Government & Politics

KC convention hotel challenge gathered enough signatures

New attempt to stop downtown hotel

Dan Coffey with Citizens for Responsible Government filed signature petitions to start a referendum process he hopes will put the city's investment in a downtown convention hotel up to a public vote.
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Dan Coffey with Citizens for Responsible Government filed signature petitions to start a referendum process he hopes will put the city's investment in a downtown convention hotel up to a public vote.

A group that wants to put Kansas City’s proposed downtown convention hotel to a public vote has gathered enough valid petition signatures under the city charter’s referendum provision.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean an election on the hotel project will be held.

The city clerk’s office confirmed Friday that Citizens for Responsible Government collected more than 4,000 valid signatures to challenge an ordinance the City Council passed April 20, relating to the hotel zoning and development agreement. Under the city charter’s referendum provisions, the group needed 3,417 valid signatures.

Dan Coffey, spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Government, said that means the April 20 ordinance should be put to a public vote in November. The hotel project is a public/private partnership, and Coffey’s group objects to the use of any taxpayer dollars for the $311 million development.

“People have said they want to vote on this. That’s the purpose of the whole thing,” Coffey said.

But there’s another option under the city charter. It involves a type of “repeal and replace” maneuver.

The charter’s referendum provision says that if sufficient referendum signatures are gathered, the City Council on its own can repeal the April 20 ordinance. That negates the need for an election. It remains to be seen whether the council will take that action.

If it does, hotel supporters have said repeal of the April 20 ordinance no longer halts the project. That’s because the City Council approved a different ordinance June 8 that provides the regulatory approvals to move the hotel project forward.

The June 8 ordinance authorized the zoning, development agreement and other final legal pieces of the project. It can’t be subjected to a referendum because it took effect immediately.

Michael Burke, who heads the development team for the Kansas City Convention Center hotel, talks about the planning process and what lies ahead.

The City Council is off next week but returns the week of June 26. City spokesman Chris Hernandez said the council will follow the charter guidelines on referendum petitions. It will have to decide whether to repeal the ordinance on its own or still call for an election.

If all goes as the developers hope, a groundbreaking on the 800-room Hyatt Hotel near Bartle Hall is expected in October. The hotel could open in late 2019 or early 2020.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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