Individuals are encouraged to attend a public hearing on the proposed St. Clair area Enhanced Enterprise Zone at 6 p.m. on Thursday in city hall.

The public hearing is part of the required process the city must follow in order to apply for and obtain the EEZ designation.

St. Clair’s board of aldermen must approve the zone and its conditions before the application is forwarded to the state.

On Monday during their regular board meeting, aldermen took another step toward establishing the zone by approving a pair of related ordinances.

The first authorized a designation of blight for the application of the EEZ. The second approved abatement and qualifying entities for application.

“These are pieces of the EEZ application process,” City Administrator Rick Childers told the aldermen on Monday night. “It’s required by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.”

The blight ordinance states the state has provided a “qualifying run” showing that the city has an eligible area which meets the criteria of population, poverty and unemployment as defined in state statutes.

It also states that the blight designation means the area presents “some or all” of certain characteristics, which are defective or inadequate street layout, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, deterioration of site improvements, improper subdivision or obsolete planning, and conditions which endanger life or property by fire and other causes or any combination of such factors which retards the provision of housing accommodations or constitutes an economic or social liability or a menace to the public health, safety or morals or welfare in its present condition or use.

“This is for the St. Clair city limits only,” Childers said, adding that Parkway Village and Franklin County need to pass separate blight declarations as part of the EEZ application process.

Childers also said that the declaration of blight is not applicable to any other state program other than establishing the EEZ.

The second ordinance establishes the real property tax abatement and lists the eligible enhanced business enterprises by state code within the zone.

It states that eligible facilities will receive a minimum property tax abatement of 50 percent for a minimum of 10 years. To qualify, the business must employ at least two new employees and spend a minimum of $100,000 in new investment for a new or expanding industry or $1 million for a replacement facility.

The local EEZ advisory board has recommended a maximum 80 percent abatement over 20 years.

Retail businesses do not qualify.

Both measures passed unanimously.

Proposed EEZ

The proposed EEZ encompasses all of St. Clair and Parkway Village and extends on both sides of Interstate 44 from about Gray Summit to Stanton. There are 17 taxing entities and five school districts within the zone.

During Thursday’s hearing, individuals may speak in favor or against the proposed zone. Those comments will be sent to the state along with the city’s application.

An Enhanced Enterprise Zone is an economic development tool designed to assist communities that qualify. It is based on demographic criteria that includes U.S. Census data, unemployment and poverty statistics and the presence of blight.

In order to qualify, the unemployment rate in the targeted area must be higher than county and state figures, and 60 percent of the median family incomes in the zone must be lower than 90 percent of the county and state average.

The zone works by supplying a tax abatement program for current businesses that want to expand or new businesses that want to relocate within the zone. The benefits apply only to those that qualify after the EEZ is established.

The ultimate goal is job creation, St. Clair officials have said.

Last month, the local EEZ advisory board recommended to the St. Clair Board of Aldermen that it proceed with the application. It also passed a set of resolutions dealing with the EEZ.