GENESIS

Genesis won’t be moving forward with a $2 million expansion project after the city denied the abatement of $26,000 in citation and didn’t issue a building permit.

Genesis Health Club planned on expanding with a nearly $2 million outdoor aquatic complex but ran into an obstacle — previous citations.

Genesis was issued a one-year building permit in 2015 for remodeling and additions, however, two years later the work was incomplete. The conditional certificate for occupancy expired.

The City of St. Joseph would issue a certificate of occupancy once certain items were completed, including an elevator, yoga room and passageway. If the items weren’t completed by March 31, 2017, the city threatened to close Genesis.

Genesis never met the deadline, but instead of closing the doors, the city began fining the business. The total citations added up to $26,500, before Genesis completed all construction items.

Since Genesis never paid the citations accumulated during its previous construction, the city isn’t able to issue a building permit for the expansion project, which would cost $1.2 to $2 million for a large lap pool, splash pad areas and a play structure.

Rodney Stevens II, the owner and president of Genesis Health Clubs, asked the city to abate the fines and issue a building permit. He said the business would easily make up for the citations in property and sales tax.

“The property itself generates approximately $7,500 a year on property taxes,” said Clint Thompson, the St. Joseph planning and community development director. “However, sales taxes is the major source of revenue from that particular location, and the property does generate substantial sales tax through memberships and so that is an opportunity for some growth by the city.”

On Dec. 14, the City Council unanimously agreed to not abate the $26,500 in fines issued to Genesis.

“I don’t recall in the 20-plus years I’ve been here that there was ever a time that council was asked to forgive a fine,” Thompson said. “This was highly unusual, and I think it was expressed by certain councilmembers, I know councilmember Davis had made the comment that forgiving this amount could be a detriment moving forward as a tool to use to ensure compliance on projects.”

City Councilman Marty Novak said he denied the abatement because it was unfair to other businesses.

“In all fairness, would it be right to write off the $26,000 for this business and not do it for somebody else? I don’t think so,” Novak said. “I think we want to try and be fair, and the guy went for the whole nugget rather than saying, ‘OK, can you write $5,000 off,’ or something like that. He wanted it all written off.”

Stevens was unavailable for an interview but commented via email. He said the St. Joseph club’s construction project was the hardest he’d been involved with during his 27 years of working on clubs.

“Our St. Joseph facility turned into a beautiful project. We are very pleased to be serving the community! The facility was a very tough construction project which ran into a lot of delays to say the least. ... However, we endured it and fought through it and got the facility finished. We are so happy with the finished product. You would have to drive over an hour to find a facility of equal amenities and services. During the project I was concerned how difficult the City was to work with at times. ... We did not want delays, but this was a beautiful, but difficult piece of property on which to build,” he said.

“We are ready to add a large outdoor waterpark and pool to the property. However, when we went to pull the permit, the city let us know that there is (about) $27,000 worth of fines for being late on the construction project. We were very transparent with the city through the entire project and do not feel the fines are warranted,” Stevens added in the email. “We pay approximately $300,000 in sales taxes and property taxes annually on the facility (Our competition, the City Recreation Center and the YMCA pay no sales or property tax). The new addition to the facility will add to the amount of property taxes.”

At this time, Genesis will not pay the fines and, therefore, not move forward with the expansion project, Stevens said.

The city is willing to reconvene and discuss other ways of moving forward with the project, such as keeping the lien on the property and not abating the fines until the project is completed in a timely manner.

“I hope there’s no hard feelings, but there again too, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not gonna make people happy,” Novak said. “This was the right thing to do. You can’t do it for one if you’re not going to do it for everybody.”

(1) comment

guest110

I can understand the council's point of view, that it wouldn't be fair to other businesses who have paid their fines, and also that they don't want to set a precedent for forgiving fines.

On the other hand, they could also be a bit more creative. The council should be proactive in encouraging entrepreneurs to take risks with new or expanding businesses. In this situation, they stand to gain if the project moves forward, as does the community. Not only would it increase tax revenue, but any new jobs in the community means more money to spend, a portion of which will be spent locally. Plus another amenity for residents that want and can afford it.

Why not allow them to pay a very small amount every month until the project is finished, then more later? If sales tax revenue does go up, they could even forgive part of the fines. This is would be a good precedent to set, and other businesses could make similar deals in the future. It doesn't let Genesis off the hook.

The Genesis guy asked for the whole thing? OK, make a counter offer. A flat out 'no', then saying 'i hope there were no hard feelings' sounds like they don't view a $2 million project as important. In my opinion, we need every reasonable $2 million project we can find. This doesn't mean giving the town away, but it sure doesn't mean obstructing projects, either.

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