Community may be up for task to study development

rpulley@lsjournal.comNovember 1, 2013 

Lee’s Summit might use community task force to study commercial areas it wants to promote for development instead of spending money on consultants.

The city’s Community and Economic Development Committee is working on a game plan to jump-start development, either in green fields or in redevelopment.

The City Council wants to provide more good-paying jobs and increase the tax base, so it has directed the committee to work on a strategy for the city.

One approach is selecting high-potential commercial areas, study them to determine if an area is better suited for offices or industrial projects, and then the city could identify ways to encourage development by eliminating obstacles like inadequate infrastructure or offer incentives.

The committee, Oct. 30, considered a list of seven geographic areas to study, which included areas such as the Interstate 470 corridor or the U.S. 50 and Missouri 291 South intersection.

“We’re looking for a picture from the 50,000-foot level of what we want the city to look like 30 years from now,” said Chairman David Mosby.

Councilmember Rob Binney asked that study areas also note specific sites within the larger areas to make sure studies have sufficient detail.

The committee mostly discussed whether the city has resources for studies for each area.

Jim Devine, president of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, told the committee that when he worked as a private consultant, he’d charge $250,000 for one such study. The actual cost would depend on the size of the area and scope.

Councilmember Derek Holland said the city, which faces a possible $1.7 million deficit in its general fund next year, might not have money for a study next year. Binney said he thinks city staff and community members have the expertise to do the work.

Holland suggested that the instead of hiring a consulting firm, the city try an “all-star” task force from city staff, the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council and community members could undertake a study for one of the areas.

He suggested the area between Ward and Douglas roads, where the city is extending Tudor Road which will provide better access to vacant land. It could be a trial run to see how that method works out, Holland said.

Devine said a task force could include all the players a consultant would involve in a study.

A consultant would talk to city staff about the industry or jobs the city wants to attract, then compare sites and infrastructure for compatibility with those goals. Next, the consultant would go to commercial realtors and businesses in area with a proposed plan to ask if those professionals think it fits the marketplace. A task force could take the same steps, he said.

The committee asked Daren Fristoe, assistant city manager, to bring it a plan for a task force and to invite a consultant to its next meeting to talk about cost of proposed studies.

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