Northeast Joco

Prairie Village raises age for buying tobacco to 21

Prairie Village is the sixth city in the Kansas City area to raise the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

The city council voted unanimously at its Monday meeting to adopt an ordinance inspired by Tobacco 21, a campaign seeking to get the age limit for tobacco products raised in cities across the country to 21.

The ordinance will amend the legal age required to buy cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, pipes, rolling papers and other tobacco products. The ordinance does not make possession or consumption of cigarette products illegal for people between ages 18 to 20.

Mayor Laura Wassmer and the council identified Tobacco 21 as a priority after reviewing research from Healthy KC. The Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education also passed a resolution supporting the initiative and requesting constituent cities pass the measure.

By focusing on restricting sales to those under 21, the city would be taking aim at preventing the development of a lifelong habit. Ninety-five percent of adult smokers say they began smoking before they turned 21.

There are eight licensed cigarette retailers in Prairie Village that will be affected by the new age restriction, which will take effect after the ordinance is signed by Mayor Wassmer and published publicly. The mayor was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Kansas City, Independence, Olathe, Gladstone and Kansas City, Kan. have raised the tobacco purchase age. Merriam and Mission have declined to take action on the issue while Roeland Park is still considering the initiative. Nationwide, 131 cities in nine states have enacted Tobacco 21 ordinances.

In other business, the council reviewed a draft of the agreement and timeline for the 80-acre Meadowbrook Park development. Target completion dates, infrastructure work, storm water improvements, mass grading and excavation and bidding processes are some of the details outlined in the agreement between the city and developer VanTrust Real Estate.

City Attorney Catherine Logan described the proposed timeline as aggressive.

“On April 4, it’s anticipated that the agreement will be approved by the city council and executed by both parties,” she said.

Following the expected approval of the agreement April 4, Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft and VanTrust will approve deadlines for final bid packages April 13. The tax increment financing or TIF pricing will be developed by April 18.

TIF allows a city to divert some or all increases in property or sales taxes within a certain area to help offset the costs of a development in that area. They usually last 20 years. In this case, the TIF is being used by the city to purchase a big part of the development for the park land.

State law gives counties and school districts the right to veto TIFs as they stand to lose that added revenue until the tax subsidy expires.

The Shawnee Mission School District’s threat to veto the TIF last year was still fresh on the minds of the council. Ultimately the district agreed to allow the financing arrangement, but they are drafting a policy that calls for the board to evaluate each TIF proposal for whether it would create long-term harm to the district’s tax base.

The district says the greater scrutiny is necessary because TIF projects involving residential areas are plentiful in northeast Johnson County and often generate additional students for the district but no additional revenue to pay for them. It would also favor proposals that lessen the TIF’s effect on the district, have built-in endings, rely on diverting sales taxes rather than property taxes, affect only a portion of the property tax, or agree that excess tax revenue collected is used to retire the TIF early.

City Administrator Quinn Bennion received approval from the council to draft a letter to the district officials about the city’s concerns with the district’s additional TIF scrutiny.

“TIF is not the enemy of school funding. The state block grant is the enemy of school funding,” Bennion said. “I think it’s unfortunate that so much attention is being put on TIF when really it’s the school funding formula that should be talked about.”

The Meadowbrook development calls for senior housing, luxury apartments, single-family homes and a hotel on the southern part of the 132-acre property, which was formerly a golf and country club. Part of the area would be bought by Prairie Village and turned over to the county park district to maintain. Upon the tentative 2018 completion date, the park would be the largest in that part of the county and would be larger than Loose Park in Kansas City.