Is OP City Council really going to offer tax breaks for car wash and storage facility?

The Star

What would you think if a planned luxury hotel near your home was suddenly transformed into a car wash — like Cinderella’s carriage into a pumpkin?

And what would you think of your local government contributing millions of dollars to it and a self-storage facility nearby?

That’s essentially what may happen with a proposed development in Overland Park at the intersection of Metcalf Avenue and Shawnee Mission Parkway, unless city officials put the brakes on it starting with a council committee meeting Wednesday night.

What was once a plan for a luxury four-story, 90-room hotel, retail buildings and a self-storage facility — to replace vacant, blighted motels on the northwest corner of the intersection — has now become just a proposed car wash, self-storage facility and tenuous talk of an office building with no known tenants as of yet.

Overland Park officials, on taxpayers’ behalf, agreed to $6 million in incentives for the original $39 million project. And while some of those incentives have been trimmed back, this is a completely different proposal today.

At its 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday, the Overland Park City Council’s Finance, Administration and Economic Development Committee will have to consider whether such a key gateway to the city is the best spot for a car wash and self-storage facility, if that’s the highest and best use of the land and what incentives are called for, if any.

Council members must also consider whether neighbors would truly trade a luxury hotel for a car wash.

There may be some value in having the Knights Inn and Ramada motels, once a haven for crime and debauchery, demolished and carted off. But at what cost to the city and the neighborhood?

It’s also understandable if demand for a luxury hotel at that location just wasn’t there. But if a self-storage facility really is the key to the project’s financing, as the developer’s attorney has said, then perhaps this is not the location for either a hotel or an office building.

Council members had better answer all these questions before agreeing to transfer ownership of the land to the car wash and storage facility owners.

They must also keep in mind, as should officials throughout Johnson County, what kind of impression their gateway roads make. Further south on Metcalf, at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center inside the iconic King Louie West bowling alley building, you’ll find artifacts of Overland Park life that longtime residents consider treasured memories.

There’s not a car wash or storage facility among them.