Kansas City Council Postpones Highly Anticipated Vote On Tax Incentive Reform

Sep 22, 2016

After weeks of public hearings, the Kansas City Council was expected to vote Thursday on a tax incentive reform package

But debate on the floor, which lasted nearly two hours, resulted in a hold on the vote. 

Over the last year, back and forth over how much of a tax break the city should give developers for local projects has been heated — triggered, in some part, by the failure of the BNIM project

For months, a committee headed by councilman Quinton Lucas has been working with various stakeholders to overhaul the city's tax incentive development policies. 

Lucas' proposal caps tax abatements the city can give a developer at 75 percent. Currently the city can abate 100 percent of the project.

There are exceptions to the cap, for certain projects, including developments in "distressed" parts of the city. 

Mayor pro-tem Scott Wagner asked for the hold on the vote, citing several objections to the ordinance. 

"To me, the three likely outcomes of this ordinance passing are either development will go away ... because no one wants to deal with the uncertainly that we create, secondly, if you do want to do something in Kansas City is to go through the Port Authority," Wagner said.  The Port Authority is a state entity, so it would not be bound by the ordinance.

"Finally, and I know this for a fact as we've had this happen in the Northland, development will just go to other communities around us."

A visibly frustrated Lucas said there was plenty of time before now to raise those issues. 

He argues that all stakeholders, including both developers and taxing jurisdictions have indicated support for the measure. 

Mayor Sly James also had some concerns about the language of the legislation, although he said he supports it as a whole. 

In the end, Lucas agreed to hold on a vote until Oct. 6. 

The council also voted to delay a vote on a request from the Intercontinental, the Plaza's iconic hotel, for 'blight' designation. 

Earlier this month, the owner of the hotel asked for the designation so they can establish a community improvement district, which would allow the hotel to create 1 percent a sales tax to help pay for renovations.

Despite objections from councilwoman Heather Hall, the council decided to postpone that vote for two weeks. 

The council did vote unanimously to approve the purchase of several parcels of land in the 18th and Vine District for $440,882.

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig