A tax incentive package for the first phase of the $2 billion Brookridge development is still a possibility — but there wasn’t much comfort for developer Chris Curtin in the split vote from the Overland Park City Council Monday night.
Council members voted 7-5 to proceed with talks on how the city might help with some development costs. That was enough to keep the ball rolling on possible tax increment financing and a special sales tax requested by the developer. But it was short of the nine votes that will be needed to eventually approve a TIF if or when it comes up again.
That point was not lost on Councilmember Dave White, who urged his colleagues to join him in a “no” vote.
“If there are more than three no votes tonight we should just call it dead,” he said. Otherwise, he added, the council will end up spending staff time and upsetting the public on something that won’t pass when it comes back up again.
“Let’s just call it what it is right now and put everybody out of the pain and let the developer go back and figure out exactly what needs to get done,” White said, to a smattering of applause from some visitors.
Latest chapter in five-year saga over land near 103rd and Antioch
The vote was the latest in a five-year saga of the development of 140 acres near 103rd Street and Antioch Road. Curtin successfully got the area rezoned, but his efforts to get tax incentives have so far not been successful. In October the council turned down a finance package that would have included sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds intended to encourage tourism.
The development includes offices, apartments, retail and entertainment on the long-time golf course and has been steadfastly opposed by neighbors. The latest financing package – for the northeast corner of the project — includes a request for $96 million in tax increment financing, a 1.5 percent special sales tax raising $33.7 million and the exemption of some building materials purchases from sales tax. The total project cost for the area is $596.1 million.
Council members who voted against continuing with the new package had various reasons. Councilmember Jim Kite said he disliked the close proximity to the nearby subdivision, and Councilmember Faris Farassati said the development has already been debated thoroughly and goes against the will of the people.
Bringing it up again won’t change anything, he said. “At the end of the day I think this is just eating the elephant one bite at a time.”
Even ‘Yes’ voters expressed concerns with new incentives request
But the “no” voters weren’t the only ones expressing reservation. Some council members who voted yes did so with some caveats and warnings for what the final plan should include.
Councilmember Logan Heley had a list of requirements for getting his vote. The deal should exempt groceries from the Community Improvement District sales tax and the buildings should be LEED certified for net zero carbon emissions, he said. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building set of standards. Getting certification usually adds to the cost of the buildings, so builders often agree to meet the standards without getting official certification. However Heley specified that the Brookridge buildings should have that third-party verification.
Councilmember Chris Newlin said the developer would have to purchase the remaining homes on Antioch Road near the development to get his vote. The developer has been gradually buying the homes to make way for the development and street work.
Councilmember John Thompson and White said they were concerned about how the street work would be paid for. The developer’s proposal asks the city to take on $26.4 million in road improvements needed for the project, which would be paid back from TIF revenue.
But that promises to be a sticking point with council members, who have been uncomfortable with the idea of fronting the money and waiting for repayment. TIF money wouldn’t come in until four or five years after street work starts, White said.
Thompson said he’d need some protection so that the city doesn’t end up on the hook if TIF revenue falls short or the developer goes bankrupt.
Councilmember Curt Skoog has supported the project in general, but voted against it this time because he does not agree with giving it TIF money.
While the council members voting yes didn’t promise they’d support what came out of the talks, they said they at least wanted to give the developer a chance to put a plan forward.
“This is a process,” said Councilmember Richard Collins. “If you don’t ask the question, you’re never going to know the answer.”