By Jerry LaMartina
Westbrooke Village at 75th Street and Quivira Road could be in for a $113 million makeover.
The Shawnee City Council on Monday night approved holding a Nov. 13 public hearing to consider creating a tax-increment financing redevelopment district at Westbrooke Village for a proposed retail, restaurant and residential project for which the developer is requesting about $25 million in city subsidies.
Ward 2 councilmen Mike Kemmling and Eric Jenkins voted no on holding a public hearing Nov. 13.
According to a city staff report, the developer, MP Westbrooke North LLC, proposes that the project, on the northeast corner of 75th and Quivira, would include as much as roughly 108,500 square feet of retail and restaurant components and 530 market-rate residential units with an underground parking structure. The proposed time line for the project is 2018 through 2020.
MP Westbrooke North is a joint venture of Mission Peak Capital and Extell Development Co. Olsson Associates is the project’s engineering and design firm, and the architect is NSPJ Architects 19.
According to the staff report, MP Westbrooke North proposes to contribute $87.7 million in private investment and requests about $25.3 million in city money comprising $5.6 million from a 1.5-percent community improvement district sales tax and $19.7 million in tax increment financing — $16.2 million from 100 percent of the property tax increment generated within the CID and $3.5 million from 100 percent of the regular 1-percent city sales tax increment.
The developer also requests an estimated $3.2 million of industrial revenue bonds for sales tax exemption on construction materials.
Kemmling said he favored having the public hearing in January after the new council is sworn in. Ward 3 Councilwoman Stephanie Meyer said she had “a concern of where we draw the line with that.”
“If we take this off the table because we think it might be controversial, do we take everything that might be (controversial off the table)?” Meyer said. “We still have folks who, even though they won’t serve after January, are duly elected to serve through the end of their term, so I don’t want to get into a place where we stopped all government business because the faces are going to change.”
Ward 3 Councilman Jeff Vaught won’t be on the council after January, having failed to emerge from the August primary.
“Does that mean I don’t have a right to vote?” Vaught said. “… What happens when incumbents don’t make it through a primary? … I was elected to a term. My term doesn’t end until January. I have every right to vote on every issue that comes forward.”
“You’re right, Jeff,” he said. “You have every right to vote. But just because we can doesn’t make it right. So, I think we should be asking ourselves as a council: What’s the right thing to do? Not what can we legally do under the letter of the law, but what’s the right thing for us to do?
“And I think when we’re talking about a project with $25 million in incentives, it might be a good idea to take a step back and make sure that, if people are rejecting us for our views, then maybe we should let the people they choose make the decision,” Kemmling said. “If we’re this close, maybe that makes more sense.”
“I was chosen,” Vaught said.
Shawnee resident Mike Pezza addressed the council during the public comments segment and asked it to delay the public hearing to give residents more time to learn about the proposed project.
“A lot of people in Shawnee, regardless of what the recent survey said, are questioning and maybe even against TIF financing,” Pezza said. “… This is a very big decision, and … I think it’s really a disservice to the citizens of Shawnee to, in my opinion as a citizen, rush this project through.”
Resident Susan Reagan also addressed the council.
“There are a lot of people, voters, … who don’t know about this project,” Reagan said. “How are you going to notify all those people that there will be a public meeting?”
Mayor Michelle Distler said that the developer had contacted all the surrounding neighbors within 200 feet of the project site as required by state law and held a neighborhood meeting; that the city had put project information on its Facebook page and website; and that the project had received newspaper and television coverage.
The city’s TIF policy, established in February 2006 and revised in February 2014, and Kansas statute authorize the use of property or sales tax revenue generated from a redevelopment project to reimburse the developer for site-improvement and other costs, according to the staff report. The city’s TIF policy also establishes the criteria and process for establishing a TIF district and for considering its project plans.
The city’s TIF policy requires that consideration of a TIF district must be made using the “but-for” principle, which means that the council must consider whether a development wouldn’t be financially feasible but for a TIF district.