Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Proposed 16th Ward Community Center To Take Next Step

Community Center advocates plan to submit their offer to purchase the Nottingham School to the Board of Education before the end of the year.

Before the project becomes a reality, there will be a signature drive to establish a Community Improvement District to fund construction of the facility, and the Board of Aldermen would have the final vote.


Anonymous said...

And I would like to purchase your home and live in St. Louis Hills. But somehow, like Nottingham Middle, I imagine your place ain't for sale. But Rick, may I still interest you in an offer for your home?

PonyMommy said...

According to the Missouri Secretary of State, the Incorporator for Southwest St. Louis Community Development District (no Inc. to name despite Journal article) is William J. Kuehling, now of Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus and previously of the Southtown KMart controversy.

Everyone do as you are told. To play it safe, bend over and ask for another.

Rick Bonasch said...

How does the old adage go? Everything has it's price?

If someone offered us market value plus a premium price, we'd take it.

Then we might be able to move up to a nicer home in Tower Grove Heights, the CWE, or even a big downtown loft.

Anonymous said...

As you know or will see, the supporters of this rec center have
already formered a non-profit corporation and appear to be well
organized and sophistocated. The articles of incorporation indicate
that the purpose of the corporation is to "acquire land for,
contruct, operate and maintain a community center and recreation
complex serving primarily the residents of the 16th Ward for the
benefit of and to lessen the burden on the City."

You might ask yourself how buying land for a rec center, building a
rec center, and operating a rec center will lessen the burden on the
City. Simply put, the group indends to place the burden, at least
partially, on all property owners in "roughly" the 16th ward by
forming a taxing district. If the non-profit corporation obtains
signatures of 51% of the property owners in the taxing district, then
all of the properties in that district can be taxed. What's more,
the corporation can still charge for the use of the rec center's
facilities, even if you've paid the additional tax on your property.

As you may have guessed by now, I'm opposed to this type of taxing

The group intends for the rec center to have exercise rooms, meeting
rooms, outdoor terraces, outdoor aquatic recreation and onsite
parking. I cannot envision myself using any of these services and,
therefore, don't feel I should have to pay them. Given how much we
pay in taxes for presumably necessary costs, it is an audacious
demand that we now be taxed for such frivolity.

If the non-profit group wants to have a swimming pool, I won't stand
in their way of raising private capital to buy land and build a
pool. If someone wants to use the pool, they can freely charge that
person a membership or usage fee. They can rest assured that I won't
ask to use their pool.

The basic concept of creating a proposed taxing district is to
distrubte the cost of the rec center so that those who want the rec
center don't have to pay the full cost. We have recently heard from
people interested in forming a dog park in southwest St. Louis and I
don't recall them being so brazen as to ask for a taxing district to
pick up their costs.

If I'm the only one not interested in this bamboozlement, please be
sure to draw a line around my house when mapping out the taxing

Anonymous said...

There's really been very little communication about
this project. My schedule doesn't permit me to attend Southampton
neighborhood meetings, so if there have been presentations there,
that's still not enough. I'm sure there are other
interested residents who can't make those meetings. I
do hope they do more to reach more people in a series
of public meetings at varied times.

I've contacted Mr. Burnes, requesting some history and
information on the project.

I'm not necessarily against the project, but wary of
any supposedly "public" project that is not operated
in a totally open fashion.

I note a few posters commented on this being a
"nonprofit country club." People clearly are not
aware that virtually all country clubs ARE operated as
nonprofits. The main differences here are the attempt
to buy out publicly-owned property not currently on
the market and the intent to tax a targeted set of
property owners, not all of whom feel they've been
included in the process, to build the facility.

There certainly is precedent elsewhere for charging
fees for use of publicly owned facilities, though
access is generally city-wide. I do find it odd that
the group seems to want to limit access, even for a
fee, to owner-occupants of single-family homes. Mr.
Burnes' comments indicate they're not sure they want
owners of rental property to be eligible, ignoring the
fact that many of the apartment buildings in the ward
are owner-occupied. I think it's that kind of
quibbling that raises the ire of many of the
opponents, who see this as hand-picking an elite group
of acceptable members.

Anonymous said...

Rick said about his St. Louis Hills digs being for sale, "If someone offered us market value plus a premium price, we'd take it."

So then, will the new tax district be prepared to spend more taxpayer money beyond the market value of Nottingham to interest the School Board in selling a property that isn't for sale?

