Commissioners say JoCo has no plan to finance Meadowbrook park purchase if school board sinks TIF deal

A map of the proposed TIF district. Image via city of Prairie Village.
A map of the proposed TIF district. Image via city of Prairie Village.

Members of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners said this week that should the Shawnee Mission School Board vote to veto the Meadowbrook park TIF deal tomorrow, the county has no mechanism in place that would allow it to quickly come in and save the project by purchasing the parkland itself.

“If the TIF district does not move forward, there are no plans for the county to purchase the Meadowbrook parkland,” said Board Chair Ed Eilert. “The  recently adopted Park Legacy plan does not include funds to acquire regional park land.”

Eilert’s comments counter the assertion made by school board member Cindy Neighbor last week that the commission had funds available to purchase the 88 acres of land that will become a county park. Under a four party deal between the city of Prairie Village, VanTrust Real Estate, Johnson County Park and Recreation District and Johnson County government, the purchase of the park land would be funded by bonds that will be paid off by proceeds from the creation of a TIF district. The total cost of the park land is estimated to be less than $8 million.

Commissioner Michael Ashcraft concurred with Eilert that there were no plans in place to salvage the deal if it were scuttled by the school board, though he said that there was “always a possibility” that the county could find a way to allocate funds to any project, though certainly not quickly.

“There is always a possibility,” he said. “It is not planned. Not programmed. Not within the structure of current efforts.”

Ashcraft said that he viewed the proposed park in northeast Johnson County as a “win-win for the county and the community, but that doesn’t mean it’s a win-win for the school district.”

“[The project] could create a much needed northeast Johnson County park asset,” he said. “When you look at our population and demographics, this is one of the last places where we had a shot at that.”

Still, Ashcraft — who is often critical of TIF deals — said the district was well advised to be asking tough questions about the package.

“TIFs are a big deal,” Ashcraft said. “It benefits a certain community, but other communities have to pick up the slack… I admire them asking the deep questions and hope it leads to a deeper more substantive debate.”