TIF tiffs

May 3, 2013 

It’s good to know our economic development struggles aren’t just that of recent tradition.

Back on May 3, 2001, our Lee’s Summit City Council just squeezed in a “yes” vote for the Summit Woods Tax Increment Financing plan, one that, without a doubt, has to be seen as a huge victory for this town and development.

I vaguely remember this vote and discussion as I was on the news team over at a newspaper just north of Lee’s Summit.

I also remember being largely jealous of the development that quickly filled in at 50 Highway and Chipman Road – Best Buy, Dick’s, restaurants – Lee’s Summit had certainly swung for the fences on this one.

But not all the council, at the time, viewed it that way.

Current City Councilman Bob Johnson voted no on that TIF, as did recently term-limited Councilman Joe Spallo and Dan Pack.

Fortunately, we had five at that time that saw the forest for the trees, including Ron Williams, James Freeman, Thomas Weir, Jim Hallam and our current mayor, who was representing District 2 at the time, Randy Rhoads.

And with that second reading and subsequent 5-3 vote on May 3, 2001, Summit Woods and a future successful TIF, had its blessing from Lee’s Summit.

At that moment, many surrounding communities, including Blue Springs with a somewhat barren Adams Dairy, and Independence, or TIF-Town as we called it, took notice.

And 12 years later, the TIF is done and full tax money, to the tune of $3 million, will start filtering in to Lee’s Summit and other jurisdictions.

We can look back and applaud those five city councilmen and the leaders on our TIF Commission, including current Councilman Ed Cockrell, for their decision and foresight on this matter.

However, we should also allow ourselves to shudder, just a bit, at how close this vote was. We hope that even a 4-4 tie would have been broken by then-Mayor Karen Messerli in favor of the TIF, just as she did for Red Development and Summit Fair many years later. But we can only speculate on that.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wonder “what if?” on this project because, again, the doers in Lee’s Summit got it done.

Summit Woods is a testimony to a successful project, cooperation between the city, school district, leaders and the business community.

We were recently reminded how controversial that decision was a dozen years ago as two of the original players, Johnson and Cockrell, traded mild jabs at a council meeting.

I always used to think that opinions and recollections tend to change over time. Memories fade.

Of course, that’s not the case here. Johnson still believes this would have happened with or without a TIF and Cockrell is sticking by his push to support it.

Either way, we cannot argue with the success of Summit Woods. I guess that’s really all we need to remember.

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John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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