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Protestors oppose a tax incentive for the Buc-ee's project ahead of the Jan. 24 council meeting.
Provided by Linda Simkins
Protestors oppose a tax incentive for the Buc-ee's project ahead of the Jan. 24 council meeting.

City Beat: Tax agreement with Buc-ee’s gets go-ahead

Deal with gas station could open 1K acres to development

Posted online

Springfield City Council on Jan. 24 approved a $4.1 million tax agreement with Buc-ee’s Springfield LLC for a 53,000-square-foot, 100-pump gas station and convenience store.

The development is planned at the Interstate 44/Mulroy Road interchange in the city’s northeast corner.

An infrastructure reimbursement agreement will allow Buc-ee’s to collect sales tax receipts to reimburse the company for the cost of infrastructure to accommodate the business. Council approved the agreement by a vote of 7-2.

The company will complete $4.1 million worth of interchange work and be reimbursed over a 20-year period by the reimbursement agreement, which will capture half each of the 1-cent general sales tax and quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax until the reimbursement cap is reached.

The work to be completed includes eastbound and westbound on-ramps and off-ramps, including landscaped roundabouts for each, and improvements to an existing bridge.

At a future meeting, council is scheduled to consider a community improvement district tax incentive to extend city water north of I-44 in the area and complete work on Mulroy Road. Together, the infrastructure improvements’ value is forecast to exceed $9.1 million.

Buc-ee’s officials project annual taxable sales of $30 million, not including gas.

On their way to the Jan. 24 meeting, council members passed a protest mounted by local activist group Dam Up Buc-ee’s, which opposes the convenience store.

The group’s Facebook page urges followers, “Tell City Council: ‘No taxpayer money for Buc-ee’s!’”

Council members addressed what they believed to be a misunderstanding among opponents.

Councilperson Heather Hardinger said there is not an existing pool of city money that is being given to Buc-ee’s.

Sarah Kerner, director of economic development for the city, confirmed the money is estimated to be generated by the development over 20 years. Currently, no income tax revenue is generated at the site.

Stan Beard, director of real estate for Buc-ee’s, clarified Buc-ee’s would be paying upfront for improvements.

“Buc-ee’s is the one that is funding the project; we’re just asking for reimbursement because it is public infrastructure,” Beard said. “It does benefit us, but it benefits everyone else as well.”

He added that Buc-ee’s capital investment, another $50 million-$56 million, is unrelated to the infrastructure reimbursement.

Mayor Ken McClure sought to dispel what he called incorrect facts: “This is a revenue source that but for Buc-ee’s being in that location would not exist.”

Prior to the discussion, Councilperson Mike Schilling attempted a motion to postpone the vote on the infrastructure reimbursement agreement until Feb. 22 to allow more discussion.

“The speculation that it’s going to open up 1,000 acres, perhaps, to future development – I’ve got some questions about that,” he said. “I think we need a more thorough discussion.”

Schilling was referring to the 1,000 acres of additional land for development adjacent to the proposed Buc-ee’s site, including 400 acres Kerner said are owned by a single willing seller. This area will gain access to city water and sewer via the Buc-ee’s infrastructure work.

Only Schilling and Councilperson Angela Romine voted in favor of the motion to postpone the vote. Schilling and Romine also were the two council members who voted against the reimbursement agreement.

The Dam Up Buc-ee’s group points out the gas station will be built near Fulbright Springs, which supplies up to 17% of Springfield’s drinking water.

“Any stormwater runoff or potential gas leak could eventually pool into and contaminate our drinking supply,” the talking points state.

Hardinger asked for an explanation of the potential for water pollution, and John Chamberlain, a geologist with Kansas City, Missouri-based engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which is employed by Buc-ee’s, said the site has two stormwater detention ponds, one to the north and one to the south, and the south pond is significantly oversized.

“We’re decreasing stormwater runoff from about 99 cubic feet per second down to 31 – so it’s about a 70% decrease in stormwater volume that would be leaving the site,” Chamberlain said. “We have made significant improvements to stormwater.”

He added the runoff is routed through two storm sewer systems to separate any hydrocarbons or other pollutants that may enter the flow.

Though the vote on the tax measure came before the public input portion of the meeting, one member of the public, Seth Goodwin, was critical of council’s approval of the reimbursement agreement.

Goodwin noted 60% of Springfield residents are renters, and since the global pandemic began, rental rates have skyrocketed.

“Social infrastructure is lacking, to say the least,” he said, adding he has lived in Springfield long enough to know this is not new.

Goodwin said the Buc-ee’s investment, which is for a tourist attraction in the Strafford School District, “begs the question of who is receiving the returns on this investment.”

Council priorities
The meeting ended with some back-and-forth among council members about council priorities. Councilperson Craig Hosmer had referred two issues to council’s Community Involvement Committees. One issue concerned clean air and environment protection, and the other was about requiring recipients of real property tax abatement through the city’s Workable Program to pay prevailing wages. He said as a council member, he should be able to bring an issue before council or to a committee.

Hosmer said council is heavily focused on development.

“If you look at our agenda, it’s full of development,” he said.

He added, “We’ve got time to take action on any number of development issues, and that’s because those are priorities of council. People living in poverty in this city should also be a priority of council.”

Councilperson Richard Ollis followed Hosmer’s remarks by saying, “I’m not going to politically grandstand here.” He countered that council is development focused by its nature, since planning and development issues come before the body.

Councilperson Andrew Lear said the city’s comprehensive plan should be council’s focus, and Councilperson Abe McGull added there is a limited amount of time for council to do its work.

Hosmer noted 60% of the city’s population lives in rental housing and 25% are in poverty, and council should talk about these issues.

Other action items:

  • Acupuncture is now permitted as a home-based business. The measure was approved 8-1 with McGull in opposition.
  • Raises of 4% were approved for city workers, and employees in the lower eight salary grades were moved up to higher steps in an effort to attract and retain workers. Police, fire and health department workers were approved for $2,000 bonuses for each year of 2022, 2023 and 2024 through American Rescue Plan Act funding.
  • Council OK’d alterations to the boundaries of the Glenstone and Kearney Community Improvement District. The CID will fund demolition of the Springfield Inn to make way for an unamed restaurant that is interested in locating there.
  • Rezoning of 39 acres in the 3900 and 4000 blocks of East Woodhue Lane, near Hickory Hills Country Club, from planned development to residential single family in order to make way for a new gated community.
  • Council renewed wastewater service contracts with Willard and Strafford but will now charge according to metered flow instead of a monthly remittance. The cost to each city is expected to remain about the same, according to city staff.
  • A $3.5 million allocation was approved to remodel and expand the city’s landfill office and make improvements to the Lone Pine Recycling Center.
  • Council OK’d a contract of obligation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources guaranteeing future closure and post-closure care costs for the Noble Hill Sanitary Landfill. The city’s contract for closure and post-closure must be amended periodically to reflect changes in liability, and this contract represents an increase of $720,000 for a total obligation of $16 million.

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