Developers plan to improve the streets that serve a southern commercial district that is Ozark’s key economic driver.

The Ozark Board of Aldermen voted 6-0 to accept a letter of intent with the developers of the Ozark Centre Transportation Development District that clears the way for street improvements and additions in a commercial district that accounts for more than half of the city of Ozark’s commercial income.

The Ozark Centre is the development off of U.S. Highway 65 and South Street that contains Walmart, Lowe’s, Dollar Tree, Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante and more.

“The Ozark Center is the largest retail driver of the city of Ozark and accounts for over 50 percent of the total revenue for this local economy,” Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers said.

The Ozark Centre TDD organized in September 2003 with a 3/8-cent sales tax on purchases made within its boundaries. The sales tax has since been increased to 1 percent. The sales tax revenue from the Walmart, Lowe’s and surrounding stores accumulated faster than first thought possible, and financed construction and improvements on West Marler Lane, South 20th Street and surrounding streets that service the commercial district. The money from the additional sales tax must be spent on transportation improvements within the area of the transportation development district area.

“The revenue that’s been generated from the Ozark Centre, which is doing very well, has moved faster than they had anticipated as far as being able to pay off the original bond debt that was borrowed by the developer and reimbursed by the transportation development district,” Childers said.

When a successful TDD agreement is about to expire, it’s common for the developer and the board of directors that oversees the TDD to seek additional projects.

Childers told the Ozark Board of Aldermen that approving the new letter of intent for the TDD was time-sensitive. The developer is running out of time to add projects to the development.

“Because the revenue has performed well, the timeline for paying off the original bond debt was expedited,” Childers said. “The developer just wants to make sure that as the transportation authority, if they’re going to go forward and expand and improve the retail center, called Ozark Centre in the city of Ozark, that they have the support of the city of Ozark.”

A letter of intent allows developer to move forward with the process of adding projects to the transportation development district, which has to be put to vote of the property owners in that district. The letter of intent deems the projects acceptable to the city of Ozark.

A developer’s agreement will come back to the Ozark Board of Aldermen for future consideration at a later date.

The additional tax that the TDD imposes generates an average of $1.1 million per year

Robb Preston, attorney for the TDD developer, spoke to the Ozark Board of Aldermen using the Zoom teleconferencing platform on Aug. 17.

“The district, of course, views the city as a strong development partner,” Preston said. 

“Before taking a step to move forward with some additional projects, as Steve indicated, at the end of the process there is a transportation project agreement or a redevelopment agreement that the developer, the district and the city would enter into.”

The agreement, Preston said, helps make sure that the roads are built up to the standards expected of city streets in Ozark, and also spells out that the roads will be turned over to the city of Ozark for control and maintenance when they are complete.

The new projects would include about $2 million for improvements to signalized intersections that are now more than 15 years old. There would be sidewalk additions and measures taken to make sure that all pedestrian features in the district are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Existing streets will also be milled and overlaid.

The projects include about $6.7 million to construct public streets and residential collector streets, plus $1.6 million to extend 19th Street from Tennison Drive to a proposed residential collector street. One of those collectors would run east and west from South 15th Street toward the Lowe’s Home Improvement store.

Robb notes that a TDD does not divert tax dollars that Ozark would otherwise have access to in the manner that tax increment financing (TIF) does. Instead, a TDD is funded through an additional sales tax above and beyond what Ozark, Christian County and the state of Missouri already collect.

“No existing city tax dollars will be diverted from the city or other taxing jurisdictions. These are just funds raised by the district to be used for transportation projects,” Preston said. “I just wanted to make clear that these are not city funds that the district has.”

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