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Category Archives: Branson-Missouri

Branson seeks advice on how to revitalize Highway 76; will designers study the market?


For a decade, the first mile or two of State Highway 76 west of US 65 in Branson has languished. In this section of the Strip, most of the construction of restaurants, motels and retail strip centers took place 30 t0 40 years ago, under the economic conditions and design sensibilities of the time. For most of a year, the City of Branson’s leadership has been working toward a vision for the revitalization of this portion of the Strip.

The City has followed the usual path of soliciting proposals from firms with expertise in land-use planning, incorporating the disciplines of engineering, architecture and design. The City is nearing the point of awarding a contract for producing a plan with design standards that will to some extent dictate the look of this part of the Strip, much of which was heavily damaged by the February 29, 2012 tornado.

Design standards have another effect, which is to set constraints on the returns on investment in land and building. Real estate appraiser Skip Preble takes a critical look at how land-use planners often neglect to evaluate real estate markets when they formulate design standards in “How Marketing Could Boost Land Development,” published on the New Geography web magazine.

Can land-use planners can be expected to examine real estate market data and translate what they learn into practical design standards? How would a governmental body, in adopting regulations incorporating the new design standards, know whether they will work well with the realities of future real estate markets?

 

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Invest now in vacation property!


In preparing for a short talk about how to convey various kinds of vacation real estate, I arrived at the unbrilliant conclusion that people make decisions to buy vacation real estate (RV lots, lake houses, timeshares) based on what they think they want at the time of purchase, with some attention, but not enough attention, to the future. A short version of my presentation is posted here.

Many decisions to purchase vacation property are made when buyers are in a state of vacation bliss, a kind of wistfulness, that makes them less critical than when they’re on their home turf. They hope the vacation property will be a place of togetherness for family and close friends, where memories are created. Perhaps it will become a retirement home, where the grandchildren will want to visit. The sales techniques for vacation property are addressed squarely at those sentiments.

Many of those good things do happen. But vacation properties have the same drawback as all real estate investments: real estate is immobile. If you must to sell it quickly, the price must be low. You probably can’t sell it yourself, because you’re not there.

Ownership of most objects becomes undesirable. Our family situations change. Rising fortunes suggest that we should upgrade. Declining fortunes require that we sell. Seclusion that initially provided peace now brings feelings of loneliness. Or seclusion is ruined by the tasteless vacation home just built next door. The only time available to be at the vacation property is consumed with mowing and repairs.

Now is a great time to buy, because many owners need to sell. Get some advice about your purchase from people who aren’t going to make a commission if the sale goes through, whom you can confide in about your needs.

The advisors you need when considering purchasing vacation property should be able to advise you on such topics as:

  • the history of the project (subdivision, resort, condominium), including the reputation of its developer
  • subdivision restrictions and plats
  • maintenance fees
  • responsibility for road maintenance
  • recreational amenities
  • water and sewer systems
  • lake or river access
  • police and fire protection
  • homeowner association status and activities
  • distance to medical facilities
  • resale opportunities
  • nearby employment opportunities

The information that you need probably isn’t available from just one person. Take your time in making a decision. Don’t sign anything while you’re in the wistful state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coverdell decision set aside, as Branson Landing case goes back to trial court

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Using the “plain error” doctrine, rarely used in civil cases, the Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Missouri, in Empire District Electric Co. v. Coverdell, reversed and remanded a January 14, 2010 jury verdict that had awarded Douglas Coverdell and Coverdell Enterprises the north third of Branson Landing and adjacent areas. This decision is dated June 3, 2011.

The appellate decision is based on the City of Branson’s argument that the trial court made a serious mistake by allowing the jury to enter a verdict affecting the property interests of the City of Branson (and others) who did not participate in the trial.  The appellate court accepted the City’s argument that “plain error review” would be appropriate, because the court’s error was “so egregious as to ‘weaken the very foundation of the process’ and ‘seriously undermine confidence in the outcome of the case.’ ” Empire’s appellate arguments were not addressed in the decision, according to a footnote, since the court’s acceptance of the City’s arguments was sufficient to warrant reversal.

