Group Files Suit To Force Public Vote On Downtown Convention Hotel Deal

Dec 15, 2015

In this rendering the proposed hotel is shown to the right of the Power and Light Building behind the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Credit Hyatt Hotels

Citizens for Responsible Government, the organization that collected petition signatures to send financing plans for a downtown Kansas City convention hotel has filed suit attempting to force the City Council to put their initiative on a ballot.

The group collected sufficient signatures but the City Council voted to not honor the petition drive.  The refusal was based on a legal position that the ballot measure violates the Missouri Constitution and state statutes. Kansas City officials asserted that the measure would take away the TIF approval power granted it under the Constitution and force the City Council to void already signed binding agreements.

Dan Coffey, spokesman for CFRG said Monday that his group does not oppose the construction of the $311 million hotel – as long as it is financed privately. 

Coffey said what CFRG opposes is large tax breaks for developers with projects in already thriving areas.  He said more than 50 percent of the money for the hotel is to come from the taxpayers in some form including surrendering of property tax revenues and gifts of parcels of land.

Coffey says his group denies that allowing a public vote takes away any power from the council and questions the city's assertion that agreements made so far are 100 percent binding.

The basis of the group's motion in Jackson County Circuit Court, he said, is the that the council is violating the City Charter.   “If you read the charter,” he said, “They only have two options: accept it – make it a law – or put it on the ballot.”

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or at steveb@kcur.org