The site of the Brody Corners development, outlined in red as seen from the Greene County Assessor’s Office public GIS map viewer, sits northwest of the interchange of the James River Freeway and West Sunshine Street. The property is about 28 acres. (Photo by Rance Burger)

March 7 will be decision day for a development proposal near a spot where the Springfield and Republic city limits meet.

On Feb. 22, the Springfield City Council saw a presentation and asked questions about Brody Corners, a $27 million project on land that was once a mobile home park in unincorporated Greene County. The land has since been annexed into Springfield as part of a plan to build retail stores, some type of quick-service restaurant, office space and service industry spaces.

No one other than the developer’s attorney spoke to the city council at a public hearing on Brody Corners on Feb. 22.

At least one member of the city council is concerned about a history of Missouri Clean Water Law violations tied to the property, while another expressed his support for the development.

Brody Corners is a proposal for a 28-acre development at the northwest corner of the U.S. Highway 60 interchange with West Sunshine Street.

The developer wants a $3.4 million deal with the city of Springfield to help pay for the cost of connecting the development to city utilities, sewer and stormwater infrastructure construction, excavation, street improvements and “allowable project fees.” The incentives up for request are called tax increment financing, or TIF, which diverts a portion of the property and sales taxes after the project is built to help pay back the developer for certain costs.

Why care?

Springfield is home to four active tax increment financing districts, which offer tax incentives to allow developers to recover the costs of their builds at a faster pace. Incentives for developers have been a hot topic among the citizens of Springfield over the past two years.

Attorney Cory Collins of the Springfield firm Husch Blackwell represents the developer.

“The request here is for reimbursement of a portion of the public infrastructure,” Collins said. “This is not lining pockets of developers or paying for infrastructure that is theirs that they are going to use in their private part or any portion of it.”

The development would be Springfield’s fifth TIF agreement. West Sunshine Development, LLC, is listed as the property owner for the 28 acres. The LLC has an address on South Fremont Avenue in Springfield and is registered to developer Mike Seitz of Triple S Properties.

If the Springfield City Council approves the agreement on March 7, Collins said that the developer plans to break ground and start making progress on March 8.

“I am glad to see that the site is being redeveloped. I think it’s a good thing,” Zone Four City Councilman Abe McGull said near the end of the hearing Feb. 22.

Sunshine and the Department of Natural Resources

The project came back on the Springfield City Council’s agenda Feb. 22 after its original sponsor, Zone 3 Councilman Mike Schilling, officially withdrew his bill for the project in December 2021. Schilling said he was asked to withdraw his sponsorship, “after an outside challenge to the correct public notice of the TIF commission meeting in November.” Public notices of Springfield TIF Commission meetings were not published with sufficient lead time specified in the Missouri Sunshine Law in order to allow neighboring property owners or other stakeholders to attend meetings and/or provide feedback to TIF commissioners. The TIF commission and the Springfield City Council took corrective action by delaying action on the Brody Corners bill until such notices had been given in accordance with the law.

Collins said that the Springfield Tax Increment Financing Commission heard the case for the agreement twice, and approved it both times.

“We were there twice, and it was unanimously approved both times without objection. No one was a detractor or otherwise thought that this was a bad project,” Collins said.

Schilling’s concerns with the illegal wastewater treatment, or lack of treatment, returned to the city council chambers on Feb. 22.

“The big problem that has occurred with it is environmental. The untreated sewage system out there, the lagoons. Is there any plan requiring the developer to deal with that — closure, whatever you call it, to deal with the lagoon situation?” Schilling asked.

According to the Brody Corners documentation, the property was Whispering Lanes Mobile Home Park until 2012. In 2014, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources took action to close two sewage lagoons on the property found to be out of compliance with state regulations.

In 2014, Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier found in favor of the state of Missouri and the Department of Natural Resources in a case against RLB Properties, which operated Whispering Lanes. Judge Cordonnier ruled that the mobile home park and its wastewater treatment system violated the Missouri Clean Water Law, and that RLB had 30 days to demonstrate complete closure of the lagoons to the Department of Natural Resources.

The judge assessed a civil penalty of $41,820 on RLB Properties. 

“There was a $41,000 judgment against the previous owner for running an untreated sewage lagoon system, and that’s never been paid. Would that be up to the developer to take care of that, or what happens to that judgment?” Schilling asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t believe it transfers to the new owner, though,” Kerner answered.

“So nobody is held accountable for that, then? Obviously, the present developer didn’t do that. It’s not that developer’s responsibility, but it seemed like something ought to be done about that,” Schilling said.

In his ruling, Cordonnier noted that RLB never had a permit to operate wastewater treatment lagoons, and that the mobile homes were illegally discharging sewage from a lagoon into a sinkhole on the property from at least 2002 to 2013.

23 years on the clock

According to the TIF proposal documents supplied to city council members, the development is expected to generate $8.07 million in tax revenue over a span of 23 years, eventually reaching a tax collection level of more than $400,000 per year. Without the development, the projected tax revenue for the property drops to about $287,000 over 23 years, according to calculations that Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner provided to the city council. The city of Springfield’s tax benefit over the life of the TIF agreement is projected at about $1.5 million, while Greene County stands to make $1.9 million in added tax revenue if the development lives up to its potential.

To qualify for tax increment financing, a piece of property must be blighted. “Blight,” legally means that unsanitary or unsafe conditions make the land unsuitable for use, but for the plan to develop and repurpose the land. By law, the tax increment financing agreement between the developer and the city of Springfield must demonstrate a positive economic impact for all of the taxing districts involved in it.

The blight study for the Brody Corners proposal includes documentation of dilapidated structures from where the mobile home park once stood and asphalt streets in poor condition. The property is not connected to Springfield’s municipal water supply.

If the Springfield City Council approves the agreement, the Brody Corners development will capture 75 percent of new real property taxes and 50 percent of new sales taxes collected within the 28 acres of land. The remaining sales tax collected — 25 percent of new real property taxes and 50 percent of new sales taxes — will be paid as it usually would to the Republic School District, the city of Springfield, Greene County, Ozarks Technical Community College and the Springfield-Greene County Library District.  

“We didn’t come in and ask you to bond this, or pay us or somehow write a check, and to the extent that the community or anyone here thinks that there is going to be a check written or some pile of money is going to be given to the developer — that’s not what’s being asked,” Collins said. “The only request that’s being made is for a portion of the public infrastructure to be reimbursed through tax that’s generated through this development.”

The interest rate clause in the reimbursable funds from the tax increment financing agreement has been amended since the last time the Springfield City Council took up the issue in December 2021. Initially, the agreement called for a 6-percent interest rate. The agreement now specifies that the rate is the prime interest rate plus 1.5 percent, with a cap of 6 percent.

According to Councilman Andrew Lear, the prime interest rate is presently somewhere around 3 or 3.25 percent.

Personal property taxes are not captured in tax increment financing agreements.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger