By Mallory Ragon
The Lee's Summit City Council was unable to find consensus on approving an ordinance to amend the Lee’s Summit East Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan this week. The amendment would provide RED Development with tax incentives to develop land just south of Interstate 470, north of the Summit Technology Campus, into a retail center called Summit Place.
After a lengthy discussion of the development proposal itself and debate over the use of taxpayer dollars to make it happen, the council unanimously voted to continue the issue to their next regular session.
The 43-acre parcel would be home to 353,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. As part of the development, RED would widen Ward Road to four lanes and make improvements to the storm water system in the area. To offset the cost incurred in making public improvements in the city, the developer has applied for a TIF to obtain $18.5 million in tax incentives.
RED made a presentation to the council in December, at which time the council agreed to recommend that RED develop their plan further and return for a vote on the ordinance. Some of the council was disappointed, however, that they did not see significant changes in their plan or more information to explain why RED requires this kind of financial support from the city.
Councilmember Brian Whitley told the developer he would vote against the ordinance as it currently stands. "I was hoping for a little more movement with that number," he explained, saying that the $18.5 million is just too much.
Councilmember Derek Holland made a point to request a more specific picture of how the project will benefit the city. He echoed Whitley’s sentiments, but said that he would even be willing to agree to a higher number if the developer can justify their request.
"If this were a private, not a public project, it’d be different," he said. "We have to decide if we’re going to get our money’s worth. … We want to see some sort of public benefit. Summit Woods and Summit Fair: we got a lot of public benefit, lots of traffic improvements. All we’re doing here is helping you lower your costs."
Dave Kemp, owner of ‘Bout Thyme Deli in downtown Lee’s Summit, spoke against the TIF.
"Nobody offered me a single dime for me to build my business," Kemp said. "I support growth in Lee’s Summit, but we’ve already got two huge shopping centers over there. … Before you give up that TIF money, I just ask you to look at what that’s going to do."
RED also developed the Summit Woods Crossing and Summit Fair retail centers, both located just to the east of the proposed Summit Place.
City Manager Steve Arbo and other city staff will work with the development team to revise the proposal over the next two weeks before the council resumes their consideration on March 20.