Critics of flood plain development in Maryland Heights host town-hall meeting

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KPLR) – Controversy is brewing again over taxpayer contributions and the role Rams owner Stan Kroenke might play in new real estate developments. Plans to develop 1800 acres of floodplain property in Maryland Heights are at the heart of the debate. By the end of June competing development plans must be submitted to the city of Maryland Heights.

Kroenke and a partner are expected to be among the developers to present proposals. The two have already purchased options on some of the property in the designated development area. Wednesday the partner, a real estate attorney, declined to comment.

The property is currently used for farming and athletic activities. It is protected by the Howard Bend levee which was constructed after the flood of 1993. Critics complain the levee did not keep some areas from flooding during the December and New Year's flooding last winter. But the director of the levee district, Dan Human, described the flooding as internal. He said the water came from heavy rainfall over three days and creek overflows.

The levee district has completed designs to build a pumping station to remove interior rainwater that might cause flooding. Work on that could begin later this year.

David Stokes of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance warns the additional water could cause flooding in other locations along the Missouri River. He opposes extensive development in the area.

Other critics oppose the use of taxpayer subsidies to assist developers. Until the plans are made public, it will not be clear if developers are asking for TIF ( tax increment financing ) subsidies or other government benefits to assist them in their project.

Business owners in the area have mixed reactions to the thought of new development. One, who declined to speak publicly, said he wants to see new projects that do not duplicate what was built in Chesterfield. The owner of Golfport, Dale Boggs, wants to see additional development to broaden the area's tax base. He thinks that would cause his taxes to drop and make it easier for him to remain in business. Boggs runs a golf driving range and sports complex. He says he pays more than $60,000 a year in taxes for the levee district and property taxes.  He does not object to the tax subsidies noting any large projects in the area have been able to take advantage of them.

A group of citizens is opposing the effort. Maryland Heights Residents for Responsible Growth met with residents Wednesday night to discuss the current status of the pending development.