City commissioners want to hear more about a potential expansion of the Hobby Lobby store at 23rd and Ousdahl before they sign off on a special taxing district for several stores near the intersection.
Commissioners Tuesday evening declined to take any action on a request to allow four business sites near the intersection to begin charging a special 1 percent sales tax to fund about $1.5 million worth of public and private improvements.
“I think this is an opportunity to improve an eyesore in our community,” said Commissioner Mike Dever. “But we need a lot more information about what will happen in a large portion of this district.”
Developers of the project are requesting that a special 1 percent tax be levied at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, a Yokohama sushi restaurant and the former Kwik Shop, which will be torn down and replaced with a new retail building. Specific plans to upgrade those sites have been filed.
But the development group also wants the special tax to apply for the Hobby Lobby store at the southwest corner of 23rd and Ousdahl. No plans have been filed with the city about how that property would change.
But when asked by commissioners Tuesday, the lead developer of the group confirmed Hobby Lobby was considering possible expansion plans for the site. Jim Harpool, director of development with Mission-based MD Management, said plans haven’t been filed because no decision has been made yet to move ahead with an expansion of the store.
Once plans do get filed showing the types of improvements — perhaps including stormwater projects to help reduce flooding at the intersection — there may be three commissioners ready to sign off on allowing the special Community Improvement District tax.
Dever, along with Commissioners Rob Chestnut and Lance Johnson, all expressed some openness to the special tax, which allows developers to fund both public and private improvements.
“We have 50- or 60-year-old buildings that are just flat-out tired,” Johnson said. “We have some tired commercial on 23rd Street. The question is when do you incentivize development? If you don’t do this now, when does it happen?”
Commissioners, though, also heard from some members of the public who argued that private development is happening along 23rd Street without the special taxing districts, pointing to a new McDonald’s, a new CVS drug store, and a new O’Reilly Auto Parts store.
“Part of the problem with this is that it is a very sneaky tax,” said Bob Schumm, a downtown restaurant owner. “It hits the consumer after they’ve already made their purchases.”
Commissioners have discussed the idea of requiring businesses that charge any special tax to post a sign notifying the consumers of the tax. The development group on the 23rd and Ousdahl project said it is willing to post the signs, but commissioners made no final decisions on that issue Tuesday.