Shawnee City Council candidates on the issues: Housing density, tax incentives and the landfill impact fee

Jay Senter - October 30, 2017 2:56 pm

Shawnee_)

Based on input from our readers, we asked the candidates running for Shawnee City Council to respond to three questions about issues facing the city. Here are their responses:

Public finance incentives use

Do you support the use of public finance incentives for development projects in Shawnee? If so, when is it appropriate to offer a developer incentives, and when is it now?

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Ward 1

Daniel Pflumm (incumbent)
Did not respond.

Matthew Zimmerman
The 2017 Survey of Shawnee Residents indicated that 70% of the population supported use of incentives to enhance our City’s economy. It is contingent on the Council to support the will of their constituents and to do everything in their power to improve our City’s economy and minimize the tax burden on the residents. Bringing upscale commercial developments to our City is what is needed and what the constituents are asking for. Shawnee is not as flat or easy to build on as many of our neighboring communities, so incentives play an important role in allowing Shawnee to compete for the commercial development that we need. Regardless of the funding mechanism, incentives should only be used for projects and businesses that will grow our commercial tax base and improve the overall quality of our community and our standard of living.

Ward 3

Justin Adrian
I believe in smart economic growth and building our tax base from new economic development. I believe that TIFs/CIDs are great ways for the city to offer an incentive to develop an area. In areas where developers do not want to come in and develop, due to rocky or hilly land, an incentive is a great way to bring development. Using a CID is a great way to gentrify a development (better roads, a facelift on the property, etc). With TIFs and CIDs, the city must be transparent and give the citizens full disclosure when either incentive is going to be used. Also, new development must be beneficial to the citizens; walk-able, be visually attractive, have spaces to charge their car, etc. Shawnee’s tax base is roughly 26% commercial and 74% residential and the city must increase the percentage of commercial tax to bring more amenities to its citizens. I believe that mixed use residential/commercial will help relieve the high property taxes that Shawnee citizens face. New loft style living will attract millennials and baby boomers. Creating pedestrian friendly residential options where people can walk to restaurants, stores, etc. will be beneficial for those who want stress-free living.

Dave Myres
I believe that the use of tax incentives for private development has gone too far in the minds of most folks in Shawnee. It has reached the point where virtually every developer seeks them. I would approach each proposed project with an open mind, but any use of tax incentives must be targeted and rare. A project with tax incentives must not only be financially beneficial for the surrounding community but more importantly enhance and complement the community. As I talk to citizens in Ward 3, it is clear that the people would like to see a pause and a total re-evaluation of their use.

Ward 4

Lindsey Constance
The decision about whether to utilize incentives through public private partnerships should be considered on a case by case basis. First, it’s important to consider whether the project is one that improves the community, either by revitalizing declining areas, or by providing additional retail and dining options, parks and city services. If the development is one that enhances our city and improves property values, then the use of incentives might make sense.

The City Council must also look at the specifics within the TIF and CID financing. For example, is there room to negotiate a lower percentage of the TIF so that the city can utilize a greater portion of increased property value taxation for city services? If it is determined that the development will have a positive impact on the city, both directly through additional amenities and retail options, and also indirectly through an increase in commercial and sales tax revenue that can be used to fund resident priorities, then the next logical step is to negotiate the incentive details for the best possible outcome for the city.

Tony Noble
There is select time and place for using TIF’s and CIDs, but I believe the City’s exercise of using these incentives (to stimulate private sector development) should be the exception to the rule whenever used.

An example of when I may consider incentives would be if a large manufacturer (similar to Bayer) wanted to move into Shawnee, create a substantial amount of good paying jobs, and planned to be here for an extended period of time (decades). The agreement would also be predicated upon approving “claw back provisions” to protect our City in the event benchmarks weren’t being met.

Tony Noble
Has not submitted answers yet, but indicates he intends to.

Housing density in Shawnee

Efforts to increase housing density in Shawnee with projects like the Vantage Apartment complex have been controversial. Do you support efforts to bring more housing density to Shawnee? If so, what factors must be considered with multi-family projects?

Ward 1

Matthew Zimmerman
Shawnee has plenty of low income high density apartment living, but that doesn’t mean we should be turning our backs on upscale mixed-use developments that combine residential and commercial enterprise into a common development. These types of developments will significantly improve the property values of surrounding neighborhoods, have a significant impact on the redistribution of the tax burden (away from the residents), and help us attract and retain an affluent level of our community that are, for the moment, leaving Shawnee to find upscale high-density living in Lenexa. Let’s identify existing high-density complexes that are problematic and replace them with upscale mixed-use living that contributes to our City’s bottom line.

Ward 3

Justin Adrian
Yes, I do believe in bringing in more housing density. Many cities in Johnson County have apartment-style & townhome living, but only a few have loft-style living. I believe that the city needs to look at the trend in multi-unit projects. The projects in Johnson County (Mission Farms, Park Place at Town Center, Lenexa City Center, etc.) are models in which Shawnee should follow. Though these areas may offer a different economic demographic than we do, they are a good snapshot of what diverse housing can look like and the amenities that develop around these areas. When residents have the opportunity to live above/near commercial business, these businesses tend to do better as their customers walk to their business. The city needs to look into eco-friendly building, as it will draw more residents. Many people would rather walk to a business, than drive.