Anonymous said...

The City's Strategic Land Use plan designates the Nottingham Middle School site as: Institutional Preservation and Development Area.

According to the plan, the definition of this use designation is:

"Areas where significant nodes of educational, medical, religious or other institutional uses currently exist and are appropriately situated, as well as areas for expansion of such institutional uses. These large-scale institutional centers are intended to positively influence the enhancement of surrounding areas."

Given the land use designation, it's not clear that something other than a public or semi-public use would be permitted, however, if, for purposes of discussion, a housing developer want to build a residential development there...

The site measures 625 feet x 275 feet.

Typical lots in St. Louis Hills are about 40 feet wide.

625/40 = approximatley 15 lots, by two streets, yields roughly a thirty home development.

Vacant residential lots in St. Louis Hills are worth approximately $50,000.

Site preparation costs of about $10,000 per lot, plus about $300,000 ($10,000 per lot)to demolish the school, plus a developer profit of about 10% ($5,000 per lot), brings the raw land value of the school down to about:

[$50,000 - $10,000 - $10,000 - $5,000] = $25,000 per lot x 30 lots or approximately $700,000.

An offer by community center advocates in the $800,000-$1,000,000 range would seem to be "over market value", and higher than competing prospects could pay, yet still within the budget of the Community Center project.

Anonymous said...

The last poster's land value calculations are interesting, but could be way off.

Depending on the nature of possible asbestos in the facility, asbestos abatement alone could cost between $500,000-$1,000,000.

A rule of thumb for lot value as part of a finished home's cost is typically pegged around 10%. So if homes sold for $300,000, the lots would be worth about $30,000 retail-not $50,000.

So it's very conceivable that site preparation costs, including environmental abatement and demolition of the existing school, could be higher than the $300,000 estimate, and that market values could be lower than the $50,000 per lot, thus lowering the intrinsic value of the as-is property.

Nottingham School might be worth more to a real estate developer if converted to condos using the historic tax credit program, or sold as-is to another institutional user.

An appraisal taking all of these alternatives into consideration, factoring in the likelihood of each of these options gaining a use permit, is the only real way to establish some notion of market value.

The other way would be to actually market the property and see what interest there is (at what price).

Also, the Board of Education most likely has an established procedure it must follow prior to the sale of any school property, which probably includes making a determination that the property is no longer needed.

PonyMommy said...

I'm not clear on the funding base. The news story says tax. But the Suburban Journal is not exactly a reliable source for information. Over the past months, I've heard or read both tax and assessment as the revenue source. Are they going with 1) Assessment on properties via gathering petition signatures from real estate owners within district or 2) Property Tax via voters within district?

Anonymous said...

The revenue source will be an assessment via gathering of petition signatures.

Anonymous said...

The other option is that Baringer could sponsor an ordinance authorizing a vote on creating a special taxing district. The maximum levy I believe is 85 cents per $100 assessed value.

PonyMommy said...

Under Missouri law, the CID Board approves a resolution to place a real property tax on the ballot and sends the resolution to the Election Board. I don't see anything in the statutes regarding action by the governing body (Board of Aldermen) in this part of a CID. Is there some provision I'm missing in Chapter 67?

But my question remains, which is it, do proponents want an assessment by petition or tax by vote?

Anonymous said...

What about the boundary of the proposed CID? I've heard all sorts of different things. Some are saying it would be the entire 16th ward; others are saying if you wanted to have your property excluded, you could. Which is it?

Also, some east of Hampton are complaining that this is a St. Louis Hills improvement being paid for by Southampton residents. They resent the idea of paying for something in another neighborhood.

What about calling it a Southwest City Community Center, drawing the boundary along Hampton, up to Arsenal, west to the River Des Peres, then down River Des Peres back to where Hampton meets Jamieson at Wilmore Park, leaving everything *east* of Hampton out of it, but picking up the Lindenwood neighborhood south of Arsenal and St. Raphael's parish west of Hampton?

I mean...if you're gonna make it exclusive...

Anonymous said...

Ward boundaries are gerrymandered for population such that they don't often follow major streets as their boundaries. So, I imagine at least parts of the 12th and 23rd wards will be included as well in any CID drawn for voter consideration. Plus, future redistrictings won't have any effect on an adopted CID's boundaries.

But if a CID is enacted, rates would very likely be less for those within the district verses those outside it. How else would folks vote to tax themselves if they don't at least get a reduced rate in return? But "within the district" could still be debated as owner-occupied property only, any resident or any property.

