Fighting for sales tax

Mayor believes interchange critical to city’s financial survival

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Mayor Mike McEachern

By Mindy Ragan Wood
Staff Writer

Yukon is in a fight for sales tax dollars and it may win if plans for development pan out.
Yukon has seen spikes in revenue that exceeded $2 million sporadically for the last year, more recently in June and July. Sales tax collections from January 1, 2018 to August 1, 2018 compared to the same period this year are up by a scant $53,000, but city officials believe pending development will boost revenue higher within three years.

Mayor Michael McEachern predicts the big money will roll in as businesses move into the western development near the Frisco Road interchange.

“We anticipate sales tax will be flat or steady for the next two years,” McEachern said. “But once we turn dirt, as they say, over there on the interchange we’re going to see the kind of commitment from businesses we’re looking for. In three to five years, maybe even two years, that picture is going to be much clearer.”

McEachern said he could not know how much higher sales tax revenue would be because the types of businesses yet to settle there remains unknown. The revenue generated by a doctor’s office is far less than a large-scale corporate retailer, he said.

As retail growth increases south of NW 10th Street, city officials have been busy courting development anywhere they can, including Route 66 and to the north of the highway.

“We’re looking at quite a few places (for development),” McEachern said. “Over there on the north side of the Neighborhood Walmart, they’re doing the storage facility. We’re going to see a strip mall go in over there as well, putting in smaller niche things that follow along with Green Chile Kitchen, Earl’s and the Big Easy.”

McEachern expects to see part of Route 66 become a restaurant district as the popularity of one of America’s best loved highways continues to draw traffic.

“Earl’s is going to open up pretty quickly and certainly along with other smaller restaurants we’ll hopefully have a restaurant district, if you will, that supports the downtown,” he said.
Yukon Main Street Director Vicki Davis agreed that a concentration of restaurants could form its own district, but there is a lot more happening downtown.

“Just over the year I’ve been with the city of Yukon and the Main Street program, when we do various activities to attract people to our Main Street, I follow up with surveys,” Davis said, “because quite often the sales tax revenue that we get doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on in Main Street. Last year at Christmas and the Shop Local events, they (businesses) were reporting a 25 percent increase (than) in previous years.”

Some businesses are staying open after normal business hours during events like Rock the Route and Czech Festival days. Davis said those businesses do “quite well” but the daily traffic in businesses is up.

“Sometimes I think it’s (traffic) a little deceptive because our Main Street district is a corridor that is very lengthy, so it may appear on regular business days there’s not as much going on. But once you start going in the businesses you see there’s a lot of activity going on.”

Efforts to attract more travelers includes beautification, such as public art and landscaping. Davis and other city staff are developing contacts for available properties to recruit business owners interested in historic districts.

TRAFFIC FLOW, DEVELOPMENT

McEachern predicts the pending road improvements to State Highway 4 and the Frisco interchange will also likely funnel more drivers from the north through downtown as they make their way to stores to the west.

“With the improvement on Highway 4 and improvements with all of Frisco interchange with highway 66, there’s going to be a lot more interest in people looking at historical at 66 from Arcadia to the other side of Yukon,” McEachern said.

The mayor believes the city’s planned sports park complex and water park will draw traffic to the area, but plans have cooled off. A proposed sports complex bond issue was defeated by voters in 2017. The complex would have been built on the west side of Yukon.

“Putting in eventually a sports park, if everything works out, a water park as well those will really concentrate a tremendous amount of commercial activity in and around Frisco Road out west. It will also be a draw,” he said. “We’ve slowed down on the sports complex until we can solidify that area out west. That’s our big area for development.”

A proposed water park has been discussed for several years, but that idea has fallen to the wayside because of financing. Yukon resident Scott Myrick has been the ringleader for the water park, which reportedly would be similar to the Great Wolf Lodge in Texas.

With the anticipated traffic increase Yukon residents may fear the congestion on Garth Brooks Boulevard could be repeated in these new developments, but McEachern said the city is working to not duplicate that traffic pattern.

“Hopefully we’re not going to see a traffic light every 35 feet,” he said with a laugh. “We’re giving it a lot of thought into how and which ways we develop the zoning out there. I don’t think people want a big box store right behind their housing addition. They (city officials) do want to avoid the kind of congestion we see on Garth Brooks.”