Critical votes on Gateway financing and development agreement will fall to new Mission council after April elections

Signs at the vacant Gateway property were changed this summer, removing names of some contractors that are in dispute with the developer over past work.
The Gateway property property has been vacant for 10 years. The latest proposal is anchored by a controversial 155,000 square foot Walmart.

Critical votes on the next steps in the Mission Gateway project will be taken by the new city council after the April elections.

Four of the eight seats on the council are on the ballot in April. Two of the four seats are guaranteed to see a new member, which has the potential to change the dynamic on a council that split 4-4 over approving the preliminary site plan for the project. Mayor Steve Schowengerdt broke the tie by voting in favor of the plan.

The developer has not yet submitted a proposal for public financing, but has said he will ask for $29 million in bonds that would be paid off by property tax and sales tax from the development. The next decision facing the council will be whether to approve a Tax Increment Financing project plan that enables the use of TIF proceeds in the development. That approval requires a supermajority of the council or six positive votes. The council also would need to approve a development agreement that, among other items, authorizes the financial support.

Of the four council seats on the April ballot, two voted for the site plan and two voted against it. The two “yes” votes came from Pat Quinn and Jennifer Cowdry. Quinn is unopposed for re-election but Cowdry has two challengers and will face a primary election. Also voting to approve were Suzie Gibbs and Jason Vaughn, neither of whom is up for election.

Of the two “no” votes on the site plan, neither Dave Shepard or Amy Miller are running again. Shepard will be replaced by Ron Appletoft who is running unopposed. Appletoft has been both a Mission planning commission and city council member previously. His previous term was at the time Mission passed restrictions on super discount stores in the Gateway area. Miller’s seat has two candidates running to succeed her. One of those candidates, Scott Babcock, is a current planning commission member who voted to approve the site plan and who spoke in favor of the project at a community meeting hosted by the developer. Arcie Rothrock and Debbie Kring also voted against the site plan and are not up for re-election.

The city has not received a formal TIF project proposal yet from Gateway developer Tom Valenti. It is expected to take some time for the city staff and consultants to vet the proposal. City Administrator Laura Smith said there is “no way” the process can be completed in time to present to the existing council for a vote. The council will have at least one workshop to be briefed on the financing proposal.

At a council committee meeting this week, Shepard said it would be unfair to seat people and ask them to vote right away on a Gateway proposal.

The Gateway plan, particularly its inclusion of a 155,000 square foot Walmart on the eastern end, has been highly controversial in the community and is expected to be a topic in the upcoming campaign.