Mar. 30, 2019
The TIF commission is not recommending approval for the proposed tax increment financing (TIF) plan for a downtown apartment complex. The city council can still approve the TIF, but it will require 6 votes instead of 5 to pass.
The apartment complex would put 276 units and 441 garage parking spaces at the site of the former Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church.
Cityscape, the developer, has said that TIF would be required in order for the project to move forward. The requested funding, which totals about $8 million in incremental property tax increases, would pay for the structured parking. The developer says that this allows for the residential density that many have sought for Lee’s Summit’s downtown core – without further stressing an already limited parking supply downtown.
But many of the commissioners expressed concern about the precedent they could set with approving TIF funding for a residential-only project. Unlike past TIF projects, this one does not include any retail, dining or commercial elements.
Supporters of the project and the TIF say that because the property is currently owned by the church (and therefore not subject to any property taxes), even the base tax that would be assessed the moment that ownership is transferred would be a bump to the city’s revenue. That amount is expected to be about $87,000 annually, with the property value assessed at about $1 million.
Supporters also point to the more than five years that the property has been for sale: if it’s not this project, what will it be? The property has struggled to attract viable redevelopment opportunities.
Commissioner Timothy Shrout called it a “huge opportunity for Lee’s Summit,” and said that even if it causes headaches in the short-term (with the inconveniences of construction and the lost tax revenue for the duration of the TIF), it would be great for the long-term for building vibrancy in the community – and generating higher tax revenues for years to come after the TIF expires.
As Jim Staley, community relations and planning director for Mid-Continent Public Library, pointed out, however, that $87,000 each year won’t cover the cost of services for many of the taxing districts affected. While the project isn’t designed to attract families with school-aged children, those tax revenues may not be enough to outset the costs of new kids attending the school district. The funds are also unlikely to cover the library, mental health and other services that residents in the apartment complex may use.
“This is the reason why there’s such concern about residential TIF,” Staley said.
Several area residents also voiced opposition to both the TIF and the project itself, citing parking, traffic and sewer concerns. Pointing to an already congested Douglas Street, residents can’t imagine another 400 or more cars coming in and out of downtown, especially at peak hours.
Water and sewer have also been a major issue for a neighborhood that includes many homes that are a century or older. City staff has said that they are committed to creating a plan that will provide capacity for the project and that they are close to reaching a solution. But at this stage in the preliminary development process, those plans lack detail that residents would like to see.
Meanwhile, the downtown business community and representatives from Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street said a project like this would be a dream come true for the area. After years of strategic growth initiatives, the downtown has seen a boom. Supporters of the project say the only thing missing in the area is an increased housing supply.
The first motion, from Shrout, was to recommend approval. That motion failed.
Because the commission needed to send an affirmative vote to the city council, Commissioner Joe Hudson moved to recommend that council not approve the TIF. Commissioners Shrout, Clint Haynes and James Freeman voted against that motion. Commissioner Randy Rhoads, commenting, “talk about conflicted,” abstained. Commissioner Allison Burns was absent from the Mar. 25 session.
The TIF commission includes six city-appointed members: Timothy Shrout, Leonard Cacchio, Clint Haynes, James Freeman, Eric Doane and Allison Burns; two representatives for the school district, Jackie Clark and Dennis Smith; two representatives for Jackson County, Joe Hudson and Randy Rhoads.
The city council is scheduled to hold their own public hearing for the TIF, and to vote on both the TIF and the preliminary development plan, at their Apr. 16 meeting.