Group pays less tax for land than many people pay for a car

COLUMBIA, Mo 12/12/13 (Beat Byte) -- A group of local developers will pay only $497 in 2013 property taxes on 128 acres planned for a new subdivision next to Battle High School.  

The tax averages $3.88 per acre, on land the group has valued at $20,000 to $50,000 per acre
Adding insult to taxpayer injury:  the developers -- led by Bob Pugh and Tom Atkins -- will ask Columbia's Planning and Zoning Commission Dec. 19 to annex the land into the city, which will force taxpayers and ratepayers to pay for most of the surrounding infrastructure, including roads, sewers, sidewalks, street lights, and landscaping.

Known as St. Charles Road Development, LLC, the Pugh/Atkins group platted the land for a new 200-home subdivision -- Somerset Village -- and a 16-acre commercial development.   Homes will sell in the high $100,000 to low $200,000 range, and the commercial portion will include offices and multi-family housing.

The subdivision is part of an audacious -- if not downright galling -- plan

First, developers buy vacant farmland with no infrastructure on the cheap;  take a property tax break meant for farmers while they hold the land;  sell part of the land for new schools, city parks, and other amenities, which forces the school district and city government to pay for much of the new infrastructure; then build houses, shops, and offices around the taxpayer-funded amenities and infrastructure.   

Somerset Village is nestled against Battle High School, a new elementary school planned for 2015, and a city park -- all on land the Pugh/Atkins group sold to City Hall and Columbia Public Schools (CPS) for over $3 million

Columbia voters finance the surrounding schools and land purchases through property taxes and bond debt, set to rise again this April, as CPS asks for more debt and higher taxes.    
More galling still:  a city staff report says City Hall "will be responsible for additional city services to the development, costs to be offset by taxes and user fees." 

And CPS will pay for "the design and construction of all improvements on St. Charles Road" -- roads, sidewalks, traffic signals, etc.  -- "all necessary related improvements to the intersection," landscaping on an adjacent road, and a pedway.  Last accounts of the district's bill for these improvements exceeded $4 million

The final outrage:  school district officials "must let the St. Charles Road Development group provide input," after they pay a pittance in property taxes -- the main source of school district funds -- and pocket millions on the school land sales. 

Given the group's own estimates, the subdivision should bring in over $400,000,000 in home and commercial sales.

Somerset Village property tax breakdown
W PT LOT 101
Acreage:  19.3
2013 Property Tax:  $81.84
E PT LOT 101
Acreage:  2.36
2013 Property Tax: $11.58
LOT 102
Acreage:  17.3
2013 Property Tax:   $73.34
E PT LOT 203
Acreage:  16.36
2013 Property Tax:   $63.90
W PT LOT 203
Acreage:  24.5
2013 Property Tax:   $98.11
Acreage:  48
2013 Property Tax:   $168.22