Cooperative District to be dissolved
by Will Heath
Nov 09, 2011 | 4241 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cooperative District agreement between Leeds, Moody and St. Clair County is in the process of ending as of this week.

The Leeds city council and the St. Clair County Commission each approved a Summary of Terms on Monday night and Tuesday morning, respectively, that will end both Moody’s and St. Clair County’s involvement in the district, which brought Bass Pro Shops and The Shops of Grand River to Exit 140 off Interstate 20. The Moody city council approved the same term sheet at a special called meeting Tuesday night.

“The city of Leeds is part of St. Clair County,” Leeds mayor Eric Patterson said. “We’re neighbors with Moody and we thank them for what’s been done. We appreciate the partnership. We’re at the point now, it looks like what they set out to do has been done.”

The partnership between the three entities began in 2005, when the three agreed to share debt obligations and revenue in the area surrounding Exit 140. Bass Pro opened in 2008, and the Grand River outlet mall did likewise in October 2010.

In November 2010, financial negotiations surrounding the bonds that brought Bass Pro — three bond issues totaling over $30 million — re-opened, after Regions Bank re-claimed the bonds because of a declining letter of credit. Bill Weathington, who represents Moody and St. Clair County, said the negotiations opened up an opportunity for his clients to remove themselves from the district.

“If we were ever going to look at restructuring it (the deal), now is an opportune time,” Weathington told the county commission Tuesday. “We’re dealing with one bondholder (Regions) as opposed to multiple bondholders scattered all over.”

According to the term sheet, the funding and guaranty agreement dated January 2007 between the three parties would be terminated; Moody St. Clair will have no further obligations on the Bass Pro warrants, the Grand River bond or the Cooperative District (with the exception of work on A.E. Moore Drive); Moody and St. Clair would be paid roughly $124,000 each at the closing of the refinance, as “settlement and satisfaction in full of all amounts owed or to be owed to them from Leeds or from the Cooperative District of the City of Leeds-General.” Additionally, Moody and St. Clair County will no longer have representation on the Cooperative District Board.

Moody mayor Joe Lee said Monday that he believes it best to focus his efforts in his own city.

“We went in it in good faith, and we negotiated ourselves out of it in good faith,” he said. “There was some monetary value being in it, to the city of Moody. I think it’s in the best interest of everybody – Leeds, Moody and St. Clair County — that we concentrate our efforts in St. Clair County for commercial development.”

County commission chairman Stan Batemon said he believes the partnership has been a successful one.

“Nobody’s in a bad place right now,” Batemon said. “We all feel like we’d be in a better place if we can become autonomous again.

“It would accomplish, really, what we set out to do: we’ve assisted in the development of that (140) interchange. It (the payment) is a lesser amount today than what we would have (in the future), but we wouldn’t have any responsibilities there, either.”

Patterson echoed that sentiment for his own city.

“The city of Leeds should be responsible for its own development and its own infrastructure, and solely responsible for how it conducts its finances and its activities,” he said. “I believe that Moody and St. Clair County understand that.

“The fact is that Leeds is in good financial shape, and things have been accomplished that have been accomplished, it’s just time for everybody to move on to something else.”

The agreement will actually be the Sixth Amended and Restated Development and Cooperative Agreement, which will require ratification from all three councils, the Leeds Commercial Development Authority, the Leeds Water Works Board and the Cooperative District Board. The term sheet was presented because, according to Weathington, the underwriter for the bonds can “pre-market” them for sale, and the deal can be accomplished before a Dec. 31 deadline.

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

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