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Wentzville shopping corridor exposes new Kroenke conflict

The bulk of the Wentzville Crossroads Shopping Center, anchored by a Walmart at 1971 Wentzville Pkway, bustles with activity on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. THF Wentzville Development LLC, a company connected to Stan Kroenke, owns the property containing Walmart. Companies connected to Kroenke are forcing shoppers at competing, adjacent businesses to help finance a new $30-plus million big-box development planned nearby by Kroenke lawyers Alan Bornstein and Jeffrey Otto. It represents an unusual arrangement that the city signed off on to help it build a $38 million rec center. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

WENTZVILLE — The Board of Aldermen here voted to allow bonds to be issued to fund a city recreation center and provide $23 million for a new retail center on Wentzville Parkway that is majority-owned by Stan Kroenke.

The 5-1 vote followed a move by the St. Charles County Industrial Development Authority on Wednesday morning to issue bonds for the developer’s project.

The bonds would be repaid with special sales taxes at the stores along Wentzville Parkway levied via Community Improvement Districts. The city plans to split some of the improvement district sales tax revenue with the Kroenke companies, using 60% to fund a roughly $38 million community center project next to the new retail center.

But that project is over a year away. The initial bonds will instead fund the private development, expected to start construction next month and be completed within three years. The development company is 69% owned by Kroenke and 29% owned through a trust by his lawyer and partner Alan Bornstein, according to bond documents. Kroenke’s Western Skies Management will manage the 165,000-square-foot retail development.

Bond documents approved by Wentzville say the city expects the design of its recreation center to take about a year, and construction bids won’t be solicited until the fall of 2020. Construction would take about two years.

The bond documents say the city could reduce the scope of the planned recreation center if construction bids exceed anticipated CID revenue.

At the meeting Wednesday night, Kroenke’s name wasn’t mentioned.

“There’s a lot of concern about who these investors are and why it’s being kept so secretive,” Wentzville resident Janet Edlen told the Board of Aldermen at the meeting Wednesday night.

Another woman questioned why the measures were being voted on all at one meeting. Wentzville City Manager David Gipson said one meeting was going to be held last week, but a lawsuit questioning the special taxing district’s validity, filed by one of the property owners, delayed it.

That property owner, Desco Group, which owns the shopping center anchored by Schnucks, dropped its lawsuit earlier this month. Because Kroenke controlled most of the shopping centers on Wentzville Parkway, he was able to establish a community improvement district that imposed a special sales tax even on properties he doesn’t own.

Several residents affiliated with the Wentzville Green Lantern Senior Center spoke in support of the project, saying the new recreation center would serve as a new home for the senior center. Carolyn Foushee said the existing Green Lantern center “is sorely inadequate for our needs.”

“It is beyond my comprehension that any forward-thinking person would be against this plan,” she said.

The only alderman to vote against the plan was Robert Hussey, who has said he thought the city should have just asked voters for a smaller tax increase to fund the recreation center since most retail sales are generated along Wentzville Parkway anyway. That way, the city could have cut the developer out and used all of the new revenue for the city project.

But Mayor Nick Guccione stood by the partnership. “I think it was the best way to go and the cheapest way,” he said.

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