CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Developers of a planned Steele Creek outlet mall want $5.1 million in tax reimbursements from the city and the county, according to a plan presented to the Charlotte City Council on Monday.
The developers, Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Simon Property Group and Childress Klein Properties, are asking to be reimbursed for 45 percent of property tax revenues over a 10-year period to pay for road updates and other work at the site.
The county would pay two-thirds and the city would pay one-third under the proposal. The 90-retailer project is scheduled to open in spring 2014.
The improvements, which would include widening Dixie River Road, adding turn lanes to Steele Creek Road, and adding more stop lights, would cost about $7.7 million overall, according to a letter sent to council members last week. The developers would pay the balance.
City Council members heard the proposal during their dinner meeting and voted unanimously to refer the request to the city’s Economic Development Committee, which will consider the request at noon Thursday.
“This is a unique opportunity,” said Jefferson Brown, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen representing Tanger, developer Childress Klein, and landowner Steele Creek Limited Partnership.
As developers made their pitch for financial help, Lake Wylie residents raised concerns about pollution and runoff from the project. Brown’s Cove is filling with sediment from past development in its drainage area.
“The erosion control laws aren’t worth the paper they’re written on,” said Jan Beasley, who owns a home on Brown’s Cove and spoke on behalf of the group Concerned Citizens of Lake Wylie. She and some other local residents oppose the rezoning. “The sediment flowing down the streets and into the creeks continues.”
The mall would be 350,000 square feet, with the option to expand to 400,000. The developers’ plans for the 82-acre site also include a 120-room hotel.
The project would create 900 full- and part-time jobs, as well as 200 construction jobs, Brown said, and spur additional development in the area.
Other major development projects have also received support from the city for infrastructure. In 2008, the city extended City Boulevard to help access to the new IKEA store being built at Interstate 85 and City Boulevard. The developer, Crescent, paid $1 million of the project’s $4.7 million cost.
Such support doesn’t always guarantee success. That same year, the City Council voted to reimburse Merrifield/Crosland up to $3.2 million for building a road between Wilkinson Boulevard and Morehead Street as part of the Charlotte School of Law development. But the development stalled, and the money wasn’t actually paid.
The outlet mall site is west of Interstate 85 and surrounded by Shopton Road, Dixie River Road, Trojan Drive and Steele Creek Road. Current zoning calls for primarily office space, with limited retail, a hotel, and light manufacturing and warehouses.
Brown’s Cove concerns
The mall site lies less than one mile upstream from the 23-acre Brown’s Cove. Another rezoning petition being considered Monday would allow an additional 114 acres nearby to be developed as offices and industrial space.
Beasley said the group is not opposed to development, but wants to see stricter guidelines in place on runoff and developers required to clean up existing runoff damage in the lake. She called for developers to post bonds that would be held until it was proved their developments hadn’t caused more pollution, then refunded.
“We think that you don’t get people to be responsible until they have something to lose,” she said.
Charlotte’s water-quality administrator has said the city may require the mall’s developers to measure the turbidity, or muddiness, of stormwater from the site that reaches nearby streams.
Brown’s Cove residents have complained about sediment flowing into the cove for more than a decade. The volume tripled during the peak construction period of 2003 to 2008, a UNC Charlotte scientist has reported. Last month residents also asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees Duke Energy’s management of the Catawba River, for help.
Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, commenting on the rezoning, said enhanced erosion-control measures should be considered for the site.
The agency also recommended measures to reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, which can erode stream channels leading to the lake, once the mall has been built. The city’s zoning staff recommended approving the project, once a few technical issues have been worked out.
Brown, the attorney, pointed out that the prospective outlet mall land is already zoned for an office park. He said the developer was willing to take extra steps to mitigate runoff, such as double silt fences, basins to collect sediment, diversion ditches, an on-site water monitor and even the hiring of a dedicated erosion control manager.
Council member Michael Barnes, a Democrat, questioned whether the proposed measures would be effective. “It appears there are currently 80, 82 acres of trees,” he said. “Most will be paved over...I’ve seen those (silt) fences before. They fall over and mud goes right over them.”
He asked the developers to provide additional information about how they would stop erosion.
Simon and Tanger each originally planned to build their own outlet malls last year. Simon’s would have been in Stallings, and Tanger’s would have been 22 miles away at the Steele Creek site.
Retail experts said the malls were likely to compete with each other and cannibalize sales. The companies eventually agreed to team up and jointly develop a single site, the Steele Creek location, and call it Charlotte Premium Outlets.