Joco Opinion

Editorial: Leawood goes overboard on latest incentive

For years, private developers have been responsible for maintaining their properties in Leawood.

Now elected officials are on the verge of approving the city’s first community improvement district. The city appears ready to go overboard as it joins other municipalities that provide this kind of public incentive in the metropolitan area.

The plan before the city calls for an extra 1-cent sales tax at the Camelot Court shopping center at 119th Street and Roe Avenue. The tax would pay for exterior improvements such as landscaping, lighting, irrigation and signs. Those are normal costs of doing business, expected of any developer.

The council last week initially approved using public funds to pay for an estimated $8 million worth of upgrades for the $36 million redevelopment project. The owners had asked for slightly more than $10 million of public help.

The council’s approach is far more generous than the more reasonable recommendation by city administrator Scott Lambers. He had proposed $3.85 million in taxpayer-financed assistance. A final vote on the tax plan is expected next week.

That highly traveled corner of 119th and Roe in an affluent suburb has been a magnet for public subsidies.

Six years ago, Leawood officials approved a 1-cent sales tax as part of a transportation development district that paid for street and parking lot projects to help the Town Center Crossing center.

Now that Leawood seems destined to approve higher sales taxes through community improvement districts, the city likely will get more requests from developers in the future. That will mirror what’s happened in other local cities.