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.

Keith Conway's first lesson in backdoor politics came three days into his administration as mayor of Kinloch, when he got an uninvited visitor. Conway, a young R&B singer with no political background or experience, ran a write-in campaign, promising to save his cash-starved hometown, which had been decimated by a 20-year airport land buyout. The city's population, almost entirely African-American, had shrunk from 6,000 in 1970 to less than 450. On April 11, 1999, Conway beat the incumbent, Bernard Turner getting 127 votes to Turner's 50. When he took office, Conway discovered that Turner had left him with the office furniture and not much else -- no files, no memos, no records, nothing. "There wasn't anything as much as a scrap of paper left," Conway recalls. "Everything was gone." Conway found himself sitting at an empty desk, surrounded by buckets filled with rainwater from a leaking roof.

And then Luther Boykins marched in. He didn't have an appointment. Nor did he bother with introductions.

"He told me I didn't know what the hell I was doing," Conway says. "Instead of introducing himself, he says, 'I don't know how you got in, but you ain't supposed to be here. We have something on the table. We are too close. You need to get Turner back in here to finish the deal.'" Conway wasn't fazed: "I told him, 'Fuck you, marching in here telling me what I don't know. Who the hell do you think you are?'" Boykins told him he needed to think about the deal. Conway kicked him out: "I told him, 'There ain't nothing to think about except that door.'"

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."
Kinloch Mayor Keith Conway: "I don't trust none of these people. I've seen too many of them with dollar signs in their eyes."
Jennifer Silverberg
Kinloch Mayor Keith Conway: "I don't trust none of these people. I've seen too many of them with dollar signs in their eyes."
Former Berkeley City Councilman Louis Bowser questioned TriStar's motives: "Nothing is ever really free," he told other councilmen.
Valerie Dratwick
Former Berkeley City Councilman Louis Bowser questioned TriStar's motives: "Nothing is ever really free," he told other councilmen.
Col. Leonard L. Griggs Jr.: "We will not, as long as I'm director, entertain any proposal that does not pass the light of day."
RFT file photo
Col. Leonard L. Griggs Jr.: "We will not, as long as I'm director, entertain any proposal that does not pass the light of day."
Eighty-five percent of Kinloch's property-tax base has been lost as a result of the airport buyout program.
Jennifer Silverberg
Eighty-five percent of Kinloch's property-tax base has been lost as a result of the airport buyout program.
Buzz Westfall calls the proposed development "the best thing for North County, certainly in my 11 years [as county executive]."
RFT file photo
Buzz Westfall calls the proposed development "the best thing for North County, certainly in my 11 years [as county executive]."

The "deal" Boykins referred to was the tax-subsidized development of 175 acres of Kinloch land. The acreage, mostly residential property, had been bought by the airport for noise mitigation and was to revert back to Kinloch. Boykins, a consultant for Clayco Construction Co. and a former member of the Lambert-St. Louis Airport Commission, had been working with Tri-Star Business Communities, courting Turner. Conway's election had thrown a monkey wrench into those plans.

In retrospect, says Conway, the meeting made him vigilant. "Boykins put me on my toes," he says. "It was a rude awakening to the kind of people I was going to be dealing with. Yeah, Luther woke me up real quick."

Boykins acknowledges the meeting but refuses to talk about what was discussed with Conway -- or about his own ties to Turner. TriStar senior vice president Larry Chapman says his company had plans in the works with Turner but that "when Turner didn't get elected, those all unraveled."

About three weeks after kicking Boykins out of his office, Conway met with St. Louis airport director Col. Leonard L. Griggs Jr. to discuss the transfer of the 175 acres to Kinloch. The land was now considered prime commercial and industrial real estate, ripe for major development, similar to Earth City or Westport Plaza. Conway, still trying to bend his mind around the intricacies of economic development, was certain of one thing -- Kinloch's future depended on getting the vacant property developed. Conway went to Griggs hoping to hash out a settlement. Griggs had other things on his mind. "After the meeting, he pulled me aside and told me I was going to be getting a call from Luther Boykins," Conway says. "I didn't tell him I had already met Mr. Boykins and kicked him out of my office. In the first three meetings I had with Col. Griggs, he mentioned Boykins twice."

Griggs admits that he and Boykins are good friends but says the comment was innocent: "We told Conway all along, 'You may get a phone call, but whatever deal you get or whatever redevelopment program you come up with has to be approved by you.'"

Conway has his own theory. "They [Griggs and Boykins] had something going on," he says. "I know they did."

