A new tax incentive plan for apartments at Interstate 435 and Metcalf Avenue got mixed reviews from an Overland Park council committee Wednesday night. But the developer’s offer to make 10% of the units “attainably” priced and to use sustainable building techniques is an idea that should be expanded into a city-wide policy, some of them said.
Councilmembers voted 4-2 on a voice vote to recommend that the Metcalf 108 development plan for tax increment financing and a special sales tax district be debated by the full council Feb. 7.
Several committee members said they struggled with various aspects of the plan, which calls for a 220-unit apartment building on land near the Staybridge Suites.
The hotel, which replaced the derelict 435 Overland Park Place Hotel, was built in an earlier phase of the project.
Developer Metcalf 108 Redevelopment Investors LLC, originally planned for an office building on land near the hotel. But after five years of searching, developers could not find tenants, said lawyer Curt Petersen, representing the developer.
So instead, the plan was redrawn with the office building replaced by a seven-story multi-family building that included a small area of retail and office and a parking garage built into its base.
With the new vision came a new tax incentive proposal.
Developers asked for tax increment financing for a maximum of $11.6 million or 90% of the tax increment caused by the development. That’s lower than the original TIF, which was for $16.4 million at 100% of the increment.
A special sales tax district that would raise about $1 million for development costs was also in the proposal.
Setting aside more affordable units
Petersen said the idea of attainably priced housing and green building requirements, which were suggested by Councilmember Logan Heley, were added as a sweetener.
The tax incentive project plan will need nine of the council’s 12 votes to be approved, he noted.
Setting aside a certain percentage of apartment units to go for less than market rates is an idea that has been used in some cities but is relatively new to Overland Park.
The Metcalf 108 plan used an apartment project at the former Mission Bowl in Mission as a template, said Judd Treeman, special counsel advising the city on public/private partnerships.
The lower-rent apartments would be of various sizes, distributed throughout the building. They would be tied to economic indicators such as median family income that would put the rents at about $1,300 a month, using today’s numbers.
The developer also proposed to meet silver certificate green building guidelines by the National Green Building Standard.
Committee members were generally conflicted about the plan on Wednesday.
Some said they would rather see the affordable housing and green requirements become a part of city policy than be proposed case-by-case. Councilmember Holly Grummert noted green building techniques have been proposed in the past, notably for the Brookridge project.
“I feel like this is two years behind schedule. We needed this policy in place before this project ever even came to light,” she said.
Moreover, United Community Services has studied the need for affordable housing in Johnson County, yet the city has no policy for it.
“It’s a major hole in our policy,” Grummert said.
Committee Chairman Fred Spears also said he’d like to see a city policy on that issue, though he was also concerned about whether tax increment financing would be appropriate for the area.
Spears said he’d vote for moving the idea forward mainly so the whole council could discuss.
Councilmember Jeff Cox, however, said the city has built too many apartments in the past and that he’d prefer to see something else on that lot.