TIF plan approved for Academy Sports project

Staff Writer

An Academy Sports store is one step closer to fruition after the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a Tax Increment Financing plan for the Stark Crossing Development project Tuesday night.

The $1.5 million TIF agreement will be secured solely by a pledge of 100 percent of all city property taxes and 33 percent of all generated sales taxes within the planned TIF district near Highway 12 on Stark Road, according to the TIF plan. The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors set a Feb. 1 public hearing date to discuss 50 percent of county property taxes go towards the project.

"If the developer was willing to commit to the project under those terms, I thought it would be a good decision for the city to modify it up to 33 percent," said Mayor Parker Wiseman.

Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins was the lone dissenting vote on the TIF agreement citing the agreement as precedent for providing "handouts" to businesses looking to come to Starkville. All businesses should be treated alike, he said.

"I try to look at each project individually to determine whether or not it would need TIF support," said Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker. "I believe there are a lot of reasons for this type of development to want to come to Starkville. I believe there is some rational for asking for the TIF and for us granting the TIF. I don't believe this is a slam dunk, easy decision to make."

Following the Jan. 5 board meeting, differences arose between the city and Multisite Properties after the developer asked for a $1.8 million TIF bond. The city set parameters for the TIF bond not to exceed $1.5 million to be secured by 100 percent of all property and 25 percent of all sales taxes within the planned district. The discrepancy caused Golden Triangle Development LINK officials to call the offer "unacceptable" following the meeting.

"I think the risk of losing this project otherwise is not a reality that we want to deal with," Wiseman said before the vote.

If the county property tax figures are approved, the real estate closing on the property would take place later in February, with construction starting at the end of the month, according to Chris Gouras, the attorney representing the project's developer, Multisite Properties.

The planned $11 million, 62,000 square foot mixed use development would include a restaurant near the Academy Sports, according to the TIF plan. The development could spark future development in West Starkville, Walker said.

After the project is completed, the district's city real and personal property taxes would increase around $24,000 and increase by around $55,000 annually for the county following construction, according to the document.

"What this development is going to inevitably going to do is increase the need for expansion of Stark Road," Walker said. "It's going to do that without question."

TIF funds—if approved by a municipality—provide basic infrastructure improvements in the designated district. Through TIF districts, developments are able to promote further economic growth in the area where funds were originally allocated after being listed on the tax registry.

The city is liable for $102,387 in property and $954,239 sales taxes annually for pledged TIF projects including the planned Parker-McGill car dealership, Middleton Court shopping center, Cotton Mill Marketplace and The Mill at Mississippi State University, according to a Jan. 5 presentation by Wiseman.

"It is in the best interest in our community to make sure we land a national chain to be in Starkville," Walker said.