Conway's mistrust however, extends way beyond his dealings with Boykins and Griggs. The stakes were high for the development, which stretched across 438 acres -- 175 in Kinloch, 233 in neighboring Berkeley and 30 in Ferguson. The accident of geography, with the airport nearby and the intersection of Interstates 70 and 170 in close proximity, made the acreage the hottest commercial site in North County. Conway's subsequent meetings with competing developers and their consultants -- as well as with officials from Berkeley, Ferguson, St. Louis (which owns the airport) and St. Louis County -- confirmed his suspicions: Everyone wanted to develop the land, but no one cared about Kinloch's survival.

A little town with an inexperienced administration and a $600,000 annual budget (that will soon shrink to $250,000 because of the 2000 census count), Kinloch finds itself a bit out of its league, mired in what may be a $400 million development game. And Conway finds himself not trusting any of the players. "There are a lot of people way up who want to get their hands on this land," he says. "I don't trust none of these people. I've seen too many of them with dollar signs in their eyes."

The land rush is on, and it's begun to take a toll: It has created havoc in Berkeley politics, including with recall elections; led to a dogfight between TriStar and Trammell Crow Co., a competing developer; and resulted in dozens of secret meetings between shady consultants and small-time politicians. And there is no deal in sight yet.

As for Conway and his town, the fix may be in. There's talk of the city's disincorporation or possible annexation into Ferguson or Berkeley.

"Someone recognized this land had more value as a commercial property than a thriving black community," says Felicia Pulliam-Jones, Kinloch's economic-development coordinator. "So they found a convenient way to try and force us out. The airport decimated our tax base over 20 years and then walked away. In essence, they blighted our community. We feel like the lamb in the lion's den. We are a tasty morsel the city, county and developers want to just gobble up."


Since its beginning in 1982, the airport land buyout -- which has eroded about 85 percent of Kinloch's property-tax base -- has prompted allegations that it was propelled more by greed than by concern about airport noise. Kinloch and St. Louis have waged an ongoing war over the land. The last battle began when Kinloch sued the city last year, alleging that St. Louis reneged on its long-standing commitment to convey the 175 acres back to Kinloch. The suit also accused St. Louis and the airport of misrepresenting the reasons for the buyout to the Federal Aviation Administration (which paid about $50 million for the buyout and related costs), saying the real reason for the buyout was to force the disincorporation of Kinloch so the airport could profit by selling the land to developers.

Airport officials note that the buyout was voluntary and that residents were eager to leave the towns. Moreover, Griggs asserts, the plan to sell the land back to the buyout municipalities has never changed. "Any accusation that we kept this land for a protracted period of time for our own use is absolute nonsense," he says. The airport had to hold the land until the $2.6 billion airport expansion plan received final approval from the FAA, which happened last January, says Griggs. Now, the cities need to submit a development plan that the airport can send to the FAA before the land can be conveyed back to the cities.

Dennis Coleman, director of the St. Louis County Economic Council, says that once the airport-expansion plans, including the runway configurations, were finalized in early 2000, the airport asked the county for help coordinating a development plan. "We started meeting regularly with the cities of Kinloch, Ferguson and Berkeley so we could set up the best way to develop a master plan," says Coleman. The overall development could create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue for the economically depressed part of North County.

Says County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall: "It is the best thing for North County, certainly in my 11 years [as county executive]. The development and revenue will improve the quality of life for all residents, and if not stopping [it] altogether, it will most certainly slow down the exodus of people from North County."

By the spring of 2000, all three municipalities were on board with the county in coordinating a plan. The airport chipped in $100,000 to finance a master plan by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a consulting firm from Chicago that coordinated a similar redevelopment near Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The master plan is expected to be completed in December. "The idea was to have Kinloch, Berkeley and Ferguson become one development site," Coleman says. "We want it developed as a whole, instead of piecemeal."

For Kinloch, the clock was ticking. With a new census documenting the rapid population decline, Conway and other city officials began worrying about an estimated 55 percent reduction in sales-tax revenue, which accounts for most of the city's current annual budget.

In October 2000, Kinloch selected Trammell Crow Co. as developer. Berkeley quickly followed suit last November. By January, Ferguson had also selected Trammell Crow.

Coleman says he asked the communities to be patient and wait for the master plan before naming a developer but that they didn't. "I think some of the developers gave them the idea that they could get the deal done, but I don't know how, since they haven't secured the land," he says.

