Several Lee’s Summit council members flinched last week at the extent of subsidies being requested for the Summit Place shopping center.
“I like the project. I want it to go forward,” council member Derek Holland said. “However, when we see it in black and white, it gives me heartburn .... We’re taking the city into a whole new spectrum of incentives.”
Holland, Bob Johnson and Brian Whitley objected to certain costs being put onto taxpayers. David Mosby was absent at the March 6 meeting, so the five votes needed for approval weren’t available. The council tabled the matter until March 20.
Meanwhile, the city staff and developer are to discuss a smaller incentive package.
RED Development is asking for an $18.5 million subsidy for a $72 million shopping center near U.S. 50 and Interstate 470.
Whitley objected to the developer including costs for buildings in the tax-increment financing request. He said cutting that line item of about $1.78 million would allow him to support the project.
In all but one of the previous TIFs, the money was used for public infrastructure, said finance director Conrad Lamb.
The exception was the recently approved TIF for Price Chopper at U.S. 50 and Todd George Parkway, where the subsidy is paying for an oversized storm detention pond. But the pond was designed to stop flooding that was not related to the store’s construction.
The proposed Summit Place TIF is a departure because it’s asking for a subsidy of buildings for stores, for curbs and for other costs typically borne by developers.
Jeff Haney, vice president of RED Development, said his company had tried for several years to work out a plan for financing without a subsidy, but it wasn’t feasible.
The topography of the site, with a large drainage ditch that would need filling, was adding to the costs, he said.
Haney said reasons to approve the project included adding more shops that will support commerce in the U.S. 50/Interstate 470 corridor and adding about $1 million annually to the city’s revenue once the center is fully leased.
It would create 500 construction jobs and, when open, 500 retail jobs.
During last week’s hearing, Dave Kemp, who owns a deli in downtown Lee’s Summit, testified against more TIF subsidy in the same area as the SummitWoods Crossing shopping area.
“Are we trying to help Lee’s Summit grow as a whole, or trying to help Lee’s Summit grow only on one little edge of the city?” Kemp asked.
Rob Binney, Allan Gray, Ed Cockrell and Kathy Hofmann supported the project.
“I’d hate to see a hole in that crescent,” Gray said, referring to the center’s location near SummitWoods Crossing and Summit Fair shopping centers.
Hofmann said Summit Place would bring retailers that are new to Lee’s Summit. She said the council should approve it for the sales-tax revenue.
“We cry we have money problems,” Hofmann said. “Sometimes the only way to get the money is to invest the money.”