The vision of a vast public park on the grounds of the shuttered Meadowbrook Country Club took a significant step toward becoming a reality Monday as the Prairie Village City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the commitments required of all the parties involved in the negotiations.
Johnson County Park and Recreation District and Johnson County Government are expected to take up the outline agreement at their meetings in the coming weeks. Assuming those two entities approve the MOU as well, the government entities and VanTrust Real Estate, the property owner and project developer, would begin work on the official development agreements that will lead to the issuance of bonds and the closing of the deal.
The MOU passed the Prairie Village Council on an 11-1 vote. Councilor Sheila Myers, the lone dissenting vote, peppered both City Administrator Quinn Bennion and Rich Mueller of VanTrust with questions, saying she didn’t understand why the city would be issuing bonds to pay for parkland that it wouldn’t end up owning. (You can find background on the TIF deals that will fund purchase of the parkland here and here).
At one point Myers suggested VanTrust should donate the parkland to the city, saying that the appraised value of the property today far surpassed what VanTrust paid for it in 2010.
Mueller countered that VanTrust had sunk a considerable amount of money into both purchasing the club and operating it for the subsequent several years — as was part of their purchase agreement with the club’s membership — and that it would need to commit millions more to get its proposed projects for the site, including a multifamily housing structure, a senior living community and a boutique inn, out of the ground.
“Our interests are very much aligned with the city’s,” Mueller said of the TIF agreement. “The value that’s being created by the project is what’s funding [the park purchase].”
Bennion noted that VanTrust had agreed to sell the parkland to the city at a price below the appraised value.
Myers also questioned Mueller about rumors that the Meadowbrook clubhouse, which will be used by JCPRD as an administration and community center, contained asbestos. Mueller said VanTrust had conducted an assessment of the building when the company bought the club and that there was no asbestos in the building.
Councilor Eric Mikkelson asked that the agreement include a provision that JCPRD bring its concepts for the programming at the park to the council for review before they are finalized. Director of Parks & Recreation Jill Geller said the district was agreeable to that provision, and that they expected to begin the programming process after all parties had signed off on the MOU.
Here’s our story on the sequence of events that will have to take place to create the new park. An overview of the public funds to be used in the purchase of the parkland and their sources follows: