Lee’s Summit has $4.6 million in surplus land

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 12, 2013 

Lee’s Summit has about $4.6 million in surplus land and buildings, either now vacant or little used.

The City Council soon will be discussing a plan to renovate one of those buildings, Arnold Hall, and it raises the question of what to do with the rest.

The city is facing tight budgets, with sluggish sales tax revenue, and Councilman Bob Johnson, head of the budget committee, would like to see at least part of the holdings sold.

Just north of the downtown core, at 25 N.W. Tudor Road, which is south of the police headquarters, the city owns 7.6 acres of open land valued at a more than $1.09 million.

The council considered it as a site for City Hall, but decided on the downtown location. City officials marketed the property and a developer proposed a commercial project that would have incorporated adjacent land under private ownership, but that deal fell through when the developer and the other landowners couldn’t agree on a price, even though the city was a willing seller.

“It’s obvious that the city hasn’t been successful as a developer,” Johnson said. “It’s proven to me we don’t have a use for it, it should have been placed with a commercial realtor yesterday.”

Most council members foresee that land will increase in value, so are willing to wait.

Council member Derek Holland said he thinks the strategy of holding the surplus property is best. He said that they don’t cost the city a lot to maintain and with diminishing amounts of land, it’s value will be greater in the future.

“I doubt on in the open market (today) they’d bring a lot of money,” Holland said.

Two of the properties have definite plans.

The city owns 76 acres at 1401 NW View High Drive, a former sewer lagoon, and is negotiating with developer Flip Short to include the property in large mixed-use development, Happy Valley Properties, that he has proposed for the intersection of View High and Interstate 470. That land’s value is estimated at $45,105.

This month or next, City Manager Steve Arbo will present a plan for turning Arnold Hall into a “white box,” essentially a finished shell that could be used for exhibit space or performances small plays or music groups.

The Lee’s Summit Cultural Arts Facility Task Force had originally recommended using Arnold Hall for exhibits and the Lee’s Summit Historical Society Museum and using bond issue to finance the remodeling. However the council switched the recommendation to use a historic post office for the historic center in the recent bond election. After objections from the arts community, the council backtracked and asked Arbo to find financing for Arnold Hall as well.

Arnold Hall is now vacant with a value put at $270,300. Its design makes it a good choice for a white box because it doesn’t require supporting columns on the interior, so space is flexible.

Other city surplus property includes:

• 1000 NW Pryor Road, 7.59 acres valued at more than $1.27 million

• 730 NW Pryor Road, 2.3 acres valued at $612,000

• 2835 SE Hamblen Road, 57.5 acres valued at $268,556

• 8500 Fish Road, 119 acres valued at $593,421

• 307 SW Market St. a building valued at $376,000

• 1700 SW New Orleans Ave., an odd-shaped remnant valued at $72,391.

The list of vacant properties were compiled from a complete list of city holdings and values provided to the Lee’s Summit Journal by city staff. It excludes small remnants from road projects too small for any practical use.

The Market Street Neighborhood Center, at 307 SW Market St. downtown, is the former location for parks department offices, which have moved to City Hall. The city by ordinance gave the building to parks until it was no longer needed. The parks department is considering returning it to the city.

Council members Ed Cockrell, Kathy Hofmann and David Mosby agreed the city should hold the land to get its long-term value. Brian Whitley said he would support the “highest and best uses” for individual properties, so he would be open to selling property, seeking a developer or retaining it for another use, for example, open space. Rob Binney said the city should study and rank parcels for potential future use to determine whether to sell them.

Marketing some of the land hasn’t been a high priority because it’s not prime real estate. The properties on Hamblen and Fish roads are former sewer lagoons in flood plains and not within the city limits. They’re left overs from the days when the city processed its own sewage and are obsolete, now that Lee’s Summit is part of regional sewer districts that treat its waste water. However, the parcels on Tudor and Pryor roads have potential for commercial development.

Arbo said during the past several years the city has worked on preliminary proposals for the land on Pryor Road. Those parcels near SummitWoods Crossing were acquired as part of road projects.

The city had marketed the property with RED Legacy and had preliminary discussions for several proposals for a development that involves other adjacent property, Arbo said. But a drag on developing those properties is the cost of relocating a major electric transmission line in that area.

“It may take a public/private partnership to help with that expenses to make a development feasible,” he said.

The city expects extending Tudor Road to connect with Ward Road will ultimately make its land at Douglas and Tudor more valuable. It expects the final section of that work to start in 2015. When Karen Messerli was mayor, the city sought proposals to develop the property at Douglas and Tudor.

“We’re hoping when Tudor Road gets completed we can make another effort,” Arbo said.

Arbo said the city’s strategy has been to hold those properties while waiting for a large-scale development that include adjacent land.

With the city owning some of the land, it gives it some leverage to encourage a high-quality development and provide the highest tax revenue and services for residents, he said.

“That’s a better use than just dumping it on the market and just taking the proceeds from the land,” Arbo said. “We’re looking for the long-term return on those properties.”

“You would want to turn it to your best benefit,” Mosby said. “When Tudor Road goes through, that property’s value will be tremendous.”

Mayor Randy Rhoads said residents should keep in mind that the city isn’t in the business of land speculation. Each of the properties have a history, he said, bought or donated for a purpose that’s now past.

With tight budgets, he said, there’s merit in discussing whether to sell the surplus property.

“I think its worth looking into, without the expectation it’s going to be a big money maker for the city,” Rhoads said.

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