Lee’s Summit works to adjust proposal for enterprise zone to ease residents’ fears

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 26, 2013 

A compromise is in the works to ease fears of Lee’s Summit residents who live within a proposed enterprise zone and object to being labeled blighted.

Chris Sally, of Design Initiatives, a consultant for the city, met with the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Committee April 24 to discuss next steps in creating the zone. There is no ordinance before the city council yet, although the council has discussed the concept with Sally and the committee.

The zone would roughly cover much of the city’s core, from Colbern Road on the north, include John Knox Village and some sections as far east as Rice Road. It stops with the downtown shopping district. It would provide tax incentives for developers that would be restricted to commercially zoned property and would not affect zoning. But the entire area would still be technically termed as blighted.

“The emotions and pride (residents) have in their homes are real and their feelings are real,” Sally said.” Unfortunately the state gives us zero choice.”

The residential areas were included to meet conditions of Missouri statutes and criteria by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The committee is planning to hold a community informational meeting in conjunction with the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council to answer residents’ questions and hear input. The committee then will refine the proposal before making recommendations to the city council.

Sally suggested that when the city craft its ordinance to clearly pinpoint “redevelopment areas” within the “qualifying area” and say the commercial areas were considered the basis for blight, not the residential neighborhoods .

He proposed five sites:

the Unity Village annexation

former Lee’s Summit Hospital site owned by HCA

commercial areas downtown

Summit Technology Campus and land opened by Tudor Road extension.

However, the broadly defined blight designation would still apply to the entire area. Some residents think that could lower their property values.

Committee members said creating the enterprise zone could actually stabilize or increase values if it brings more jobs and investment.

Committee member Ron Williams owns a residential property with in the proposed zone, a ranch-style house that was recently renovated.

When it came to negotiating a sale, Williams said, he could argue that his property wasn’t blighted by pointing to the ordinance and condition of the neighborhoods.

“I have a risk for a loss,” Williams said. “I can’t see that piece taking me down in a deal.”

Chairman Keith Asel suggested the difference is whether the blight designation actually hurts property values. He contended that if it doesn’t, it needn’t be disclosed.

The few residents at the committee meeting seemed unpersuaded.

Linda Cawby, a resident who lives in a historic home on Douglas Street, said she’s worked selling real estate. If a seller or agent knows of something that can affect the value, it has to be disclosed. Values could be affected, she said.

She said many residents in proposed zone moved there to remodel historic or classic homes.

“We don’t take kindly to being called blighted,” she said. “It’s still a stigma.”

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