With a $2.4 billion redevelopment proposal in play, officials of Johnson County government and the Shawnee Mission School District must make a decision.
One choice is to pass the buck. In that case the Overland Park City Council gets to decide whether to divert up to a whopping $610 million from taxing entities and give it to the mixed-use project on the Brookridge Golf and Fitness site.
Preferably the county and school district will step in, be accountable to taxpayers and take a hard look at the developer’s request for taxpayer assistance.
The Overland Park council recently created a tax increment financing district that makes the project, northeast of Antioch Road and Interstate 435, eligible for public help. That move also legally gave the school district and Johnson County the right for a month to decide whether to veto the redevelopment district.
On Monday, County Manager Hannes Zacharias said he would await a request from the County Commission before spending much time looking at the issue.
As Zacharias said, the county typically “does not weigh in” on TIF requests, which allow developers to keep some of the increased tax revenues their projects create. Part of the reasoning is that a site about to be reused typically does not project much tax revenue for the county, city or schools. Putting something else on the site, such as a retail mall, likely will create more tax revenue.
The current golf course is producing far less tax receipts than the proposed office buildings, retail stores, hotels and a performance venue would generate, developers say.
But are they correct? With so much at stake, the county and the school district must look more deeply into the issue.