The carefully constructed web of public and private agreements holding the Meadowbrook development in Prairie Village together shows signs of fraying as some Shawnee Mission School District officials question whether they should veto a key financial part of the deal.
The tax increment financing district, recently endorsed by the Prairie Village City Council, came under question Monday by school board members concerned about the loss of future property tax revenue.
The school board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider whether to exercise its right to veto the tax district, a move that could scuttle a development that has been in the works for the past year. The meeting will be at the McEachen Administrative Center, 7235 Antioch Road.
Questions about tax increment financing emerged during the regular school board meeting Monday and during a meeting between Superintendent Jim Hinson and reporters today. In a tax increment financing district, future revenue increases from property or sales taxes are used to pay some of the cost of development. Cities can agree to TIF districts, but the school districts in the area and the county hold veto power because they also would lose the revenues.
Hinson told reporters the loss of that revenue would hit the district especially hard when it comes to capital costs such as band uniforms, technology, classroom furniture and building improvements. He noted during the school board meeting that the district is working on a set of guidelines for consideration with TIF districts, saying the district received four notices of new TIF districts in just the two days before the meeting.
He told reporters he had nothing against the project itself.
“From my perspective, the Meadowbrook development — that plan is a great plan. Will it draw additional students? Yes, which is great. Then the question becomes, who funds it?”
Hinson said that the county might consider whether it could just buy the land without a special district. “Why does it have to be publicly financed?” he said.
School board member Cindy Neighbor insisted during the most recent board meeting that county commissioners have told her the county does have the money in its budget to buy the park.
“The issue is, why would a school district buy a park, because that’s basically what we’re doing by giving the TIF on the park. I have no problem with the rest of the project, but I do have a problem with the park.”
However officials from the county and Prairie Village who made the presentation at the board meeting argued that a veto of the TIF would jeopardize the delicate financial setup that would enable a park and accompanying apartments, senior housing and single family homes at the former Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club.
The city’s purchase depends on the TIF and the county’s agreement to maintain the park in the future, they said. Putting the project off until the county park district could take action to buy it — which would take two or three years and voter approval — would not be acceptable to the private developers, said Prairie Village Mayor Laura Wassmer.
Jill Geller, director of the county park district, agreed.
“I think I need to talk to the commissioners you’re talking to,” she said. “We absolutely do not have that money in our budget.”
Meadowbrook is being developed through a partnership with the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, the city of Prairie Village and developers VanTrust Real Estate.
VanTrust plans to build a senior living facility, town homes, luxury apartments and single-family homes on about 44 acres of the 132-acre property.
Ideas for park
More than 250 residents turned out for an open house Tuesday on what a future Meadowbrook Park should offer.
Among their ideas: pickleball courts, disc golf, coffee shops, senior playgrounds, trails and open green space for Tai Chi. Many expressed hope that the new park would keep a lot of green space and walking and biking trails.
Carl Wisdom, an arborist from Roeland Park, was among those visitors. “To have this much green space in an already enclosed city, that part’s fantastic,” he said.
The area already has trees that look to be at least 40 years old, he said. “I bet you some of these trees were here when they built the golf course.”
In fact, Geller said, open space and trails were some of the uses most often mentioned to her.
The area is big enough for playgrounds for children, disc golf for college students and walking trails for adults, said Ruthie Anderson of Overland Park.
“We love the idea of having this close by because it offers something for everybody,” Anderson said.
Her sister, Debra Anderson of Prairie Village, said, “This is going to be a good thing for the neighborhood and young families,” adding that older residents might be attracted to the housing development that will be built on another part of the former country club.
Nathan and Lauren Lane of Prairie Village said the green space was of utmost importance.
“We’re just excited it’s not going to be completely developed,” Lauren Lane said. “Green space is one of the things that makes Prairie Village a nice place to live.”
The open house was just for the park part of the development. A map of the area showed the housing development on either side of three existing ponds, which are part of the storm water management for that area. Most of the park will be in the northern part of the development.
Within that northern area is a two-story clubhouse and 25-yard swimming pool that includes a diving board and shallow play area.
The future of those structures is still being decided, Geller said. Both date from 1974, although there have been improvements on them since.
The park district is evaluating future uses for both and the potential cost of improving them, she said. The 31,000-square-foot clubhouse is not wheelchair accessible, for instance.
An activity center is one possibility for the clubhouse, she said. The district has not yet decided whether a pool would be feasible.
Visitors at the open house were mostly positive and excited about the new park, Geller said.
However, at least one resident had concerns about the traffic flow that might result from a proposed entrance on 91st Street. That woman, who did not want to give her name, said she and homeowners along that street will be watching carefully any proposal that might increase traffic speed.
The meeting was the first in a series of steps for park planning. County park staff will take the suggestions and work out a more detailed plan to present to residents at another open house set for 3:30-7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Meadowbrook clubhouse.
The plan is to go to the Prairie Village City Council on Nov. 2.
Roxie Hammill: firstname.lastname@example.org