By JACK WEATHERLY
A four-year extension of a sales tax rebate has been granted for the $96.8 million third phase of the Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland.
Without the extension granted by Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Glenn McCullough the project would lose nearly $30 million in rebates, challenging its feasibility.
The Legislature voted to end the program in 2014. Andrew Mattiace, doing business as Renaissance at Colony Park LLC, succeeded in getting his application approved before the deadline, but has not begun work on the site, much less finishing it by July 1, 2016 as required under the Cultural Retail Attractions Incentives act.
Efforts by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, to block the extensions have failed thus far in the current session of the Legislature.
“The taxpayers should not be on the hook for shopping malls,” Blount said in a telephone interview on Monday.
The Senate passed an amendment to stop the extensions, but the House removed it. It will go to conference committee this week to resolve the differences. Blount said he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about his chances.
Retail developments with a “cultural” aspect that qualified under the law had to complete the work by July 1 or lose the benefits.
The extension was anticipated after McCullough granted on Jan. 11 a four-year extension to Slidell, La.-based Freedom Real Estate for the $165 million Pinelands Lifestyle Center in Flowood.
The Ridgeland project faces another hurdle. Nine homeowners sued the city in November to block the development.
The suit contends that the proposed phase three of the Renaissance at Colony Park has no legal standing to qualify for moving forward with the project.
Madison County Circuit Judge Steve Ratcliff had not set a court date as of Monday.
A resolution passed 6-1 by the aldermen on May 6, 2014 lent the city’s support for an application to the MDA’s Tourism Grant Program.
The resolution said that the sales tax that would otherwise go into the city’s coffers is for “property currently owned by Renaissance at Colony Park LLC.”
But the developer did not own the land, 45 acres south of the existing Renaissance at Colony Park lifestyle mall, according to Madison County land records.
Instead, the address of the property on the application is 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, which is the existing mall.
The Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 on April 5 to amend the general commercial zoning ordinance that “contains essentially the same language” included in a June 2, 2015 amendment that would allow Costco to build on Highland Colony Parkway, according to City Attorney Jerry Mills.
Mills said that the hearing on the amendment was intended to satisfy concerns about procedural matters, and to avoid a court battle.
Sheldon Alston, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the April 5 decision will be appealed.
The 2015 amendment was seen by many as a surreptitious move to accommodate Costco.
Ken Heard, alderman for Ward 1, which encompasses all of west Ridgeland, including the property in question, led an attempt on April 15 to repeal the 2015 amendment but failed in a 4-3 vote.
Still he said he is encouraged by the statements made during the hearing that would bode well for opponents of the project.
Heard was the lone alderman who voted against the city’s support of the project.
The homeowners contend that the expansion with Costco would create traffic problems and devalue residential property.
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