The City of Branson did not participate in the trial held in January 2010, though the City’s attorney was present in the gallery of the court room for much of the trial. In an earlier phase of the case, which took place in 2004, the City had won its effort of affirm its title to the west portion of the peninsula shared with North Beach Park. Thereafter, the City was in a monitoring mode, not aware that title to the City’s land, leased to Branson Landing, would be the subject of the trial.

The appellate court tied its decision to the words of Coverdell’s attorney, spoken to the jury, who told the jury in the January 2010 trial that the dispute with Empire concerned only the east part of the North Park Beach peninsula. Coverdell’s attorney is also quoted as telling the jury that the City “has nothing to do with this dispute between Empire and [Coverdell and Coverdell Enterprises.]“

However, the judgment that Coverdell’s attorneys submitted to the trial judge after the juy verdict included 27 acres that included the Belk store and parking lot at the between North Beach Park and the Belk store, as well as some of the area south and west of the Belk store. The trial court’s mistake was to cloud the title of the City and others who were did not participate in the 2010 trial. The owners of much of the 27 acres were not parties to the suit, which appears to be the fundamental reason for reversal of the trial court’s judgment. The appellate opinion refers to City’s statement that the City “as well as numerous other third parties, have interests in that southern tract of land such that Branson was aggrieved by the 2010 judgment.”

The appellate decision gives the City and Empire the right to amend their claims and face Coverdell in a new trial.

The Corps of Engineers can only release water, not solve problems

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As a lawyer, I first encountered the economic ruin and heartache from controlled discharge from a Corps’ reservoir about 25 years ago. The Corps had opened the gates at the Keystone reservoir west of Tulsa, filling the entire floodplain from Mannford, through Sand Springs and Tulsa. My client packaged fresh salads in a building on the edge of the floodplain that was not known to have ever flooded.

The Small Business Administration offered disaster loans to businesses, and my client’s only hope for survival was to accept a loan.

Unfortunately, the six-month interruption of my client’s business resulted in a loss of market share and employees. The SBA loan and insurance didn’t cover nearly all the losses. There was no revenue to cover the regular bills due in the weeks after the flood. The business had been marginally profitable, only because it had little debt. The SBA loan required the owner to sign a personal guarantee. The eventual result of the SBA loan was that my client became bankrupt (at age 70), since the business couldn’t generate enough money to service the debt and pay its other expenses.

I could find no legal basis for challenging the Corps’ management of the Keystone dam and the Arkansas River basin. The Corps operates under broad statutory authority that has many competing goals, the least of which seems to be protecting homes and businesses built in floodplains below the dams.

The Corps has no control over rainfall. In responding to rainfall, or lack of it, the Corps must respond to those who have statutory claims on impounded water for drinking, power generation, irrigation, recreation, and maintenance of the depth of water in navigation channels. The Corps is constrained by the design of its dams and the storage capacity of its reservoirs. To meet all its goals, the Corps has only one tool: controlling the rate of release of water.

Even if the Corps didn’t have governmental immunity from liability for many of its actions, persuading a judge or jury that the Corps made bad decisions would be an enormously expensive and difficult task.

The lesson is that the economic benefits and protection provided by federal and state projects are extremely uneven in application. We should make decisions based on our own situations.

If you’re a beneficiary of a specific federal program, you can probably count on whatever protection that offers, but only for now. If we expect federal, state and local governments to protect us from weather, we end up in the situation we’re already in.

Where am I? Still in Branson?


When we awake, we have to figure out where we are. This may be easy for you, but it’s not for me, because I am apparently an extreme systemizer and cannot keep from thinking about things in the way I’ll present here.

When I press my internal on button and begin to log my brain onto to the consciousness server, I’ll be on my second cup of coffee before I know my place in the universe. There are many connections to verify, a process that takes a few minutes.

Geography

First, I need to locate myself geographically, based on latitude: 36° 38.5, longitude: -94° 44.6.

Galaxy: Milky Way

Solar system: Sun

Planet: Earth

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Continent: North America

Physiographic Region: Ozark Highlands

Physiographic sub-region White River Hills

Climate zone: Humid sub-tropical

USDA Plant Hardiness zone: 6b

Watershed: Atlantic Ocean

Sub-watershed Mississippi River

Sub-Sub-watershed White River

Time Zone UTC-6

I should have gone into considerably more detail on geography, especially biomes.

