Critics of Gateway Commons TIF voice opposition to new Gulfstream development

The revised version of the Gateway Commons development on Kentucky 54 already has some critics lining up to oppose it.

Paul and Mary Busse attended the Owensboro city commission meeting Tuesday night to voice their opposition to the “annexation agreement on steroids” that developer Gulfstream Enterprises is seeking for the $250-million mixed-use project.

The Busses had been part of a lawsuit against the city last year seeking to block a tax increment financing proposal that Gulfstream and the city of Owensboro had submitted to the state for a first version of Gateway Commons. The lawsuit was abandoned after the state rejected the partnership’s TIF application.

Gulfstream and its president, Matt Hayden, have now asked the city to expand the scope of its normal annexation agreement from five years to 20 years because of the size of the project and investment from Gulfstream.

Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson has said he is in favor of expanding the current annexation guidelines to offer additional incentives to developers, and city staff members are currently working on recommendations for those expanded incentives.

Under an annexation agreement, developers are able to recover the cost of public infrastructure in a development – roads, sidewalks and drainage work – from the property, net profits and occupational taxes the development generates. Lengthening the term of the agreement would mean more money for the developer to cover those costs.

Busse warned the city against entering into a 20-year agreement with a developer, arguing that the incentive is not needed in the bustling Kentucky 54 area and it sets a precedent for more such agreements in the future.

“When did our local government assume the responsibility of financing developers or is it just this particular group?” Busse asked. “Let’s not make any other mistakes with Gateway Commons that the taxpayers and voters will have to cover for 20 years.”

Hayden said last month that he was hoping to have the terms of an agreement with the city worked out in the next 90 days.

Update…

Owensboro City Manager Bill Parrish said Wednesday morning that the city commission will hear a proposal from Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. President Nick Brake within the next 30 days for a new set of guidelines for annexation agreements with developers.

Parrish said the new guidelines would allow the city to evaluate development on a case-by-case basis to match incentives with the expected economic impact of the development on the local economy.

Open records, closed meetings – What’s all the fuss?

In his foreword to the “Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws” handbook that sits on the desks of most reporters around the state, former Legislative Research Commission Director Vic Hellard Jr. explains that the state passed an Open Meetings law 34 years ago “to provide the people with greater access to government.”

The law gives the average citizen and the press the opportunity to see how decisions are made by the governments that represent them, along with granting those public bodies protections when deciding certain potentially sensitive issues such as personnel matters and property purchases.

Those two competing rights were at the root of a complaint filed by the Messenger-Inquirer last week over a decision by the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

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City, county to hold closed session Friday on Executive Inn

Owensboro City Commission and Daviess Fiscal Court will be meeting in closed session on Friday to discuss how to handle the recent closure of the city’s largest hotel.

Mayor Tom Watson said Wednesday afternoon that officials will discuss the Executive Inn Rivermont, which closed last month, and what options local government might have for taking control of at least a portion of the property.

Ownership of the hotel shifted June 9 from owners Minnesota/Owensboro Executive Inn to Marshall Investments, the firm that held the mortgage on the property and pushed for foreclosure after the hotel’s owners fell behind in their payments.

Since then, speculation has been rampant about the potential sale of the 600-room hotel and convention center, with at least one potential purchase deal falling through earlier this month.

“We’re trying to place ourselves in a position of unity on how to continue an effort to deal with Marshall Investments about taking that property off the (tax) rolls,” Watson said. “If there’s an opportunity to purchase it, we want to try to see if there’s a way to do it that everybody can agree on.”

The closed session will begin at 9 a.m. Friday in Room 406 in City Hall at 101 E. Fourth St.

Read the full story in Thursday’s Messenger-Inquirer.