Shawnee paves way for consideration of tax incentives for proposed luxury housing development downtown

Kevin Tubbesing is the lead developer of the Stag’s Spring housing project in downtown Shawnee.

After hearing from multiple residents both for and against plans for Stag’s Spring, the Shawnee council last night took first steps to look into public financing incentives for the proposed luxury apartment complex project downtown.

Several neighboring residents and business owners at the city council meeting spoke both in support and in opposition of the housing project, a 62-unit apartment complex which would be located along Roger Road just east of Old Shawnee Pizza.

Neighbors in support said they appreciated efforts by developer Kevin Tubbesing to create more density downtown and also use landscaping to create a buffer for their single-family homes nearby.

A rendering of Stag’s Spring, a luxury apartment complex planned for downtown Shawnee. View of the rotunda looking northwest from Nieman and Roger roads.

“I’m 100% for it; I’m not convinced that there might not be something I don’t like, but I think Kevin has bent over backwards to talk with us about what his plans are,” said Carol Mundy, a neighboring resident. “He’s already shown he can finish something. Wish we had him do Nieman.

“I think if we try to micromanage what color he’s going to put where on that building, we’re nuts. I think we ought to let him make up his mind what it’s going to be, and I appreciate all the green space he has put next to our homes.”

Other neighbors were concerned about a lack of parking — and some residents were concerned about the proposed design, indicating that it’s not in line with the city’s design or development guidelines.

Councilmember Eric Jenkins also raised concerns about using TIF funds to incentivize the development.

The meeting became tense at certain points. David Morris, a neighbor who has raised concerns about the project and also spoken in favor of it at past planning commission meetings, went over his 10-minute time limit and refused to sit down.

After Mayor Michelle Distler asked Morris to sit down and he refused, Shawnee Police Chief Rob Moser and two other officers escorted him out into the lobby. A ticket for disturbing the meeting is pending.

The council’s established policy allows individuals to speak for five minutes and request an additional five on any particular item. The council may grant an extension but declined to give Morris more time.

Several councilmembers shared their support for the project, including Councilmember Mickey Sandifer, who spoke to the city’s efforts to improve the downtown area.

“We put over $35 million in Nieman Road to dress it up, make it look good,” Sandifer said. “If you can’t put anything around it to attract young people or to bring in new life, you’re still going to end up with a stagnant area. I think this is a fantastic project, it’s something that we’ve been looking for for many years, and I think Kevin can do it.”

Carol Mundy, a neighboring resident to the Stag’s Spring project, spoke in favor of it at the council meeting.

Establishment of the funding agreement with Tubbesing was the first step for the city to begin working with Tubbesing to determine a tax increment financing plan for the project. Mayor Distler said this does not obligate the city to approve a TIF plan or project plan; these items will be considered at future meetings.

Jeff White, the city’s financial adviser with Columbia Capital, provided the city with a “but for” analysis of the project. White said the idea of applying a TIF statute in this case — a project area already urbanized as opposed to a site on undeveloped land — is to provide a mechanism for making the site as attractive as it would be to develop on a green field.

White said his preliminary analysis of the project indicates there are some challenges with a slope on the site and relocation of utilities, factors that would lend credence to the need for TIF funds to support the project.

“The findings that are included in our report are that the project likely would not occur here as proposed without the presence of the TIF incentive based upon the expected rates of return both with and without incentives,” White said. “We find that the but for test required by city statute would be met given the facts that we have today.”

Councilmember Eric Jenkins raised concerns about using TIF funds for the Stag’s Spring project.

Jenkins, who voted against the establishment of the redevelopment district and funding agreement for the Stag’s Spring project, said the “but for” analysis could be applied to any site in Shawnee because the city doesn’t have open green space.

“So you’re telling me that every single development that takes place in Shawnee should be given tax incremental financing and the taxpayer should bear a portion of those development costs, is that correct?” Jenkins asked White.

White said that not every site would qualify for TIF funding because there are multiple factors — if a site is located within a floodplain, for instance.

“Ultimately, it’s a policy choice of the council whether or not you want to incentivize a project in this particular area over another area,” White replied.

Tubbesing is requesting TIF at 100% for 10 years, 80% for the second set of 10 years. TIF discussions will come at a later date.

The Shawnee council voted 6-2 to approve both the redevelopment district and the funding agreement for Stag’s Spring. Councilmembers Jenkins and Mike Kemmling cast the dissenting votes.

The Shawnee council also unanimously approved the planning commission’s recommendation to rezone single-family residential portions of the site to townsquare.