Political

Geography is the best part of the answer to the question of where am I, but I also live in a political world, subject to governmental authorities, which control and tax me; issue currency; provide me with roads, mail service and drinking water; collect and treat my wastewater; and stand ready to extinguish a house fire, educate my kids (I’m not sure that the school system taught my kids where they were at the level of detail that I think is appropriate), and haul me to the jail or hospital when I need to go.

Country: United States of America

US Congressional District:  Seventh

Zip Code 65616-3114

Census Tract: 9801

State: Missouri

State senate district: 29

State representative district: 62

County: Taney

City: Branson, Ward 2

School District Branson R-IV

Ambulance District Taney County Ambulance District

Where am I in the Cyber World?

All of the foregoing is important, but I live and work in a cybernetic world, defined by communication systems. My location from a geographic and political perspective is mostly defined by a fixed point (the latitude and longitude of my property and my person), but location in the cyberworld has to do with membership in domains and connections to fluid networks, some of which change in the course of a day.

Languages: American English. I’m on the border between two dialect groups, Midland and Mountain Southern. In my work, I speak to other lawyers, using that kind of language, as well as people from around the country and people who have come to the Ozarks from other places. I have to pay attention to how we use spoken and written language and non-verbal signals.

Landline telephone: I have a 417 334-XXXX home number, which originated in Branson, Missouri, but it has been ported from the old carrier to a CLEC. I can take the number anywhere.

Cell phone: My Verizon cell phone connects to towers wherever in Verizon’s CDMA system that I go. Because it is a BlackBerry, it also connects to the BlackBerry radio system. In remote areas, I may have Verizon phone service, but no BlackBerry radio connection for data.

Office phone: When I closed my Branson office, I kept my Branson phone number, which rings at the Ozark office, but is forwarded to my Verizon cell phone. My office phone system uses VOIP, which means my phones are plugged into the internet, so that I could get local calls from Branson, even if I plugged my phone in an internet connection in Africa.

Computer networks: I have a network in my house, which is wired and wireless (protected by encryption). I can connect my laptop from home, via the internet, to my office network.

While my iPad, Mac, BlackBerry and Windows computers don’t always connect well with one another though my networks, my Gmail is equally accessible from all of them, using IMAP to keep my inboxes synchronized. I also use Dropbox.com to share and synchronize files across the various kinds of devices that I use.

Television: DirectTV satellite.

Next time you see me, you probably won’t ask, “How are you?”

Branson Landing and the dilemmas of economic development


Cliff Sain’s excellent report on Branson Landing in the July 18 Springfield News-Leader contains statements that illustrate some of the dilemmas faced by developers and local governments when planning a large project.

Branson’s aldermen (none of whom were in office when the Branson Landing project was approved for construction) have chosen to take $1.4 million from the city’s general fund and $1.2 million from the city’s transportation fund Read the rest of this entry

“Winter’s Bone” and the image of the Ozarks


This summer, people around the country will be seeing the movie version of Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel, “Winter’s Bone.” They’ll wonder if the movie shows life in the Ozarks as it really is. The movie was filmed in Taney and Christian counties in Southwest Missouri, during the winter of 2009. You can see the trailer and read a synopsis of the plot.

This movie, with its glowing reviews and big success at the Sundance Film Festival, raises a couple of interesting questions: Read the rest of this entry

Branson Commerce Park opens new possibilities for Branson

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With its infrastructure complete, the streets, water and sewer systems of Branson Commerce Park were turned over to the City of Branson today. This 200-acre development on the north side of Branson is designed for commercial, light-industrial and residential development. In the photo, owner’s representative Phil Lopez and Branson mayor Raeanne Presley prepare to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

The original developer of Branson Commerce Park took advantage of Missouri’s Community Improvement District (CID) statutes to finance the installation of streets and water, sewer and underground telecommunication lines. Rather than install the infrastructure in phases, with years of construction traffic, the digging and disruption is over, except for what takes place on each lot. The CID program as used here does not involve the use of any taxpayer outlays or liability. However, a portion of the cost of installation of the infrastructure is allocated to each lot annually, collected with property taxes and remitted by Taney County to the trustee for the bondholders. The bondholders, through the purchase of the CID’s bonds, provided the construction money.

