Feeding Frenzy

Two developers, three cities, the airport and the county are engaged in a dogfight over 438 acres of prime North County land. And there's plenty of sleaze to go around.

Even though Kinloch turned its plan over to the airport in May, Griggs says it was not sent to the FAA because it included a portion of land that would be converted to residential development. "It would be irresponsible for the FAA to approve homes in an area where they paid millions to buy it out," he says. "It is not happening as long as I am director."

That comes as news to Kinloch. Pulliam-Jones says the plan only sought approval of phase 1 of the project, which was all industrial and commercial. "Col. Griggs told us to our face that this was a done deal and that all that was needed was the appraisal so we could buy the land," Pulliam-Jones says. "We have been here sitting on pins and needles waiting for an appraisal that was over 60 days late. Now that we've got it, we find out he hasn't even submitted our plan. It is just dishonest. How can elected officials act this way? All this is proof that they surely must have something to gain, because they are going through such extremes to exclude us from this process."

So far, prospects for any coordinated development plan's being submitted soon are dim. Ferguson has a signed agreement with Trammell Crow. Berkeley is starting from scratch, having undone the deal with Trammell Crow, and is planning to send out RFPs to once again try selecting a developer.

Dennis Coleman, director of the St. Louis County Economic Council, says the county wants the airport land "developed as a whole, instead of piecemeal."
Dennis Coleman, director of the St. Louis County Economic Council, says the county wants the airport land "developed as a whole, instead of piecemeal."

As for Kinloch, it picked Trammell Crow last year, but legal problems could lie ahead because it is unclear whether Kinloch ever put out an RFP before making its selection. "The previous administration already had four developers at the table, and we picked from those four," says Conway. "I don't know if they submitted RFPs, because when I got here, every scrap of paperwork was missing."

And whereas developers want Kinloch's 175 acres, others want all of the city. Last week, Mayor Deinbo and Councilman McClendon of Berkeley showed up uninvited at Kinloch's City Council meeting, seeking to discuss a "merger" with Kinloch. No decision was made, and Conway says he's committed to preserving Kinloch.

Even if Kinloch fends off disincorporation, annexation or merger, there remains the issue of whether the city can survive -- even with a major development on its 175 acres. "All that property is going to be in a TIF, and Kinloch won't see any real revenue from it for at least 15 years," says Westfall. "There is just no way they can maintain their city for that length of time. I can't make them dissolve, but everybody is telling them what they need to do and they just refuse to accept it."

Says Pulliam-Jones: "We feel justice will prevail. We are disillusioned, but we are also much wiser. Our doors are not closed. Our lights are not off. Until then, we will push forward. All this has made us even more committed than ever to making this development happen and ensuring our city survives."

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