Economic development officials want to relax a rule at the Jefferson County Corporate Park that requires unanimous approval from business owners there for a retail business to operate in the park.
The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agencys board of directors granted tentative approval Thursday to amend that covenant to allow a business that derives no more than 25 percent of its revenue from retail sales to move into the park without special approval. Businesses that take in a higher proportion of revenue from retail still would have to obtain unanimous consent from the other business owners. The amendment is contingent on approval from those owners.
The amendment was proposed recently by one of the business owners whose consent was needed in order for Penske Truck Leasing, which qualifies as a retail business, to move into the park. The unidentified business owner initially balked at letting Penske move in under the policy that excluded retailers.
Penskes business model aims for 20 percent of gross revenue to come from retail sales, but the business specializes in leasing rental trucks. Penske is seeking permission to move into a 10,000-square-foot facility owned by developer Michael E. Lundy. The building has been vacant since the West Carthage developer built it as a speculative venture in the summer of 2010.
The intent of the agencys covenant is to prevent large retailers such as Walmart or Kmart from moving into the park and generating an excessive amount of traffic, said Donald C. Alexander, JCIDA CEO. He said the amendment approved by the board will accommodate businesses with less emphasis on retail, such as Penske. A handful of other partial-retail businesses have been granted approval to move into the park, including Timeless Frames, Morgias Pasta and Haun Welding Supply.
Every time we get questions from a client who has property in the corporate park and wants to do a modest amount of retail sales, we have to go back to each one of the companies and ask permission to vary from the covenant, Mr. Alexander said. In this case, this one tenant asked us why we keep going through this if everyone at the park feels its OK for a small piece of each business to do retail. Thats the approach were now taking and will see if anyone has concerns.
On Thursday, the board initially was going to wait until business owners approved the amendment before voting. But board member Kent D. Burto urged the board to vote on the measure to speed the approval process. Mr. Burto, Carthage, is one of Mr. Lundys business partners.
Is there a reason the board cant approve it now, contingent upon approval of the tenants? he asked.
Board members Donald L. DiMonda and W. Edward Walldroff initially had concerns about that plan, but they later decided to vote for it.
I wouldnt want to do something that would look like were pre-empting the approval of the tenants at the park, Mr. DiMonda said. Im concerned about how they might perceive this.
Mr. Walldroff said, I would be curious to see if other parks are doing this. This whole issue might carry right over to the park being planned at the airport, as well.