The Branson area is a popular destination for vacations and retirement, with not many private sector jobs outside these industries. Branson Commerce Park provides an ideal location for enterprises that support Branson’s extensive medical facilities and its many resorts, hotels and restaurants.

But there’s more. Because of its telecommunications infrastructure, Branson Commerce Park is a practical location for businesses that can be wherever there’s a good electronic link to the world. Entrepreneurs and employees who are attracted to the Ozarks may appreciate Branson Commerce Park’s proximity and easy access to residential neighborhoods, shopping, medical facilities, K-12 schools, and Branson’s RecPlex.

Stimulus or business as usual?


It’s hard to argue with a new bridge.

The view of the existing bridge between Branson and Hollister is now a historical relic. A new bridge is being constructed now, as you can see below. Once the new bridge is completed, the old bridge (built in 1931) will be closed for major repairs before reopening in a couple of years.

The $7.4 million new bridge project is being paid for largely by so-called stimulus funding, appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The rehabilitation of the old bridge is is financed from an $4.8 million earmark arranged by Read the rest of this entry

Taking a fresh look at the history, politics and ecology of the rainbow trout fishing industry


This morning, I scanned the headlines of Arts and Letters Daily, and was jolted by this:

Behold the regal rainbow trout, dappled denizen of deep lake and rushing river, fierce hunter of fish and fly—and prize of pork-barrel politics, invigorator of men, eradicator of native species, payload of numerous bombing missions.

Intrigued, I followed links to the webpage of Anders Halverson, the author of these words, whose book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How One Fish Beguiled American and Overran the World, has recently been published by Yale University Press.

I have accepted rainbow trout fishing as simply a part of the world as I know it. I live a couple of blocks from Lake Taneycomo, where almost every day of the year I wake to the sounds of motors on the boats of trout anglers. While the Branson entertainment business ebbs and flows, the trout-fishing business in Branson seems to be evergreen, though it requires that tax and permit revenues be spent for propagating the trout, enforcing regulatons, and protecting the quality of the fishery. My own fishing license bears a trout stamp.

cover of An Entirely Synthetic Fish

As a child, I read Bill Potter’s annual accounts of the trout season’s March 1 opening day in the Joplin Globe, and the Missouri Conservationist’s articles about the Missouri Department of Conservation’s hatcheries and stocking programs for rainbow trout and the need to buy a trout stamp in addition to a fishing license to support these activities. School children in my home county were taken to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, America’s oldest federal fish hatchery, it was said, for educational tours. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocked rainbows in Capps Creek, a short spring-fed tributary of Shoal Creek near my childhood home in eastern Newton County, Missouri.

Opening day at trout parks around the Ozarks, notably at Roaring River, Bennett Spring, Montauk and Meramec state parks in Missouri is a ritual for thousands. Shoulder to shoulder, in all kinds of weather, stouthearted anglers line the banks and tangle lines to catch newly-stocked rainbows and browns. Trout are stocked and pursued in various other cool rivers in the Ozarks, such as the White River below Beaver and Bull Shoals dams, the North Fork of of the White River, and the Current River. There are numerous private “trout farms” where trout are raised for sale to restaurants, some of which allow fishing. Trout fishing is economically important in the Ozarks.

Lately, I was aware that the Neosho fish hatchery was the beneficiary of a $1 million appropriation for a new visitors center and a solar water heater (to aid in the propagation of the pallid sturgeon) contained in the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A visitors center itself doesn’t hatch fish, but the construction of it helps the Neosho economy, creates a few permanent government jobs, and builds support for the program. The Neosho hatchery obtains rainbow trout eggs from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in Branson and raises fingerlings which are transported back to Lake Taneycomo and other Missouri trout fisheries.

I guess I’ll read An Entirely Synthetic Fish and begin the uncomfortable process of reexamining something that I had accepted without much thought. I wonder where I’ll end up.

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