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President's Plaza developer complaint acknowledged in Rapid City

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RAPID CITY (AP) — The Rapid City Council has voted to acknowledge a developer's concerns about Mayor Sam Kooiker talking to potential funding sources for a proposed $50 million downtown development, but the Monday night vote does not require Kooiker to stop asking questions about the President's Plaza project.

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The project is to include a mix of retail shops, a hotel, a convention center, condominiums and a 500-stall parking garage. Kooiker has raised questions about the developer's efforts to secure up to $25 million in tax credits to help finance it, leading to complaints by developers that the mayor's questions might hurt their funding efforts.

The development team, which includes Dream Design International President Hani Shafai and local developer Pat Hall, late last year sent a letter to the city attorney demanding that Kooiker "cease and desist" from probing further into the project's financial ventures.

Alderman Chad Lewis said Monday night that Kooiker has the right to ask questions, but Lewis also described the financial negotiations as "fragile" and "sensitive," the Rapid City Journal reported.

Alderman Ritchie Nordstrom also supported the mayor's right to ask questions but said a more careful approach could have been taken.

"I just wanted to make sure that everybody understood — especially the voters out there understood and the taxpayers understood — that we need to ask these questions, but we just need to ask them in a more appropriate manner," Nordstrom said.

Kooiker said he supports the project and properly included the development team while asking questions about the financing.

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