But Conway believed that the airport and county were simply stalling the planning process. "For a year-and-a-half we sat down with the major players and had quite a few meetings," he says. "I told the county, 'We can't drag this along.' The one thing they knew where they had the advantage was time. They started dragging out the process. They would bring in one person and say, 'He is going to help with a 90-day study.' Then they brought in somebody else for another study. I started saying, 'Wait a minute! Time out! When are you going to give us a plan? When are you going to stop talking and do something I can see?' So we got our own plan together."

Pulliam-Jones believes all the delays were deliberate and that St. Louis, St. Louis County and the airport were simply hoping that Kinloch's revenues would dry up and the city would be forced to disincorporate. "We were the community with the fewest resources, and we were taking the lead," she says. "We were at every meeting. We ended up waiting and waiting and waiting, and the whole time the people who were supposed to be helping us were whispering in dark corners, planning for us not to be around."

Even as things were looking bleak for Kinloch, all hell was breaking loose in Berkeley.


Unlike Trammell Crow, a Dallas-based, publicly traded company, TriStar is a locally owned company, founded in 1996 and known for its developments in Earth City, Park 370 in Hazelwood and the Gateway Commerce Center in Illinois. The company owns and controls 2,500 acres in the St. Louis area, more than any other developer, and it had been tracking the airport buyout area all through the 1980s and '90s. "We were watching from the sidelines, keeping tabs on what was going on," says Chapman. "This is what we do every day. We make our living watching real estate."

At the same time Tri-Star was trying to negotiate a deal with Mayor Bernard Turner in Kinloch, the company was also making a play for neighboring Berkeley, a town of about 10,000 that is 76 percent African-American. Berkeley, which has a history of hardball politics, was first approached by TriStar in early 1999. At the time, City Hall was mired in accusations of corruption and the entire City Council was the subject of a recall effort.

Ever since, TriStar has not only pitched its plan to Berkeley officials but gotten down and dirty in local politics. In April 2000, TriStar invited all City Council members to a dinner presentation at Lombardo's, a restaurant on Natural Bridge Road. Boykins was present, as was his former employee, Doris Jackson, who happened to be Berkeley's city clerk at the time. "Luther was there to help us get a handle on who was who," Chapman says. "At the time, things were changing so fast up there because of all the recalls." While newly elected Mayor Babatunde Deinbo and the council members dined on steak, TriStar proposed developing a facility for FedEx on an 11-acre tract of the 233 acres of land, which was owned by the airport and would soon revert back to Berkeley. But, by all accounts, TriStar was fishing for the entire 233-acre catch.

When the company offered to develop a master plan for all 233 acres for free, Alderman Louis Bowser chimed in. "I mumbled something about how nothing is ever really free," he says. "Luther immediately jumped up and started talking about what a good company TriStar was."

Chapman says the dinner presentation was just good business. "I'm in the business to sell a product," he says. "To do that, I have to find out what people are looking for. I don't do anything different than all the rest of the developers out there."

That included making campaign contributions. Deinbo, who took office as mayor on April 15, 2000, received two checks, each for $275, from TriStar in June. Bowser, who had supported Deinbo's run (the two have since parted ways over the development), says he got a call from Patrick O'Basuyi, co-owner of FPX, a company with ties to TriStar, telling him he had a campaign donation for Deinbo. Bowser says he went to TriStar's office in Earth City and that O'Basuyi handed him a check for $1,500. "I told him I couldn't take it because the most an individual can give to a campaign is $275," Bowser says. "So I came back later and picked up several smaller checks."

Deinbo accuses Bowser of pocketing some of the money, a charge Bowser denies. That same month, O'Basuyi hosted a "victory party" for Deinbo. Chapman was one of the main speakers. Deinbo and Chapman deny any link between the money and the proposed development. "I can get contributions from anybody, as long as they are not over $275," Deinbo says. "I can do that and still make a fair decision on who the best developer is for the city of Berkeley."

"I didn't write the [campaign-finance] law; the law is the law," says Chapman. "This goes on everywhere, every single day. I just follow the law."

Three weeks after the party, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-0 (Bowser was absent) to approve TriStar's proposal to develop the 11 acres for FedEx. But Ken Bacchus, a consultant hired by the city, advised the council against approval. He noted that the city's master plan -- which itself cost $40,000 -- called for a single developer for all 233 acres. Moreover, he said, the council had failed to send out formal RFPs, "requests for proposals."