The organization's mission statement on lessening the burden of the City hints that City residents may access the complex, albeit for a higher fee than CID residents. But if demand exceeds supply, you can bet the price of admission to Southwhite City's new aquatic park will go up for non-district residents.

PonyMommy said...

I'm not seeing how the taxpayers north of Chippewa paying for a St. Louis Hills country club would be more fair than the taxpayers east of Hampton paying for it. I do know, however, that the area north of Chippewa and east of Watson really isn't the Lindenwood Nabe anymore. It's the Tilles Park Nabe and Tilles doesn't need to be taxed for pool privileges. There's the YMCA on Sublette and luxurious cattle tanks, cement ponds, and above ground pools in back yards. A certain prominent Tilles Parker has recently put a new swimming hole in his yard and it's being referred to as the Community Pool.

Tilles Park and St. Louis Hills are in Southwest St. Louis but are very different.

1 mile radius of Tilles Park
Population: 26,610
White/not Hispanic/Latino: 88.29%
Black: 5.03%
Foreign Born: 8.17%
Housing Units: 13,666
Owner Occupied: 60.40%
Median Housing Value: $84,350
Rental: 39.60%
Median Rent: $384.39
K-12 Public School: 39.70%

1 mile radius of Nottingham School
Population: 17,037
White/not Hispanic/Latino - 94.79%
Black: 1.32%
Foreign Born: 4.87%
Housing Units: 8,500
Owner Occupied: 69.91%
Median Housing Value: $110,825
Rental: 30.09%
Median Rent: $434.00
K-12 Public School: 22.16%

The nonWhite population is spread out over Tilles Nabe. There's a noticeable traditional garb Muslim population. The amount of gossip about a gay couple moving in on a block is directly proportionate to the backyard grill they bring.

The Park hosts the only City-maintained outdoor basketball court south of Delmar and west of Grand. It draws a large, diverse crowd. By comparison to the antics of the resident nabe children, the guests behave like angels.

The nabe has both a growing diversity and is a place that welcomes the diversity of its visitors. It's hard to believe that Tilles would get on board to pay for a country club.

Consider also that Mayor Slay lives in the Lindenwood Nabe. I find it hard to believe that he would want his name associated with publicly funded exclusive rather than inclusive club.

If the CID is expanded north of Chippewa and east of Watson, doesn't it seem reasonable that the residents and businesses in Lindenwood would want some of that revenue spent in their turf?

Tilles and Lindenwood could probably use and could pass a well thought out plan for an assessment or taxing district to pay for additional public safety, park improvements, and other enhancements to the two nabes. But if a St. Louis Hills CID encroaches across Chippewa, it will make it difficult to do that.

Anonymous said...

Ponymommy's post and some of those of other posters makes it sound like the real controversy surrounding the proposed community center is based on race, class, and elitism, and little to do with a $250 - $350 CID assessment.

Would the reaction be the same if a CID-funded pool and community center was proposed within a mile of Grand and Arsenal?

PonyMommy said...

If there is a need to build/upgrade public swimming pools and recreation centers in St. Louis City, the solution should be a citywide plan with citywide tax/fee, bond issue, or combination. Using the CID statutes to build these kinds of facilities means they will be built only in those nabes with the real property wealth base to fund them. It's bad public policy.

In the case of a major construction projects, I also don't like the idea of real property assessment by petition instead of tax by vote. The opportunity to sell a load of bs to petition signers is substantially higher than with public vote.

A CID created to provide real supplemental public services and improvements- such as additional public safety- benefits residents and businesses, both those directly paying the tax or assessment and those paying indirectly through rents. An expensive swimming hole does not provide similar benefit.

If the pool is open to only real property owners who reside on the premises, then there's a large portion of the district paying either directly or indirectly, as in the case for tenants, but having no opportunity for access.

But let's take the fantasy scenario that the pool is open to every resident and owner of business property in the district.

How many homeowners and renters will be able to afford or will have any desire to pay whatever the real treat in additional fees tagged on? I think probably few.

How many business property owners would ever have the time or the inclination to use the pool they are paying for? And it's not like their employees, customers, or or their business tenants in the case of commercial rentals, would benefit.

Real public recreation facilities, just like public parks, can be of benefit to everyone regardless of whether they ever step in the door, just like if they never step foot in the nabe park.

