Paducah city leaders, developer at odds over development proposal

The proposed plans for a new shopping center include 400,000 square feet of new retail stores, 600 new permanent jobs and millions in tax revenues. The plans drawn up by Jim Sansone and his team at the Sansone Group are to build a new shopping center along Highway 60 in McCracken County.

However, he said, the city is not on board. "It's just surprising that a community wouldn't want to hear about that opportunity," he told Local 6.

To make that happen, Sansone said he needs $3.5 million from the TIF district for infrastructure costs. He said the city would not be taking any financial risks because the money would come from additional tax revenue.

"There is a lot of work that has to be done on this site in order to bring it up to par," Sansone said.

Mayor Gayle Kaler said that's a deal breaker. "We do not do retail incentives," she said.

Kaler said Paducah is a large retail hub where retail construction is driven by the market and stores that locate to town don't need any incentives to get their business off the ground. "They realize what a great market we have here and how much money they can make," Kaler said.

According to Sansone, another sticking point is a letter required by the Securities Exchange Commission that cities must sign before construction proposals are heard. Sansone said it is non-binding and protects the city. Last week Kaler said commissioners opted to not allow her to sign it. Instead she read a part of a state statute, which said "no further discussion is contemplated."

"The last city commission meeting, we did have executive session and we came out and read our statement and that's our position," she recalled.

Sansone showed us a tax increment financing, or TIF, project in Brentwood, a suburb of St. Louis. 

"Those communities in which we developed projects, TIF projects, have been extremely happy with the results," he told Local 6.

His company built a 350,000 square-foot shopping center, similar to his Paducah proposals. Sansone said a nearby fire district and the McCracken County School District would receive millions of new money in the deal. Sansone estimates his proposal will create $7.5 million dollars for the school system over 20 years and more than a $1 million for the Concord Fire District.

Kaler and the city manager asked Sansone for a formal proposal in May, but he said now they aren't even willing to hear it.  "We wouldn't be in front of the city if we weren't very comfortable with the interest level," he said.

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