Maryland Heights Economic Development Manager Jim Carver stressed that no new levees would have been built as part of the plan, only storm water infrastructure to deal with water that pools on the land after rain.
The lack of pumping stations needed to handle the storm water that now collects on the low-lying ground has stymied development. This spring, for instance, the levee held, but farmers and landowners spent weeks battling floodwater that collected in the area after heavy rains.
The new TIF district pushed by Maryland Heights officials was seen as a way to help finance the pumping stations that many believe are needed for development but that some say the Howard Bend Levee District can ill afford. The levee district already had to raise the levee assessments that landowners there pay on their property tax bill by 9% this year to keep up with higher payments on a debt load of around $24 million.
“We have a few developers who are ready to move forward,” said Carver, who is also on the levee district’s board. “But they want the assurances that they are going to stay dry.”
Maryland Heights planning documents suggest some $85 million in flood mitigation infrastructure is needed, along with $43 million for road and trail system improvements in the area.
The Howard Bend Levee District was preparing to issue bonds to fund an initial pump station estimated to cost between $8 million and $10 million. It had planned to be reimbursed with TIF revenue, and it’s unclear how that will be financed now. Carver said city and levee district officials hoped to have the new pump station up and running by the first quarter of 2021.