Members of VanTrust Real Estate on Monday appeared before the Prairie Village City Council to field questions from councilors as the city and the company begin to put together the development agreement that would create a new 87-acre county park on part of the Meadowbrook Country Club property.
Among the issues covered during the Q&A session were:
Why didn’t the company donate the land to Prairie Village? At the group’s last appearance before the city council, recently sworn in councilor Sheila Myers suggested that the developer should have simply donated the park land to the city because it paid far below the current appraised value for it when it purchased the property in 2010.
On Monday, citing similar questions from some residents, Mayor Laura Wassmer asked VanTrust President Dave Harrison to explain why the developer wouldn’t have just given the land to the city.
Harrison explained that the original purchase price for the land — approximately $4.5 million — represented only a portion of the company’s investment in the property. When VanTrust purchased Meadowbrook in 2010, it did so only with a guarantee to the country club’s owners that it would invest significant funds to make improvements to the club facilities, and that it would try to get the club operating successfully for the long haul. Those investments, Harrison said, bring VanTrust’s total spend on the property close to $9 million. As part of the memorandum of understanding approved by the city council in June, the city’s purchase price of the parkland is capped at $7 million.
How did the company come up with the suggested mix of general obligation and special obligation bonds that will finance the project? Initially, the developer had suggested a greater proportion of general obligation bonds for the mix because those bonds allow for more money to be invested in the parkland. However, because general obligation bonds require the city to commit to raising property taxes to pay for any shortfall should the proceeds from the TIF agreement not materialize as planned, the developer and city agreed to include special obligation bonds in the mix to mitigate some of the risk to the city’s taxpayers. (Special obligation bonds do not require the city to agree to raise property taxes in the event that the TIF proceeds come up short).
Is the city overbuilding senior housing in the area? Wassmer also told Harrison that she’d heard from several residents concerned that the senior living community that is planned for the project will contribute to an over-saturation of such housing in Prairie Village, particularly with the expected approval of the new Mission Chateau project this month. But Harrison said all of the demographics information available shows that the need for more senior housing will be there. “When we look at the studies, there is demand for a high-end, high-quality product,” Harrison said.
When will the project actually be built? Harrison said that, if the development agreement for the project is executed by February 2016, the company hopes to be able to start moving dirt in the first quarter of next year. He said that the apartment complex on the property will take approximately 18 months to build, and the inn will take approximately 14 months to build. He added that the company expected to make completion of the park trails a priority in hopes that that portion of the park would be open for public use by the summer of 2017.