the future.
“There could have been options discussed,” if the overpass had been left out of the resolution that will ultimately be filed in the circuit court, she said.
She also said that the overpass was an afterthought, added by the HNTB transportation consulting firm when the city officials suggested the construction of the outer road. But Magdits said outer roads are wanted by MoDOT. Grover said MoDOT won’t pay for an outer road. Nevertheless, Magdits said, “It is a MoDOT-driven issue.”
Magdits said there is no immediate plan to build an overpass or an outer road. “We don’t know if it will be done or if it will be affordable.” He assured Grover that the city will continue to be “transparent” in its discussions and planning in the future.
Indeed, Alan Bornstein, the president of UTW Realty, the Westside Marketplace developing company, said in a recent neighborhood meeting he had never worked in a community where the city government is so open with the residents about development plans.
Other speakers from the neighborhood also voiced their disapproval and disappointment in the council.
Cathy Keeney, who also lives on Vista Court, said she has invested more than $30,000 in her home recently and receiving a notice from the city that the infrastructure changes are possible was “devastating.” She questioned what any property owner in that area who wants to sell should tell a potential buyer.
Earl Richards, a longtime resident of that neighborhood whose house is one that will be taken out if the 10th Street overpass is built, said the city should attempt to develop from the heart of the city outward, not the fringe along the interstate.
“It’s really a small town, not a Columbia, a Jefferson City or a Springfield,” he said, noting that the population 60 years ago was just 6,000 less than it is today.
“That’s a thousand people every decade, just 100 people a year,” he said, not enough to sustain a development of the magnitude of Westside Marketplace.
Richards said when he was working he often drove from Columbia to St. Louis on Interstate 70 and saw a development similar to the one being planned here. It wasn’t long before the development closed and it was overgrown with weeds and brush. “That’s exactly what’s going to happen here,” he said.