Critical voting on northside redevelopment plan postponed

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- An important vote to move forward an $8.1 billion plan to redevelop a large portion of North St. Louis is postponed because half the committee considering two crucial bills was not at Tuesday's hearing.

The project, known as the Northside Regeneration Plan, would rebuild 2000 acres of one of the down at heel areas in the city.

A $391 million TIF to help pay for the project was approved by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in 2009, but residents opposed to the plan challenged it in court.  They lost.

Now, to get the program moving again, two bills must be passed by the city`s Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee, and the Board of Alderman.

Among the speakers testifying in favor of the plan was U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay.  His appearance before the committee was the first anyone could remember by a sitting member of congress.

'We do not need to save North St. Louis from developers,' Clay said. 'They are not breaking down the doors to develop North St. Louis."

The two bills pending before the committee are mostly procedural; one extends the expiration date of the TIF by three years to account for the time lost in court and covers two more portions of the existing plan.

The other offers improvements to the original plan, including a $250,000 fund to help existing Northside residents fix up their homes. It would also direct the first $1 million returned to the city by the project into a fund to plan more redevelopment in North St. Louis.

But some residents are still worried the plan could cost them their homes.

'My concern is the seniors who have no place to go, who can`t afford to move anywhere else because they have limited income,' said longtime resident Johnny Hatcher, 88. 'What about them?'

For the committee to hold a vote on the bills, at least five of its eight members must be present. But on Tuesday, only four were in attendance.  Two had excused absences; Alderman Terry Kennedy had to attend a funeral, and Alderman Samuel Moore is recovering from a car accident. But Aldermen Chris Carter and Antonio French did not attend, and were considered unexcused. They did not return calls to Fox 2 News.

In his testimony, Clay compared those still trying to block the McKee project to those trying to block Obamacare, since both have already been approved by lawmakers and upheld by the courts.

'We don`t need to relegislate this issue. The process needs to move forward and give the law an opportunity to work,' Clay said.

The vote has been rescheduled for Wednesday at 11:00 A.M.  Chairman Fred Wessels expects enough members will be present to hold a vote. If the bills pass, they will go to the full board with a final vote expected in late October.

Slay knows there will be opposition, but expressed confidence the bills can passand the project will soon start.

'We can play politics, we can fight with each other, or we can come together and seize an opportunity to make north St. Louis better.'

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