Summit Place decision on hold by Lee’s Summit City Council

rpulley@lsjournal.comMarch 26, 2014 

A decision on tax subsidies for the $72 million Summit Place shopping center is delayed until after the municipal election.

With a council that’s closely split on supporting a proposed $18.5 million in subsidy through tax-increment financing and a community improvement district, RED Development asked to continue the public hearings.

The Lee’s Summit City Council agreed to their suggested date of May 15. In a letter to Mayor Randy Rhoads, Jeff Haney, executive vice president for RED, said, “We remain fully committed to Summit Place and look forward to working with you and the City Council to make Summit Place a reality.”

Haney reiterated the partnership between the city and RED had created $350 million of investment in Lee’s Summit, and its partner in the Summit Place project, Townsend Capital has invested $150 million, resulting in 4,500 jobs. Townsend Capital is developer of the Summit Technology Campus at Chipman and Ward roads.

Haney also outlined several advantages supporting the project has for the city.

He noted the proposal doesn’t require any initial investments or guarantees by the city, in fact RED Development has all the risk. Once the shopping center is operational, part of the revenue from newly created tax receipts would repay part of the development’s costs.

The developers project Summit Place would generate $1 million annually in sales-tax revenue for the city before the TIF expires and more afterward.

It would create 500 construction jobs and equivalent of 500 full-time jobs when open.

Regional storm water system and Ward Road would be improved.

RED’s predictions for SummitWoods Crossing were easily fulfilled by that project. It gave the city a big boost in sales-tax revenue that had flowed to other communities.

The level of public money going to the project, nevertheless, has caused some council members to hesitate.

Critics note that the net of sales tax will probably be smaller, with some sales being pulled from already established retail. They also question the purpose of some of the subsidy.

Some council members objected to spending on buildings in the development, and the overall amount of subsidy, saying they’d support the project at a lower amount of subsidy.

The council had tabled the issue once, to allow City Manager Steve Arbo to meet with developers to see if a cost share that was more palatable to council members could be worked out.

City Manager Steve Arbo said that was proving to be difficult. He supported the extension of time, saying staff and the developers intended to work diligently on a solution.

“I do think this project is worth of our efforts and endeavor,” Arbo said. He said Summit Place does “leverage” earlier investments in the interchanges and Pryor Road flyways and Ward Road.

The improvements to Ward Road, part of the TIF financing, would open another 100 acres for development, he said.

The decision will be in the hands a council with three new members following the election.

Council members who will no longer be voting on the issue, due to leaving office in April, took the opportunity to lay out their positions.

Brian Whitley said he recognizes RED Development had been a great partner with the city in past projects. He said the city’s TIF policies in the past had been ad hoc, but there was a tradition of using it for public infrastructure.

“I draw the line where we’re being asked to build buildings for folks,” Whitley said.

Kathy Hofmann said she also hopes the future council will decide on supporting the TIF.

“The people want this, we need to listen to the people,” Hofmann said.

Ed Cockrell said he was disappointed the council couldn’t move forward on the proposal offered by the developer.

The “economics” and “realities” of Lee’s Summit have changed and “those changes move policy some times,” Cockrell said.

The council also continued a public hearing on a revised proposal for luxury apartments in the New Longview subdivision, at that applicant’s request.

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