Roeland Park approves agreement that would allow for additional $68,000 to be spent on site improvement for The Rocks project

The site of the former Roeland Park pool is planned to become a new commercial development.
The site of the former Roeland Park pool is planned to become a new commercial development.

By Holly Cook

Roeland Park councilmembers this week voted 5-3 to move forward with drafting an agreement that would reimburse the Boulevard Apartments $40,000 in tax increment finance funds in exchange for an advance payment of all 2017 taxes.

Original budget projections showed the city would spend more TIF funds in 2017 than they actually have, so this adjustment would fix the shortfall. The agreement would also bump the total TIF funds available for site improvements at The Rocks development on the site of the old Roeland Park pool to $755,293, or about $68,000 more than what is currently available.

The $40,000 reimbursement to Boulevard Apartments will cover previously made improvements that fall within parameters of the TIF 3 Redevelopment Plan, set to expire in February 2018. The Apartments would have until December 31 to make their full 2017 tax payment.

Councilmember Becky Fast pointed out the city has had 20 years to fully utilize this TIF fund and questioned why the transaction was taking place at the last minute. Fast also asked who authorized the city to contact Boulevard Apartments and gauge their interest in a potential agreement.

“Why wasn’t this brought to the council?” Fast asked.

Mayor Joel Marquardt said this was a new idea brought forth as a creative solution to deal with the shortfall and councilmember Erin Thompson said there was no information to bring forth to the council prior to Monday.

Councilmember Ryan Kellerman said he was very hesitant in supporting the agreement and that he looked at the transaction as a “backdoor deal” and a “kickback.”

“It is what it is,” Kellerman said.

Councilmember Michael Rhoades responded this was not a kickback because the city was reimbursing work that has already been done.

Staff and the city attorney reported that the proposed agreement was appropriate.

Councilmembers Sheri McNeil, Becky Fast and Ryan Kellerman voted against the recommendation and councilmembers Tim Janssen, Michael Rhoades, Erin Thompson, Teresa Kelly and Michael Poppa voted in favor.

Following this vote, councilors unanimously approved increasing the total budget for site improvements at The Rocks by $68,000. The increased budget will be contingent on the Boulevard Apartments agreement being fulfilled.

The additional funds will go towards the design and construction of a sanitary sewer, regional underground stormwater retention facility and additional grading at the old pool site.

Staff indicated they hope to move forward with initiating this process as soon as possible, as the TIF fund will expire in February 2018. There was some debate on whether the work must be finished prior to expiration of the TIF, and city staff said they would further vet the details of what is permissible.