Tuesday, Mar. 12 2013 12:29PM
Mayor kills Price Chopper subsidy
By Russ Pulley
Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads flipped his vote on a new Price Chopper at U.S. 50 and Todd George Parkway which, for now, shuts down that project.
Rhoads’s “no” vote at the March 7 meeting reverses an earlier stance where he broke a tie vote in favor of amending a tax-increment financing district to provide about $5 million in subsidy to the Price Chopper development.
The proposed development would have also included pad sites and additional retail space for other businesses.
During the previous vote Rhoads said his decision was because of the Lee’s Summit’s Tax-Increment Financing and Planning commissions had recommended approval. When faced with another tie, Rhoads said he’d made his first vote with some reservations that he couldn’t shake, then voted no.
In an interview Rhoads said that while Price Chopper was a good project, he thought it would be a mistake to use TIF subsidy to pay for project costs that were required of other developers in different TIFs.
“I don’t think we want to go down that path,” Rhoads said.
Developers had asked for the TIF amendment and a Community Improvement District to raise about $5 million subsidy for site improvements.
“I’m surprised,” said Mike Beal, an executive with Ball’s Foods Stores. Beal and others involved in planning the development by Ball’s Foods and West Star Co. Inc. said they would be re-evaluating the situation before any more comment.
Rhoads stance could add at least $2 million to the cost of the project charged to the developer instead of covered by sales taxes through the TIF.
If developers want to revive the project, they also would have to begin anew the process of applications and public hearings.
Rhoads said he also was concerned that net increase in sales taxes to the city would be small, while diverting revenue from the general fund.
The general fund pays for personnel costs for services such as police, fire and administration. The TIF was created to raise money for improvement of the Todd George interchange, a new interchange at Blackwell Road and nearby roads. Under the plan the new sales taxes would have been split between paying off the developer’s subsidy and the highway projects.
Rhoads said approving the project and the TIF amendment would result in moving sales tax revenue from already existing groceries into the TIF.
“People are already buying food,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads essentially sided with council members Bob Johnson, Derek Holland, David Mosby and Brian Whitley, who said they were supportive of the project but objected that the subsidy was too generous because it included costs that should be paid by the developer. They voted no.
Councilmember Ed Cockrell said he could appreciate their philosophical argument, but that it would practically cost the city more to do a bond issue to make public improvements the project would have accomplished such as storm-water detention to solve flooding in the area, from water coming beyond the project. That was a benefit for the city that all the council members acknowledged isn’t the developer’s responsibility.
Cockrell aid for that reason he supported the amendment. He said dire statements about the budget are premature and the city is resilient.
“We’re open for business and we’re still going to keep growing this community,” Cockrell said.
Cockrell’s yes vote was echoed by Rob Binney, Kathy Hofmann and Allan Gray.