Lee’s Summit might abandon a proposed Enhanced Enterprise Zone and use a combination of other tax programs to provide incentives to attract jobs.
By doing so it could avoid calling residential areas blighted.
Keith Asel, chairman of the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Board, said that along with the enterprise zone, the board is also looking at the math of combining abatements through the local Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, the Missouri Quality Jobs Act and other state tax credits.
That might be a workable alternative to the current proposal, he said.
Asel said the city and Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council are committed to finding ways to attract more jobs to the city.
“We may have to turn over a few stones and get reaction from the public before we find the right tool for Lee’s Summit,” Asel said.
The advisory board has invited property owners to a public meeting at 6:15, May 23 in the City Council meeting chamber at City Hall 220 S.E. Green St. where residents can ask questions and give their opinions of the proposal for an enterprise zone.
He said the board wants to document those concerns and benefits and present them to the Lee’s Summit City Council, so council members can decide whether to pursue the enterprise zone.
Property owners in the large area of central Lee’s Summit the zone could cover are concerned that a legally-required blight designation would hurt property values.
It is an irregular shape, based on census blocks, that includes areas between Colbern Road, through downtown to Fifth Street. On the west it reaches to include John Knox Village and goes east to reach as far as Rice Road.
The reason the residential neighborhoods are being included is to meet requirements by Missouri for unemployment and income levels to create the zone, which are expected to change when the state updates data it is using. The city has a June deadline because it won’t meet the state’s updated requirement.
Many homeowners think designating their area as blighted will have a stigma that sticks and hurts property values.
“It makes a big portion of our town disposable,” said Linda Cawby, a homeowner in the area who opposes the zone. “It’s short sighted.”
Asel said the advisory board’s research into the zones so far in nearby cities shows that they’ve mostly attracted manufacturing jobs with lower wages.
Not the higher-salary, knowledge-based positions the City Council wants targeted.
The zone might not be worth the angst it’s creating, Asel said.
“Right now it’s a lot of homeowners fear,” Asel said. “There’s a lot of fear and frustration.”