Dave Myres
While mixed-use may have a limited place, we should be very cautious if we allow some. We certainly want development in Shawnee, but I think we should be mindful of the size and scope of any development. We need to make sure that any development enhances and not detracts from the fabric of our community that has made Shawnee so attractive for so many. Also, we do not need to always copy what other cities have done. Shawnee has its own unique identity and we should protect it. Furthermore, we should beware of fads in development that aren’t stemming from real demand, but from government incentives. My number one job will be to protect our homeowners.

Ward 4

Lindsey Constance
Decisions about housing needs must be based on facts and projected housing needs. Shawnee has not initiated any new multi-family developments in over 10 years and according to population projections from the Mid America Regional Council, Shawnee has a deficit in housing options, especially for young professionals and retired individuals looking to rent by choice.

Providing a variety of housing options is important and each project must be evaluated on its own merits, based upon our city’s long-range plan and taking into account supply compared with current housing needs and market demands.

Tony Noble
No. There is a feeling among many in the community that Shawnee has enough high density apartment complexes throughout the city. This issue becomes even more controversial when city leaders decide they would like to re-zone an area for this type of construction right alongside (or in the middle of) an existing single family residential neighborhood, like the currently proposed Westbrooke Shopping Center on 75th and Quivira.

Landfill impact fee use

How should Shawnee be using the proceeds from the impact fee paid to the city by Deffenbaugh for use of the landfill space?

Ward 1

Matthew Zimmerman
I believe the current distribution of proceeds are appropriately accounted for. Roughly half of this fee is spent on road repair and maintenance around the landfill (a definite issue due to the wear and tear on roads on behalf of the traffic pattern of heavily loaded garbage trucks in the immediate vicinity of the landfill). The other half (roughly) is earmarked for the City to reinvest in building our City’s economy, with specific focus on attracting new businesses that bring more jobs to our City. There’s nothing wrong with making our City a better place to live and work. And the Impact Fund has been structured to do exactly that.

Ward 3

Justin Adrian
At the moment, I feel that the city is using these funds properly. The city receives a $3 million from the Deffenbaugh impact fee. Some residents that I have spoken with think that the fee is too little, as it is an eyesore for our city. No other city in Johnson County can say that a portion of their economic development funding does not come from tax-payers. This fee goes towards developing our city, plus internal improvements as well. I think it is important to look at all city income/expenditures and make sure that the city is using their revenue properly and to the best use of its residents.

Dave Myres
The impact fee is intended to repair the damage to our roads caused by the Deffenbaugh trucks. However, about half of that fee has been diverted to “economic development”. This is wrong and I will vote to stop it.

Ward 4

Lindsey Constance
The landfill impact fee is intended to enhance economic development and to make up for the loss of economic opportunity resulting from the landfill, which prevents development on and around that land.

The fund provides our governing body the flexibility to make investments which encourage economic development in Shawnee. This can have a positive impact because it balances our tax base, alleviating the burden on property owners.

Half of the fund is used for infrastructure and the other half is to encourage economic development. Over the years, the landfill impact fee will provide over 100 Million dollars of revenue, which allows Shawnee to invest in projects that will improve our city and bring additional revenue to fund city services.

While some refer to the economic development fund as taxpayer dollars, it’s important to be clear that this fund is not made up of taxpayer dollars, and in reality saves tax payers by allowing Shawnee to invest in economic development and infrastructure projects that would not be otherwise possible.

Tony Noble
Today we currently divert about $1.7M each year from the Deffenbaugh Impact Fee/Tax (pays the city approx. $3.1M a year) to the Economic Development Fund where city leaders get to spend these “city resources” on a variety of pet projects. The current B&B movie theater was a good example of how these funds can be used – last year the city granted $1.8M over 10 years to a private developer to assist with the renovation costs of the facility, parking lot, and new restaurant pads. Then, only three weeks later, the city passed the highest, and only, property tax increase in Shawnee in over a decade to primarily fund a new fire station in Ward 3. The fire station was a “need” but unfortunately it wasn’t budgeted for properly and since no money was allocated over the past to pay for this fire station a tax increase was required. If I’m elected these core “needs” will be funded instead of “wants”. I’ve heard concerns about experienced fire and police officers leaving for more pay at other cities because we are not providing competitive compensation, I’m aware of a much needed update to a section of Monticello road that is considered dangerous yet goes year after year with no changes due to lack of funds, and we are substantially behind on a large storm water drain liability ($110-120M over the next 20 years) and paving our streets but we still find a way to subsidize movie theaters in Shawnee (B&B and the Aztec). This lack of prioritization needs to end and the focus needs to go back on needed core functions which is what I intend to push for if elected to the council.

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