Mission councilors want Gateway funds to bolster Johnson Drive revamp

Lawrence Andre

Mission’s Gateway development agreement is headed into its final negotiating stages this week, but city council members may have a few provisions they would like to add — including one that would funnel some money to downtown revitalization.

City administrator Mike Scanlon told the council last week that a draft development agreement between the city and the Cameron Group of Syracuse, New York, should be provided to council members by the end of this week. The city has scheduled public meetings on Nov. 12 and 13 to explain the agreement and take comments.

Amy Miller

However, at least two councilors raised the issue of contributions from the developer to help the downtown area. Both Amy Miller and Lawrence Andre commented during a council work session last week that they would like to see the agreement require a payment to the city that would be directed for use in the downtown. Miller said she would like to see an annual contribution. Contacted later, Miller said an annual payment of $50,000 to $100,000 might be appropriate to bolster the Johnson Drive corridor following the precedent in place for business development funding.

A second issue raised during the work session is the exclusion of the planned Walmart from the Community Improvement District that imposes an additional one percent sales tax. At a previous meeting developer Tom Valenti told the council that Walmart made other concessions, but would not join the CID because the company believes the additional sales tax would place it at a competitive disadvantage with Target and other stores.

Some people in the city are “inflamed” by their (Walmart) shoppers not having to pay this tax, Andre said, and Miller expressed doubts about the validity of Walmart’s comparison shopping argument.

“I am extremely concerned about making a decision on Nov. 27 when we have not had substantive discussions (on some of these issues),” Miller said at the work session. It is important to present residents a complete package and hear from citizens before the council vote.

The city’s financial advisor pointed out that the project is expected to generate more money than necessary to pay the bonds and that extra money accrues to the city over the 20-year life of the financing plan.