Smith's plans expansion

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:15 PM

Rachel J. Trotter

NORTH OGDEN — A new Smith’s Marketplace is coming and the city is doing all it can to help.

In a special city council meeting Tuesday night, the city council voted 4-1 to pay approximately $340,000 to developers of the 123,000-square-foot development that is slated to be completed by December 2014.

The city won’t actually give $340,000 in cash to Smith’s developers, but has agreed to build a $70,000 detention basin and then complete infrastructure improvements to the site to the tune of about $276,000. The developers will pay the city $522,000 in fees, but the city will pay for many of the infrastructure improvements.

Matthew Godfrey, the city’s contracted economic development specialist, has been working with the city and developers for more than a year to see the project come to fruition. Godfrey presented the plan for the improvements to the council.

Smith’s plans to build the marketplace adjacent to the existing Smith’s grocery store. The marketplace will have more grocery options than the current store, but will also have a full selection of non-grocery items including clothing and home goods. Godfrey said the new store will add 35 jobs and will be a $20 million investment to the city. Officials from Kroger, the company that owns Smith’s, think the will yield approximately $18 million per year at the site, which would bring in about $90,000 in sales tax revenue and $100,000 annually in property taxes to the city.

“We want residents to know that there are financial benefits beyond other benefits,” City Councilman Brent Taylor said.

The economic development committee conducted a survey among residents a couple of years ago and found that a majority of residents want more shopping in their city. Council members think this will fill a need in the city.

Godfrey also explained that Smith’s would be the landlord for the existing site once the marketplace is finished.

“I feel confident about the property because it is different than moving down the street and having the old building sit vacant,” Godfrey said. “This will be right next door.”

Smith’s is interested in having an attractive tenant in that space, since they will be next-door neighbors, he said.

Some council members were concerned because the contract doesn’t necessarily bind Smith’s to build its marketplace, but engineer for the project, Brent Wallin said. But that is not the case, he added.

“They are going to build,” he said. “That is their intention.”

It is just that Kroger doesn’t want a legal obligation to build if something goes wrong, he said.

Godfrey told the council that the city wouldn’t pay for anything or make any infrastructure improvements until construction has started and commended its plan to help.

“The city is helping with infrastructure. We are not handing them a bag of cash and telling them, ‘Good luck,’ ” Godfrey said. “Plus you are keeping North Ogden dollars in North Ogden.”

Taylor was the only council member to vote no on the agreement, but he was clear that it was not because he wasn’t in favor in the project, but because he wanted to give residents a chance to hear about it first.

“We are a public entity, not a corporation,” Taylor said in a phone interview. “I think before we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars the public should hear about it.”

Mayor Richard Harris said that many residents already know about the project. City Councilman Justin Fawson and other council members expressed concern about the time line of the project.

The developers are hoping to close on the land purchase by the end of the month, and Godfrey is meeting with the county about using Redevelopment Agency funds because some of the land has to be re-zoned.

All of those things were set in place, hence the need for the special meeting Tuesday night.

“I am genuinely very excited about the project … there is just zero public involvement,” Taylor said.

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