The Branson Board of Aldermen last night authorized the city to conduct preliminary discussions on tax-increment financing with the developer of the proposed Aquarium at the Boardwalk.
The resolution allows Mayor Karen Best to sign a term sheet with Branson Entertainment Center, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Kuvera Partners, said city spokeswoman Melody Pettit. The board held a first reading on the term sheet resolution on Nov. 27.
Pettit this morning said via email the exploration of potential taxpayer funding is still in the early stages, and with last night’s vote, the city’s TIF commission will examine Kuvera Partners’ proposal.
The resolution, which was part of the seven-member board’s consent agenda last night along with other items, passed with five aldermen in support. Alderman Cris Bohinc abstained over a conflict of interest in a separate resolution, and Best is a nonvoting member — unless there’s a tie. No board members spoke at the meeting, though one member of the public voiced her opposition. An audio recording of the meeting was posted on the city of Branson’s website.
“Kuvera Partners has not given us any reason to trust that this proposed aquarium will benefit Branson in any meaningful way,” said speaker Audrey Richards. “TIF money really should only be given to projects where there’s demonstrable proof that it will boost Branson’s economy.”
A Kuvera Partners spokesperson could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Kuvera Partners is seeking $7 million in TIF assistance, which is equal to 13.7 percent of the estimated $51 million project cost.
The proposed Aquarium at the Boardwalk would be built at the site of the former Grand Palace, which Kuvera Partners bought for $2.7 million in 2014. Plans call on a 46,000-square-foot attraction with a boardwalk theme, and a rendering shows plans for a giant octopus that would front the Branson Strip at 2700 W. 76 Country Blvd.
Through a TIF plan, Kuvera would be reimbursed for a portion of project costs through incremental real property taxes and some of the incremental sales taxes generated by the aquarium. Kuvera officials have said the plans are not feasible unless the city approves the TIF proposal.
A TIF proposal for a larger project was rejected by the board in April. David Cushman of CP Branson LLC sought TIF aide for the proposed $446 million Branson Adventures resort.
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