Overland Park mayoral candidates on the issues: City’s use of tax incentives

Overland Park Wards mayoral candidates discuss projects that appropriately used development incentives and ones that did not. Above, Museum at Prairiefire, which received state STAR bonds.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Overland Park Mayor address.

Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Overland Park.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

The use of tax incentives for developers has become a hot button issue among members of the governing body. Some suggest that important development projects wouldn’t move forward without them. Others say they’ve been overused and applied in situations where they weren’t needed. Please give us an example of a project you thought was appropriate use of development incentives in Overland Park and one that was not. Why did you choose these projects?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on the issue:

Mike Czinege

An example of perhaps appropriate use of incentives is the Metcalf/Shawnee Mission Parkway intersection where blighted hotels had set for years and devolved into vermin infested structures that also attracted illegal activity and vandalism to the area.  The demolition of those structures and redevelopment is a good example of how incentives when properly deployed can contribute to the restoration of a blighted area in a legacy area of Overland Park.

Prairie Fire and BluHawk are two recent an examples of where tax incentives should not have been used. Both Prairie Fire and BluHawk are located on prime Overland Park real estate that would have organically attracted development in accord with market demand without the use of multi-million dollar special tax incentives. Developers should be required to fully fund commercial and apartment development with their own capital, and not require residents to subsidize their projects.

Curt Skoog

First it is important to note that less than 10% of Overland Park development projects have received incentives. The only property tax abatement projects south of I-435 are a limited number of new job producing office building projects. There are 12 property tax incentives projects that were approved due to the blighted condition of the existing buildings.

Many proposed projects that ask for incentives or rezonings are never formally filed due to negative feedback from council members and city staff.

  • I approach every request for incentives by asking the same questions.
  • Does the project further community driven objectives for the city
  • Will the project fit with and strengthen the nearby neighborhoods?
  • Does the project offer something unique and exciting for residents?
  • Can the project be built without offering incentives?
  • If incentive needed, what will the return on investment be for taxpayers?
  • What risk is there to the city for agreeing to incentives?

Examples of incentives that I have supported include the Edison District in downtown Overland Park, which includes Strang Hall, because it helped create a unique amenity that will attract young professionals to the area. I also voted for incentives to remove blighted areas, such as the abandoned hotel at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Metcalf, and Ryan Transportation at 95th and Metcalf.

I voted against several Community Improvement Districts at 91st and Metcalf and 127th and Nall. The projects would have brought more retail, an area where the city is already overdeveloped, and I did not feel it warranted the use of taxpayer money. I also voted against incentives for a project at Metcalf South that did not fit the priorities laid out by residents in the Vision Metcalf plan.

On Wednesday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Overland Park take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?