by Michael R. Allen
Today in the Missouri Senate, SB 282 (Now described as “Modifies provisions of certain Department of Economic Development Programs”; formerly the Quality Jobs Act) was placed on the informal calendar for perfection. The bill includes the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act, the program backed by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and reportedly sought by developer Paul J. McKee, Jr. that would provide tax credits for land assembly projects of 75 acres or greater.
Proponents of the land assemblage credits have cited north St. Louis as a good place for its use. Residents of north St. Louis and urban design critics have voiced opposition based on the effect that large-scale programs would have on disruption of architectural fabric and displacement of residential populations as well as the secrecy associated with the bill and its support from the office of Mayor Francis Slay. Through chief of staff Jeff Rainford, Slay has indicated support for the bill although he refuses to make public statements on the controversial “Blairmont” acquisition project Paul J. McKee began in 2003 in north St. Louis — and publicly denied until this year — long before the tax credits were proposed. Residents of Old North St. Louis, St. Louis Place and JeffVanderLou have long complained about the neglect of property, questionable tactics of real estate agents and negative impact on revitalization the “Blairmont” project has created. Furthermore, the City Counselor’s office is currently investigating the code violations associated with the over 637 properties acquired by McKee’s companies in north St. Louis.
While McKee created and implemented the “Blairmont” project, the tax credit law could encourage similar attempts to amass property in north St. Louis. As McKee’s project shows, such attempts are messy and potentially could discourage people from wanting to live in targeted areas during long acquisition phases.
The Senate could consider making the bill more appropriate for use in urban areas by
– limiting the size of eligible projects to a maximum of forty acres
– inserting stricter limits on acquisition of owner-occupied units
– reducing the amount of credits that can be applied to occupied housing units purchased for projects
– requiring that eligible parcels are up to local codes
– prohibiting use of the credits on liens and bills for maintenance from local government
– requiring projects pursue historic preservation planning
You can contact the St. Louis senators and offer your views on the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act. (Senator Maida Coleman represents the area where McKee’s companies have acquired property.) When the bill is on the floor of the full senate, any senator can offer an amendment — and vote against the bill. Senator Smith’s commentary on the bill, “How to Turn a Bill Into a Christmas Tree,” suggests that he might oppose the final version.
St. Louis Senators’ Contact Information
Sen. Maida Coleman (D-5th)
Sen. Harry Kennedy (D-1st)
Sen. Jeff Smith (D-4th)