The council rescinded the TriStar plan at a later meeting and sent out an RFP, asking for a development under the state's tax-increment financing statute. Meanwhile, some council members who had initially embraced TriStar's proposal were becoming less than enthusiastic. "I started getting uncomfortable with TriStar's involvement with others on the council," says Councilman Louvenia Mathison. "At the meeting at Lombardo's, [Councilman] Kenny [McClendon] was chiming in on every sentence like he had been briefed before. Then Chapman spoke at the mayor's victory celebration. I started having second thoughts."

So did Councilwoman Aloha Keely. In a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission, Keely charges that even before reviewing the proposals, McClendon offered to pay her $3,000 if she would vote in favor of TriStar. McClendon denies the allegation.

Four companies -- Trammell Crow, TriStar, McEagle Corp. and First Industrial -- responded to the RFP and made presentations at the Oct. 26, 2000, Berkeley City Council meeting. TriStar's proposal included a combination of light-industrial development with a commercial hub, including hotels and retail closer to the highway. TriStar also promised a new City Hall and community center, as well as cosmetic improvements to two other corridors, Airport and Natural Bridge roads. "We told them we wanted to invest in the whole community and make it, overall, a better place to go," says Chapman.

Trammell Crow's project was described in a presentation by Mark Branstetter, who emphasized that the plan would be cohesive, including Kinloch's 175 acres and perhaps Ferguson's 30. The $400 million development, which would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, included 6 million square feet of office space, two hotels and retail space, as well as a municipal building for Berkeley that would likely include a recreation center.

Deinbo wasn't impressed by Branstetter's proposal: "He didn't have no plan. He brought a bunch of diagrams." Deinbo and McClendon were hellbent on picking TriStar.

According to minutes from the closed meeting, both men pushed for an immediate vote, even though Chapman had told them the city needed to establish a TIF commission before selecting a developer. Deinbo felt otherwise. "I thought we should make a decision while the presentations were fresh in our mind," he says. "I had seen everything I needed to see."

Mathison expressed her hesitation about voting on a developer so quickly but went along anyway. The first vote narrowed the field to Trammell Crow and McEagle, eliminating TriStar and First Industrial. At McClendon's suggestion, according to the minutes, the vote was ignored, and all four developers were in the running for a second vote. Trammell Crow was selected on a 4-3 vote, with Bowser, Mathison, Keely and Jean Montgomery in favor. Deinbo, McClendon and Nina Schaefer were disappointed that TriStar lost out.

On Nov. 3, the council voted 4-3 again to name Trammell Crow developer of the 233 acres -- this time in a public session, says Mathison, to affirm their decision.

But Deinbo and McClendon weren't about to concede defeat.

Despite the votes, says Branstetter, Deinbo wouldn't sign the development agreement. "He kept saying he needed to find an attorney to draw up the paperwork but never found one," Branstetter says. "It was one thing after another."

Deinbo denies causing any delays. "He [Branstetter] didn't get anything started," he says. "Now he wants to blame me for stalling -- that is ridiculous."

Meanwhile, TriStar was working on its own plan to undo the selection of Trammell Crow. And Gwen Verges, a Berkeley resident who regularly attended council meetings, began working with TriStar and its supporters. McClendon sponsored a public meeting and invited all of the developers back for another presentation. Only TriStar showed up.

"We had already been selected as the developer by the council," Branstetter says. "I felt like this was a set-up."

Verges, who had been battling Bowser for several months, organized Berkeley Citizens for an Honest Government and began a petition drive to recall Bowser. Verges alleged that Bowser had used a city cell phone for sex calls and that he rarely attended council meetings. Bowser denies this and says the recall was payback for his support of Trammell Crow. The citizens' group also started a recall effort against Mathison.

According to records at the Missouri Ethics Commission, Berkeley Citizens for an Honest Government received $8,250, most of it from TriStar and its friends. Between April 14 and July 15 of this year, TriStar gave $5,000; Forum Studio, an architectural arm of TriStar, donated $1,000; and Martin O'Basuyi, brother of Patrick O'Basuyi, donated $750.

Chapman defends the recall effort, saying it was simply to "support the people who are most likely to make good decisions about the development process. Do I want people who honestly sit down and review the merits of TriStar? Absolutely. I want people who will sit down and absolutely say, 'I am not committed to this developer or that developer. What I will do is judge it on the absolute merits of the proposal in front of us.'"

Says Branstetter: "It seems the sole purpose of this organization appears to be a takeover of the council so one particular developer could be voted in."