Real public rec centers are havens for safe, healthy recreating and activities by juveniles and young adults. Kids playing basketball, or vollyball, or doing arts & crafts, or learning dance, swimming, etc., are kids not getting into trouble and causing you, the property owner, tenant, or visitor trouble.

I am just not seeing general public benefit in the St. Louis Hills proposal. It looks more like manipulation of the CID statutes for a purpose they were not intended.

Bill Burnes said...

Hello Rick and STL Rising Bloggers,

Sorry for my absence the last 3 months or so. I've been in NY on a special project that has not allowed me time to visit this or any other blogs. Today I spent some time reading this thread on the Community Center project and thought I'd respond to some of the questions and concerns. In no particular order, here goes:

1) The plan is to use a special assessment via petition, not property tax. However, nothing at this time is anywhere near final.

2) I noticed that a number of bloggers are under assumption that this project is a pool only. In addition to pool and attached community center that will serve residents who aren't interested in swimming, the plan also includes major street, curb, sidewalk and business district improvements as well as security enhancements over the next 20 years. The pool itself constitutes perhaps 30% of the projected budget.

3) The thought that an idea like this was cooked up by a small group trying to bamboozle a huge district is simply false. Perhaps some are not interested in the plan. That's fine. But in survey after survey over last 8 years, this idea has ranked very high on wish list of residents. Our effort is a simple response to that input. A group of residents simply decided to look into the feasability, put together a plan AND get the community's input. That's all.

If a majority of residents agree that this plan is not wanted, again, that's fine. But if a majority of residents think this is a good idea and are willing to pay for it, seems like that's what democracy is about, right? I may not agree with how all public money is spent in our City, State and country, but I understand that sometimes the needs of the majority are more important than my own.

3) A number of people have wondered why our concept doesn't involve basketball courts and other more varied recreational assets. The reason is purely economic. Our group understands that there is a limit to how much residents will be willing to pay -- both for construction and ongoing operation. In our product marketing therefore, we've tried not to duplicate features that already exist nearby. Duplicating seems like a waste of resident's money.

For example, gyms are readily available already in many parochial and public schools in the Ward. There are a few months during the winter when extra facilities would be nice but probably not at the cost to achieve it. Secondly, with Francis Park across the street, many more recreational assets exist there -- playground, handball, sports fields, etc. The Community Center thus becomes an extension of that recreation. Third, a workout facility is planned inside the Center.

4) I believe I've weighed in previously on the issue of property owners and renters and how that may work. The CID statute calls for vote/petition of "property owners". That's why the issue exists. Our group and attorneys have to determine how, legally, the renter issue can be addressed. Stay tuned. We understand this issue and are glad the community has given us great input, too!

5) Regarding the size/boundary of the district, a few things:

a) If anything, our group has worked to make the district bigger, not smaller. There is the issue of church/parish boundaries, though while non-governmental, are of interest to many residents. We prefer that district boundaries not separate churchgoers. Our group also sees the opportunity to drive consumers to buy property in the City as a WAY bigger ideal than simply St. Louis Hills.

b) There are also issues related to how much traffic homeowners living next to the facility are willing to bear. We have to be respectful of their interests. The larger the district, the more unbalanced the proposal becomes to them.

c) By involving other Wards beyond the 16th involves a more complicated political process. That is not to say that other Wards (or portions thereof) would not be included. It simply makes the idea more complicated to execute. Plus, again, the more wards, the more overcrowded it becomes. But we continue to look for ways to be inclusive and keep the project feasable at same time.

d) The drawing of the district is not tied to Wards. There has been some confusion on this. CIDs in St. Louis City can be drawn in nearly any way. Ward boundaries play NO part in this other than political.

e) One interesting thing is that the more we try to expand the boundaries, the more people scream of bamboozling. Not to moan to this group, but if we make it smaller we're accused of elitism. If we are inclusionary, we're accused of taking others' money.

f) Finally, whew, no decisions have been made here. We're doing what we said we were going to do -- develop an idea and then get community input. Boundaries are part of that.

6. I absolutely disagree with the notion that this project is not worthy of the use of CID. CID stands for Community Improvement District, folks. A $12MM project that stands to improve the beauty, business, security, sense of community togetherness, property values, migration of folks BACK TO THE CITY and, yes, recreation, is the VERY NATURE of what a CID is intended to do. Very sorry some don't like pools.

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful questions and input.

Bill Burnes