Critics of incentives for a proposed $80 million development just south of Crown Center filed preliminary petitions Friday to challenge the plan.
More than 100 signatures were filed with the Kansas City clerk’s office. They are the start of a referendum challenge to a blight designation that the City Council approved last week.
The blight designation in the vicinity of 27th Street and McGee Trafficway makes a large mixed-use development eligible for property tax abatement.
This marks the second time that critics of tax incentives for Kansas City developments west of Troost Avenue have mounted a petition drive to overturn potential tax breaks. The last effort succeeded in derailing a new headquarters for the BNIM architecture firm at 1640 Baltimore Ave. in the Crossroads Arts District.
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If election authorities determine next week that the initial 100 signatures are valid, the petitioners would have another 30 days to collect about 3,300 more signatures calling for the City Council to reverse its decision, or for a local election to overturn the blight designation.
Charles Renner, attorney for the developer, said the site south of Crown Center has major development challenges that warrant some property tax break. But he said he and the developer have worked hard with the taxing jurisdictions and even the petitioners to try to address their concerns and limit the number of years of tax abatement and the level of those tax breaks.
Last week’s council vote designated an 18.4-acre area, generally between 27th and 30th streets and between Gillham Road and McGee TrafficwayStreet, as blighted and in need of redevelopment. The plan folds in two existing tax abatement planning areas that were authorized years ago for Union Hill and Crown Center into a single tax break area.
The $80 million plan calls for more than 400 residential units plus commercial space. It would be developed by Kansas City-based UC-B Properties and Indianapolis-based Milhaus, which has an expertise in neighborhood infill development.
City Council members said they were reluctant to declare an area so close to Crown Center as “blighted,” but they voted for the designation to keep a worthwhile project moving forward.
The amount of tax abatement has not yet been determined, and Renner previously had said it has the potential to produce $1 million over a period of years, through payments in lieu of taxes, to foster more East Side development.
But some critics, including the petitioners, maintain Kansas City has awarded too many tax breaks to prosperous areas, and the city should concentrate now on incentives to generate more East Side development.