Sure enough, that happened. Bowser resigned in February, and Verges was elected to his seat. Last month, with Mathison's recall pending, the City Council rescinded the decision naming Trammell Crow the developer. Verges insists that the Trammell Crow vote was illegal anyway because under state statute, a TIF commission must be in place before a developer can be named. Chapman agrees: "I told them from the beginning that the process was flawed. The state statute is very clear."

Others, however -- including Westfall -- don't believe the law requires this.

After Berkeley's Sept. 5 vote to rescind Trammell Crow's selection, its City Council established a TIF commission. It also slipped in a curious deal, approving a $35,000 contract to hire Centro Consulting Co. to help negotiate the purchase of the land with the city of St. Louis and the airport. Mathison, who had never heard of Centro, inquired about the company. According to the minutes, McClendon said: "I just really went down the phone book and just asked different people." When Mathison pressed McClendon about Centro's credentials and who referred the company, McClendon said: "A consulting group referred them to me, and I'd rather not give their name."

Centro was set up by J. Kim Tucci, co-owner of the Pasta House Co., former airport commissioner, longtime player in local Democratic politics -- and good friend of Luther Boykins. At the time of the vote, Centro was not registered with the state as a company. A week later, on Sept. 12, Centro sent a letter to Deinbo, thanking him for the business. Thirteen days after that, Centro registered with the state. Tucci was unavailable for comment.

Asked last week who recommended Centro, Deinbo says he got Tucci's name by calling the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. "I can't remember who I talked to at the mayor's office," says Deinbo. "I just asked who had good connections with St. Louis."

Deinbo also says Griggs recommended Tucci. That comes as a surprise to Griggs. "You just told me something I don't know," says the airport director. "I had no idea Kim Tucci was a consultant for Berkeley."


With all the infighting in Berkeley and with Kinloch facing financial ruin, county officials clearly had their hands full trying to put together a package deal to cover all 438 acres. Westfall met with representatives of both Trammell Crow and TriStar to see whether he could get the two developers to work together. "I tried to bring these parties to the table," he says. "But these developers are obviously very successful and well financed and feel strongly enough to fight for development rights. I think they are both jockeying for political support. I told them I would love to see this development effort go forward and believe there is enough room for everybody at the table."

Speaking for Trammell Crow, Branstetter says: "We offered to Buzz Westfall an attempt to find some compromise so the project wouldn't be unnecessarily delayed, but not in a joint-venture format. To date, we understand that TriStar seems to be uninterested."

Chapman says TriStar believes that the cities must decide on any such development partnership, not the developers. "Why would we pretend to say we have the ability to engage in a negotiation like that when it's not up to us?" he asks.

After the meeting with the developers, Westfall turned his attention to Kinloch. He knows that Kinloch is fading fast. Kinloch's bleak revenue picture will place any development project in jeopardy, he says. "I seriously doubt that a bank is going to finance a project in a municipality that can barely provide service to its existing 449 residents," Westfall says. "I just don't see it happening. It would be too much of a financial risk."

Last month, Westfall set up a meeting with Conway and Pulliam-Jones.

"He said he wanted to meet about the future of Kinloch," Conway says. "We thought, 'Finally they are going to give us some real help.' I tried not to get my hopes up because of my past dealings with the county, but I went in trying to be optimistic."

Conway's optimism didn't last long. "First thing he [Westfall] said was that he had a meeting with Col. Griggs and Francis Slay and that they had decided to lift the moratorium on the buyout," Conway says. (In 1999, the airport voluntarily agreed to stop buying properties in Kinloch, at the city's request.) "They decided. Hell, I'm the mayor of Kinloch -- how come I wasn't invited to that meeting?" he asks. "How come you are discussing the future of a city without its mayor and residents?"

Westfall says he sees no point in continuing the buyout moratorium. "I don't know why the airport agreed to it in the first place," he says. "It was unfair to the people who live there now and want to leave. No one is going to buy their home except the airport. Essentially they are trapped in horrid conditions. Why? So a city that has no chance of survival doesn't lose hope?"

Within minutes, the meeting turned contentious. "I told him quite bluntly he was doing a disservice to Kinloch and misleading his citizens because he is holding out for a pot at the end of the rainbow that is simply not going to be there," Westfall says. "The best thing for Kinloch would be to become a part of the neighboring municipality." He suggested a merger with Ferguson or Berkeley. "I would prefer Ferguson because it has a more stable government," Westfall says, "but I wouldn't care if they decided to merge with Berkeley. That's up to Kinloch."

