Summit Place decision might be delayed until after Lee’s Summit municipal elections

rpulley@lsjournal.comMarch 19, 2014 

The developer of Summit Place shopping center might seek a delay for controversial tax subsidy from Lee’s Summit until after municipal elections in April.

RED Development is seeking $18.5 million in city subsidies for its $72 million shopping center at 1301 NW Ward Road.

The council on March 6 continued public hearing and ordinances for the Summit Place shopping center until this week’s meeting March 20, because several members asked RED Development for a counter proposal to includes smaller tax subsidy.

Now the applicant could request further delay.

Mayor Randy Rhoads said that discussion began after the council’s vote because of the tight time frame for any negotiations and closeness to the election.

City Manager Steve Arbo said that the applicant hadn’t told the city if it will ask for more time (as of The Journal’s deadline).

The city council usually gives applicants at least one time extension, and frequently more, when the applicant requests it. But it is at the council’s decision.

Postponing the issue has political undertones.

With Councilman David Mosby absent from that meeting, there were not enough votes to approve the project. Several council members wanted to see it go forward, but wanted a smaller subsidy.

Delaying a vote puts the tax-increment financing beyond the reach of one council member who has soft opposition to it. However, it also brings into play new council members who could be wild cards.

Councilman Brian Whitley asked for RED to drop its subsidy request by $1.78 million going to buildings in the shopping center, although he said that he might accept a higher subsidy if the developer showed good reasons. Whitley would expect a lower amount than the $18.5 million in the first ask to secure his yes vote.

After the April 8 election, Whitley’s term expires and he continues to serve only a short time, long enough for the election to be certified and for a new member to be seated on the council. The same goes for Ed Cockrell or Kathy Hofmann, two council members who have voiced support for the current proposal.

So a delay removes an on-the-record no vote and brings the untested positions of the newly elected council members into play.

Councilman Derek Holland said he thinks the delay would be appropriate. Holland supports building the shopping center, but also questions the subsidy of some costs.

A drawback would be that three newcomers to the council will have to very quickly get up to speed on the complex issue. The TIF concept is relatively simple, but looking through multiple pages of figures and construction estimates and gauging if they’re accurate or reasonable is difficult task, Holland said.

But it’s important to have the incoming council consider the proposed TIF because the city is setting a new direction in the city’s use of tax-increment financing, Holland said, because so much of the money is for parts of the project traditionally paid for by developers.

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