It took more than four hours, but the Overland Park City Council gave Brookridge developer Chris Curtin an incremental okay to move his plan forward.
Despite continued protest from the project’s closest neighbors, the council approved the boundaries of two special taxing districts after the lengthy public hearings Monday night. The districts pave the way to the developer to draw up project plans outlining how much will be asked from the money collected from future taxes in the area.
The council voted 8-3 to set the boundaries for a Sales Tax and Revenue, or STAR bonds, district, with members Paul Lyons, David White and Jim Kite voting against.
A 7-4 vote designated the same area as a Tax Increment Financing district. Kite, White, Fred Spears and Curt Skoog were the no votes. Council member John Skubal recused himself from both votes.
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Neighbors of the proposed $1.8 billion project at Interstate 435 and Antioch Road gave council members an earful at the meeting, objecting to tax-backed financing as well as the number of apartments and the effect on the school district. Some questioned whether the project would draw enough tourists to justify the STAR bond financing. Others likened the multi-story buildings and parking garages to setting a city down in the middle of a suburb.
Bob Miller noted that the developer, like other limited liability companies, does not pay Kansas income taxes.
“Brookridge redevelopment is not only wrong, it is immoral,” he said, because it asks taxpayers who have been against the project to pay development costs. “There is no reason for the taxpayers to make a rich man richer. Let him pay for the redevelopment of Brookridge on his own if he is so dedicated to the project.”
Monday’s meeting was the latest in a two-year effort by developer Curtin Property to turn the golf and country club into a mixed-use area with office, retail, hotel, apartments, a 3,500-seat performance venue, park area and nine-hole golf course. The city has already approved rezoning and is now considering whether to help the plan along with tax money.
The vote on the district boundaries does not commit the city to approving an eventual finance plan. In fact, the finance package is in the negotiating stages.
At an earlier meeting, city staff listed several potential sources of money for the development, including a $10 million up-front gift, $388 million pay-as-you-go tax increment financing, a $64.5 million community improvement district, $91 million in tourism-oriented STAR bonds and $1.2 billion private investment, as well as an exemption of construction materials from sales tax.
On questioning from the council, development lawyer John Petersen said the project as envisioned depends on STAR bonds and some amount of tax increment financing. But he said the developer is very open to negotiating the particulars.
Neighbors have been adamantly against the plan from the beginning and have showed up at each meeting to protest. More than 30 of them packed the council chambers Monday, and all 17 who spoke were against the proposal. Neighbor Charlotte O’Hara presented council members with a petition signed by 150 people against the project.
“There’s obviously open hostility towards this council,” said another neighbor, Wayne Smith. “The reason is we’re all pretty frustrated. We’ve been talking to you guys for two years, giving you excellent reasons why we didn’t want this, why it did not make economic sense.”
Several council members said the frustration is shared by those on the dais. They took issue with hints at improprieties and collusion made by Smith and other speakers.
Council Member Terry Goodman and others took offense at the implication that the council had something to gain financially from a yes vote. “I’m going to be blunt. Put up or shut up, because I don’t appreciate accusations like that,” said Goodman.
There are no smoke-filled rooms, said Skoog. “But this is the process. People have rights to do things with their property and make applications,” he said. “Our job is to protect the city the best that we can.”
He and others took pains to point out that their yes votes only set district boundaries and did not commit the city to a finance plan. Goodman said he would vote for the tax districts out of fairness to the developer. The two districts were established in 2014 but invalidated because the city did not notify the school district and county, as required by law. The developer shouldn’t lose the opportunity to discuss the plan because of a mistake made by the city, Goodman said.