Bass Pro Shops plans to accelerate construction of its Riverview at Dobson store despite a pending initiative that could lead to another vote on the Mesa project, the company president said Friday.
Jim Hagale told the Tribune the company’s attorneys have concluded the Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens) initiative has no merit.
"When the people speak, that’s the final word," Hagale said. "In our view, there is no merit to their most recent ploy to try and delay the project."
Bass Pro is scheduled to begin construction in February 2006 and open by December 2006, but Hagale hopes for an earlier start, depending on permits and design approval from Mesa.
Mesa voters approved Propositions 300, 301 and 302 Tuesday 56 percent to 44 percent.
Valley Business Owners president David Molina said Tuesday’s vote was on the zoning, not on the incentive package that’s estimated at up to $84 million — a majority of which is linked to Bass Pro Shops.
"We’ve taken the position the citizens want the project, but not the incentives," Molina said.
Valley Business Owners must gather 4,892 valid signatures by Nov. 14 to place a city charter amendment on the ballot.
The amendment would require a public vote on all incentive agreements approved by the Mesa City Council retroactive to Dec. 1, 2004, the day the group filed the initiative application. The Riverview incentives were approved five days later and — according to Valley Business Owners — would be the first to go to a public vote.
"We acknowledge it will be ultimately up to the court, but nonetheless it is full steam ahead," Molina said.
Tom Irvine, an attorney who represented Valley Business Owners during the Riverview campaign, said: "Retroactivity is used all the time, and it will be found to be valid if the voters pass (the charter amendment)."
Mesa City Attorney Debbie Spinner said Friday the city has not reached a conclusion on the matter.
Kimco Developers president Jerry Friedman would not say whether Kimco and De Rito Partners Development would legally challenge the retroactivity clause if it came to that, but added: "As far as we’re concerned, people have already voted on the incentive package on Riverview, and Valley Business Owners went out of their way to make it that way."
The group successfully convinced a Maricopa County Superior Court judge the incentives were linked to the zoning and must be included in the ballot language.
Council members and Riverview supporters say the incentives were necessary to attract prized anchor Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.
Friedman said the developers will honor the terms of its lease with Bass Pro Shops and provide the "tenant improvements so (Bass Pro Shops) doesn’t have to worry about an initiative with Valley Business Owners."
Although the lease between Bass Pro Shops and the Riverview developers is confidential, Mesa Councilman Tom Rawles told the Tribune during the election campaign that Bass Pro Shops will be fronted $30 million by the developers — the projected cost to build the store — and will repay that $30 million, plus $25 million in interest, from sales tax generated at the site. The initiative would not affect Bass Pro Shops’ ability to open, but could impact whether the developers are reimbursed.
The Valley Business Owners No on Riverview campaign primarily was funded by Harkins Theatres, which is building at the competing Tempe Marketplace and was negotiating to expand its presence at Fiesta Mall.
Harkins Theatres vice president Mike Bowers said Friday the company will not fund Valley Business Owners during the initiative process.
"We aren’t working with them at this point and we’re not involved any further in the Riverview campaign," Bowers said. "We’re done at this point."
Site preparation for the Riverview project at Dobson Road and Loop 202 began Thursday, Friedman said. Cinemark is planning to break ground on its 16-screen movie theater July 1, he said.
Earlier this week, a Bass Pro Shops spokesman said construction could be delayed if the initiative forced a vote on the city charter. Hagale said Friday that no longer is the case.