Full steam ahead: City Council advances Boomer Lake Station plan, approves outdoor dining ordinance

An ambitious plan to repurpose the old Boomer Lake power station is one step closer to reality. On Monday, the Stillwater City Council advanced an ordinance to second reading that adopts the project plan and creates the boundaries for Tax Increment Financing districts to incentivize the project. Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

The redevelopment of the City of Stillwater’s Boomer Lake power station is one step closer after the City Council advanced an ordinance that adopts the project plan and establishes the boundaries for tax increment districts that will help fund the project.

The developer, Lakeview Landing LLC, is expected to receive about $9.3 million in public assistance that includes $7.2 million in financing assistance.

Deputy City Manager Melissa Reames explained that the public investment would not happen all at once and could in fact be received over the 25-year life of the TIF.

The project will be completed over time, in phases.

The developer will also bring around $30 million in private investment to the project.

In sharp contrast to previous TIFs created by the City to incentivize development, this project and its two proposed TIF districts drew no opposition and no speakers for its public hearing.

Previous incentives have been questioned by local business people who objected to newcomers receiving assistance they didn’t get or by residents questioning the use of public funds to help individual businesses.

A TIF district created in 2018 as part of a reinvestment plan to spur redevelopment in downtown Stillwater and the area south and east of the Oklahoma State University campus drew strong objections from Payne County and Meridian Technology Center, other taxing entities that were asked to forgo gains in property tax revenue on improved properties for the life of the TIF.

That money will be used to provide incentives for development or to expand existing businesses within the boundaries of the district for up to 25 years.

Stillwater Public Schools was also impacted, but didn’t object after reaching a financial agreement with the City of Stillwater.

The TIF’s rules were later amended to give Payne County and MTC a portion of the revenue growth in the defined area.

But in this case, even the other entities forgoing revenue growth are in favor of the proposal.

Much of the area in question is owned by the City of Stillwater and isn’t generating tax revenue for anyone because government property is tax exempt.

The taxing entities aren’t losing anything on the deal and stand to gain if it spurs more development and increases property values in the area near Boomer Lake.

The project plan calls for the creation of two TIF districts, TIF No. 4 for the city-owned property and TIF No. 5 for a number of privately-owned properties the developer plans to acquire.

Councilor John Wedlake, who chaired the committee, said the representatives from the other taxing entities did ask for an additional review of TIF No. 5 before it is implemented.

Deputy City Manager Melissa Reames explained that TIF No. 5 has a delayed start and could be held for up to 10 years.

TIF No. 5 won’t happen unless the developer actually acquires the privately-owned properties as planned, Wedlake said. It might not wind up being necessary.

It will only go into effect by a formal resolution of the City Council, City Attorney John Dorman said.

Mayor Will Joyce said the project has “really incredible development potential … it’s a really exciting plan.”

Making the kind of public investment being considered will have been worth it if it makes the project happen, he said.

In other business, the City Council approved on second reading Ordinance 3456, which creates permanent rules for outdoor restaurant and bar seating in parking areas and on sidewalks.

The ordinance will replace temporary measures adopted in June under an emergency order, which Joyce extended Monday. The extension allows temporary permits for outdoor seating to continue being issued until the ordinance takes effect.

Joyce also extended the City of Stillwater’s State of Emergency declaration through Feb. 28 on Monday and amended it to match requirements announced by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Nov. 16 for restaurants to space tables six feet apart and for bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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