Conway wasn't entertaining any such option and told Westfall that all Kinloch had to do was hold on for another two or three years, until the development was under way. Westfall then informed Conway that Trammell Crow was seeking a "super-TIF' from the state, a provision under which the state turns over half of its share of the incremental sales and income taxes from the development to pay for project-related costs.

That came as a surprise to both Pulliam-Jones and Conway. "We had no idea," Conway says. "None at all. We really felt like our own developer was going behind our back." But Branstetter downplays the significance of the plan, saying no formal application has been made for a super-TIF and none can be made without Kinloch's approval.

Conway says the meeting got downright ugly toward the end, when Westfall mentioned that the county would sell its park in Kinloch for development. "You are trying to choke us out," fumed Conway. "Why don't you just put a noose around our neck? Hell, Buzz, our children play in that park."

"They shouldn't be there," Westfall retorted.

"This is nothing more than a land grab," Conway says now.

"We are so close and have moved so far ahead," says Pulliam-Jones. "To give up now would be absurd. This city has endured for 20 years through worse conditions. Why are you trying to push us out now? I'll tell you why. The county has an incredible amount to gain. If we are gone, the county could control the development without the influence of a municipal government."

Westfall disagrees. "I am not looking for any revenue out of this for the county government," he says flatly. "I am not looking for any more responsibility to have by way of police and fire protection. I'm just doing what is best for the people of Kinloch and I'm trying to find a way to make this a more coordinated effort by way of development."

The push to get Kinloch to disincorporate is clearly fueled by concern for the development. In April, Kinloch voters passed a $200,000 bond issue to buy a new fire truck, but the city was unable to float the bonds because its assessed valuation of $3.5 million was too low to borrow the amount.

Asked whether Kinloch's financial picture would be a deal-breaker when it comes time to seek financing or find insurance for the development, Coleman, the county's economic-development director, is more diplomatic than Westfall. "We have been encouraging Kinloch to look at alternatives," he says. "We can't force them into doing anything they don't want to do. We have discussed with them the need to take a hard look at their ability to provide city services, not only for a significant business-park development but to their current city residents. I don't know how much of an issue it will become. Only time will tell. "

The day after the meeting, Westfall says, he called Conway and changed his position on the sale of the park: "I told him if children play in that park I will take his word for it and that we would continue to keep it open."

Nevertheless, Conway has strong words for Westfall.

"They got a plan, [and] I am not planned into it and neither is Kinloch," Conway says. "They accuse me of misleading people and spreading false information. Well, Mr. Westfall, let me tell you something -- how do you expect me to give them accurate information that I don't have? You are meeting with the city and airport, making decisions about our city without us even being there. You are supposed to be representing us, but we have no part in what you are talking about. If I am supposed to lead them the right way, give me the right information, because I am not just going to take your word on it, because I don't trust you, so your word doesn't mean jack to me."

So much mistrust simply means that any development project is a long way from getting done, says Coleman. "It is a little early to be squabbling over who is going to develop what land when no one is on the same page as to what type of development will occur," he says. "To say it is very complex to get [three cities] to work together is an understatement, really. The best-case scenario is that the municipalities understand they can't build anything without acquiring the land and we all understand we need each other to move forward and come up with a plan that produces maximized benefits for everyone. The worst-case scenario is that everybody runs and hides in their own little corner and nothing gets developed."


Ultimately, the St. Louis Airport Commission may hold all the cards. The 17-member commission comprises six members appointed by the St. Louis mayor, five appointed by the St. Louis County executive and one each by the county executives of St. Clair and St. Charles counties, plus four ex officio members. Griggs serves as chairman.

The commission must first send any proposed development plan to the FAA, which will decide whether the plan is compatible with airport standards. Then the airport commission must approve it and sign off on a sale price for the land to be sold back to the municipalities. Airport spokesman Michael Donatt says no price has been placed on the 438-acre parcel, although a recent appraisal of the 175 acres in Kinloch came in at $6.5 million, or about $37,000 per acre. If that price holds for the Berkeley and Ferguson land as well, the total price is likely to be in the $16 million range.

Once the airport commission approves the plan and a sale price, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen must also vote to approve the sale.

But the first step is to get a plan submitted to the airport so it can be sent to the FAA. "I do think that working with the county and a bona fide blanket development authority will be better than this fracturized nonsense of one community against another and this individual representing that one," says Griggs. "We will not, as long as I am director, entertain any proposal that does not pass the light of day. That is why we have not endorsed anything, because what I have seen so far doesn't smack of too much legitimacy. I haven't seen one yet that I would take to the FAA and say, 'I want you to take a look at this.'"

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.

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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