Mar. 23, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The fate of the DTLS Apartments project, at the site formerly home to Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church at Second and Douglas Streets, is yet to be decided.

After a lengthy public hearing and discussion among the city council at their Mar. 19 meeting, the council ultimately voted to postpone consideration of the preliminary development plan (PDP) until they can look at it side-by-side with the developer’s TIF application.

The application for tax increment financing (TIF), an economic development incentive, was slated for a vote by the TIF commission in February. Due to inclement weather (and a poor turnout of commissioners as a result) the developer requested that the vote be postponed in order to get input from all parties. The TIF commission includes representation from the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and Jackson County to ensure that all taxing jurisdictions are considered.

The DTLS Apartments TIF will be considered by the commission on Mar. 25th at 6:00 p.m. If it receives a recommendation for approval, it will come to the city council after a mandatory 14-day waiting period. City staff typically works to ensure that any incentive applications are scheduled to be considered alongside the corresponding development applications, though that’s not a process requirement.

Particularly because the city hasn’t awarded TIF to residential projects in the past, the council appeared unsure how to consider the PDP and the TIF on separate tracks.

Councilmember Craig Faith said that it’s hard to consider one without the other.

“I have trouble separating that,” Faith said, acknowledging that their discussion was strictly to consider the PDP and not any incentives. “Because I know that [the TIF] is something that’s very important to make this project even happen in the first place.”

Public comments were split on their support of the development, with five speaking in favor and seven against. The comments in favor of the plan largely reflected the economic boost that a downtown housing project could provide the downtown core.

Those who spoke against cited concerns about traffic, particularly on Douglas Street, which already sees overcrowding – particularly during weekday rush hours, weekend evenings and during downtown events.

There are also many concerns about the water and sewer capacity. While city staff is confident that such a large residential development is possible in that location, numerous upgrades would be needed to handle it. At this stage in the development process, the specifics of the engineering that would be required have not yet been established.

The development would include 276 market-rate luxury apartments and 441 parking garage spaces.

The PDP received recommendation for approval with a unanimous vote by the planning commission at their Feb. 14 meeting. Commissioners John Lovell, Jeff Sims and Donnie Funk were absent from that meeting.

“The TIF is really the biggest variable here,” Mayor Bill Baird said. “If we need to push this we can, because I think the developer knows where everybody pretty much stands at this point.”

Councilmembers Rob Binney, Trish Carlyle and Diane Forte voted against the motion to postpone consideration the preliminary development plan. All councilmembers were present for the vote.

If the TIF commission recommends approval of the DTLS Apartments TIF, the city council will hold a public hearing for the TIF and continue consideration of the PDP at their Apr. 16 meeting.