Pizza lovers, start your engines.
The Fairway city council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve a sales tax reimbursement deal that could clear the way for the redevelopment of the old gas station at the corner of 60th Street and Mission Road into a boutique pizza restaurant.
Jason Pryor, the owner of Pizza 51 in Brookside, had approached the city in April 2010 about the prospect of opening a new location in the abandoned Fairway gas station, but a stiff credit market prevented Pryor from being able to purchase the property from its owners.
The idea was resurrected quickly in December, however, after the owners attempted to demolish the building in hopes of reducing their property tax liability. Having failed to secure a demolition permit, though, they were quickly served with a stop action notice by the city. The stop action provided a window for Pryor and the property owners to restart negotiations.
Pryor told the council the sales tax deal will help the restaurant get up and running and become an area fixture. He said the unique location was a perfect fit for the concept that’s worked well at the Brookside restaurant: renovating an old gas station into a pizza place.
The deal will provide Pizza 51 with up to $40,000 of sales tax reimbursements over the course of five years. The reimbursements will come from two-thirds of the sales tax generated by the business. The city will still receive the other third of the sales tax.
“To us, it looks like an island of opportunity over there on Mission Road,” Pryor said. “But it is an island. It could be fruitful. Or it could be a desert.”
Though the vote on the proposal was lopsided, the meeting got heated at points as three Fairway citizens complained that the city had not given the public adequate notice about the issue before the vote. Mayor Jerry Wiley and members of the council had sometimes contentious exchanges with the citizens about what steps should be taken to better involve the public.
Council member Jim Poplinger cast the lone dissenting vote. Poplinger said while he viewed the proposal as a good deal for the city — the business will bring new revenues to Fairway even with the sales tax reimbursement — he couldn’t support it philosophically.
“What we would be doing is levying a tax, and then turning it over to a private business,” Poplinger said. “That is not the role of government, in my opinion.”
But the rest of the council saw the proposal as a good opportunity to bring in a business to a location that’s been vacant for six years. Before the vote, some of the council members questioned Pryor about his plan to serve beer and wine at the establishment, and whether that would have an adverse impact on the almost wholly residential neighborhood surrounding the site.
Pryor told the council that alcohol would not be a focus of the business plan, and that he expected to make less than 10 percent of gross revenues from alcohol sales.
“This will not be a late night establishment. This will not be a drinking establishment. This will be a place where you go to have pizza, and you can have a glass of wine or beer with your meal,” he said.
The deal is not a sure thing yet, however. Pryor and the building owners still have to close the sale of the property, and have a Feb. 4 deadline. Pryor and city are also going to be looking into how the business will be required to charge sales tax to customers who order pizzas for delivery outside of Fairway. Poplinger suggested during the meeting that a new Kansas law dictates sales taxes must be charged based on the place where the pizza is delivered, not where the business is located.
“That would be an accounting nightmare,” Pryor told the council.