Commission rejects Town Center TIF

Christine Hoffman| News Editor

The government of St. Charles is currently debating the means of financing the future Lindenwood Town Center, which will include a Schnucks, post office and student housing facility on university-owned ground.
DESCO Group, the development arm of Schnucks, has proposed a $9.6-million tax increment financing subsidy (TIF) to help support the development of the project.
A TIF would give the plan extra revenue by allowing Lindenwood and DESCO to benefit from the future tax profits such a development will create.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has spoken out against the proposed TIF saying such a plan would take tax money away from the St. Charles School District.
However, St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith disagrees with Ehlmann, saying the proposed TIF is necessary for the success of the project, which would be beneficial to the community.
On Thursday, Nov. 10, the TIF commission met to vote on the proposal. Among the 12 members was Lindenwood’s Vice President of Student Development, John Oldani, who has been on the commission for the past four years.
After the meeting was called to order, Commissioner Edward Katcher made an opening statement. “I would just like to say that if we vote against it, it is not a vote against DESCO or a vote against Lindenwood University,” he said. “We are deciding if the project is fiscally viable.”
After several minutes of debate over the proposal’s wording, Vicky Huesemann, Ehlmann’s aide, made a motion to reject the TIF. The motion was taken to a vote with the result being eight in favor of rejecting the proposal and three in favor of it. Oldani abstained from the vote due to his employment at Lindenwood.
Despite having received legal counsel informing him that his participation would not be a conflict of interest, Oldani did not want to be accused of bias.
By abstaining, however, his vote was counted as a “no,” or in favor of the proposal, making the final count of eight rejecting the TIF and four in support of it.
Despite the commission’s rejection, the battle is not yet over.
“The TIF commission does not have the final say,” Oldani said. “The commission is designed to get the word out.”
The next step for the proposal is to be presented to the city council. The TIF would need the approval of seven St. Charles city council members, a super majority, in order for the plan to pass.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what the city council does,” Oldani said. “The mayor was in favor of it, but it’s really up to the council.”