Voters turn out for vote, approve both issues

Faith Moldan

Faith Moldan

Thirty-nine percent of Brookings’ registered voters turned out for the city’s special election. Both city ordinance 22-05 and resolution 61-05 were passed by voters.

The ordinance, which will create a Retail Economic Development Fund, was approved with 53 percent of the vote, and the resolution passed with 51 percent. Both were close in numbers, with the ordinance passing by 263 votes and the resolution by only 94 votes.

City officials kept a close eye on the results of the ordinance vote, as this issue is important to the growth of retail in Brookings. Councilman Mike Bartley said there are a number of avenues Brookings can use to give incentives to prospective retailers now. Money from the RED fund, tax incentives using Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIFFs), discretionary tax formulas, reduced landfill fees and reduced permit fees are all options.

With the resolution passed, the city will buy the former K-Mart and Big “O” Tire property for $3.18 million. The two buildings on the property are set to be demolished, costing the city another $250,000. After demolition, the land will be sold again, this time to Lowe’s for $618,000. Brookings taxpayers will pay $2.75 million of the total costs.

Bartley said Lowe’s has made no official response to the results, but the city and Lowe’s are moving forward with steps necessary to complete the project.

“The exact time table for Lowe’s to start and complete the project has not yet been announced by Lowe’s,” Bartley said.

Gary Aguiar, member of Citizens Against Retail Subsidies, said he was not happy with the results but said, “It’s a done deal. We just have to wait and see.”

Aguiar said he was angry about attacks made on local merchants, who were said to be “anti-growth.”

“They’ve poured their lives into their businesses and Brookings. Lowe’s doesn’t know anything about us,” Aguiar said.

The passing of the two issues has brought not just interest from Lowe’s, but from other developers and “unnamed businesses,” according to Bartley.

“I believe we will see announcements in the near future of other retailers that will open businesses in Brookings because of our active retail efforts,” Bartley said. “This is a long, term investment in our city that will prove itself over time.”

Businesses and developers that want to move to Brookings will be met with the city’s scorecard approach, which is used for industrial requests.

“It will be used to determine the value of any requests for incentives in the future,” Bartley said.

Aguiar said he believes it is more likely that one or two businesses will close with Lowe’s coming to town, and therefore Lowe’s will only be re-circulating existing revenue and not creating any new revenue.

The City Council has not claimed that it will be easy. They have admitted that they have their work cut out for them.