Following a lengthy discussion focusing on the extension of Wolfe Nursery Road into property being eyed by Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc., the city’s Finance Committee gave approval to forward a recommendation to the city council to provide some assistance in constructing an entryway to the proposed retail center.
The finance committee debated the city’s requirements and what Lowe’s plans to include in their proposed store site design, but came to an agreement to provide funding for half of the road’s cost not to exceed $500,000.
Although the final decision to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) rests with the council, the Finance Committee in a 2-1 decision, made a recommendation to provide some assistance and require the developer to stick to the existing design of a four-lane concrete thoroughfare, matching Wolfe Nursery Road north of US Hwy. 377.
With several council members attending last night’s meeting, the Finance Committee was presented with a revised MOU from city staff and were informed that Lowe’s would be required to construct at a minimum, a two-lane entry along the eastern border of the property.
Jennings Gray, of ROI Consultants, was on-hand for the workshop and said Lowe’s representatives had gone back and re-calculated their cost estimates, asking the elected officials to assist with the road construction costs.
Gray said once an MOU is approved by the council, Lowe’s real estate committee would review the proposal.
Based upon estimates provided by a design firm obtained by Lowe’s, Gray said the road extension could cost up to $900,000 for a four-lane thoroughfare, complete with a median.
The majority of Tuesday night’s discussion revolved around that road extension and whether or not the city should offer financial assistance in extending Wolfe Nursery Road into the proposed store site.
City Administrator Mark Kaiser informed the committee that the city’s requirements are for any developer to install at a minimum, a two-lane road off of Hwy. 377.
“It would be hard to deny their development plans if they do include just two lanes. That is where there is a little give-and-take. They (Lowe’s) would also have to meet storm water and utility plans,” Kaiser said.
Councilman Todd McEvoy said that any business, big or small, would most likely opt to put in the cheapest road possible, even though Lowe’s initial plans include a four-lane thoroughfare extension.
Kaiser, referring to the city’s comprehensive thoroughfare plan, said that whatever developer plans to purchase the property would also be required to extend Wolfe Nursery Road to the back of the property which ends near the Fort Worth & Western Rail line.
Councilman Pat Shelbourne, citing the city’s future plans to extend the road by four lanes, said it would be in the city’s best interest to go ahead and require Lowe’s to match that of the existing portion of Wolfe Nursery Road.
McEvoy agreed, saying “no matter what, Lowe’s or Home Depot, the city has an obligation to extend Wolfe Nursery Road and encourage development. We have that obligation to go above and beyond to cover the costs of doing business.”
The councilman continued, saying it was his opinion that he did not want to give Lowe’s an advantage over anyone else or to help increase their profits on such an investment.
Councilman Barry Ratliff asked if the city could require the developer to match the existing road and if the city would retain ownership of the extension.
Kaiser said the city would require the developer to devote a portion of the property for right-of-way for a future four-lane road, and upon its completion, the city would be obligated to maintain that stretch of roadway.
“It’s a win-win for the city if the roads are built to meet those requirements,” said Ratliff. “I’d like to move ahead with our median project and continue the pavers to reduce mowing maintenance in those rights-of-way.”
The committee also provided three minutes for citizen input in which several local residents said they did not support the city “subsidizing” Lowe’s for the road costs.
One speaker, Chris Gifford, said he had conducted his own independent research by contacting four cities of comparable size in which Lowe’s has built a retail store.
“It’s common for Lowe’s to ask for tax refunds for 10 years,” said Gifford. “None of the cities I contacted gave a tax abatement.”
Gifford said he spoke to city officials in Kerrville, Mansfield, Nacogdoches and Sulphur Springs.
Also speaking against the big box retailer was Harvey Parker, a local resident associated with the family run hardware store and lumberyard, Barnes & McCullough.
Parker urged the committee members and council to not be deceived by the facts and figures presented by Lowe’s representatives.
“I’m against subsidies, so to speak. We didn’t get an abatement at the time we opened 62 years ago. They say they’ll generated $17 million in sales, but that’s not new business, but some of mine and other existing businesses in the community,” Parker said.
Following the nearly two-hour discussion, Ratliff offered a motion to forward a recommendation to the council. His motion died for lack of a second, but Shelbourne provided one of his own, similar to the original motion but adding a provision to require Lowe’s to match the existing four-lane concrete Wolfe Nursery Road.
The motion to forward the recommendation carried, 2-1, with Councilman and Finance Committee chairman Alan Nash against.
The city council will now consider and possibly take action on an agreement with Lowe’s at their next regular scheduled meeting.