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Council OKs CID formation

The Excelsior Springs City Council voted 5-0 in a special session Monday night to approve the formation of a community improvement district (CID) for downtown Excelsior Springs.

The CID was proposed by the Downtown Excelsior Partnership to establish a dedicated source of funding for the organization through the implementation of a three-quarter-cent sales tax charged at all retail businesses in the downtown area.

The district’s southernmost boundary is on the north edge of Leavenworth Avenue, stretching northward along Dunbar Avenue but bypassing residential properties along Kansas City Avenue. It includes the former grocery store now being used as Living Word Church, and then  goes eastward past Kansas City Avenue—again skipping over residential properties on Concourse Avenue—before opening up to what many consider to be the downtown business district.

In that more concentrated area, the boundaries run along the north side of Isley Boulevard almost to Saratoga Avenue, then northward roughly parallel to Saratoga and encompassing all of Broadway westward almost to Kansas City Avenue. A northward spur includes a few commercially-zoned properties—including one that has been earmarked as a possible winery—but two apartment buildings, the Oaks Apartments and the Colony Plaza high-rise, were left out of the district.

The Elms Hotel and Spa, which not too long ago established its own CID, is also not inside the boundaries.

The council’s approval came following a public hearing featuring testimony from the attorney who handled the CID application, as well as several of the property and business owners who would be affected by the change.

Joe Lauber, of Lauber Municipal Law in Lee’s Summit, explained the CID process up to this point. He said the bulk of the work was done between October and July, and involved seeking petition signatures from more than 50 percent of the building owners downtown—both in terms of per capita and assessed valuation.

Thirty-nine signatures were needed; the petition gathered 45 signatures, or more than 58 percent of the property owners. In financial terms, the signatures were required to represent at least $946,000 in assessed valuation, and the 45 signatures submitted totaled about $1.2 million, or 66 percent of the total.

While there were some variations over the nine-month period for the petition due to changes in ownership and assessed valuation, each of those changes was included in a notice that was filed with the application and provided to all of the property owners, city officials and to anyone at Monday night’s hearing who wanted it. However, Lauber said there were no changes to the boundaries, as required by law.

Lauber further explained that the sales tax was chosen as the best one of three options for CID funding. The three-quarters of a cent would work out to 75 cents extra on a $100 purchase, and would be funded by shoppers in the downtown area. In contrast, property taxes or special assessments would be paid by the property owners, and still likely result in increased prices as those expenses were passed on to consumers.

The revenues from the tax would be used for attraction and retention of businesses, improvements to public space and operations of the DEP itself. The tax as currently proposed has a 20-year term; it can be perpetual but is at this time set up to require renewal after 20 years, if desired.

Lauber also pointed out that the city council was not being asked to reach a finding of blight for the downtown area; if such a finding were made, then some of the revenues could be spent on private property as well.

The tax is not automatic. Monday night’s action by the council approved the formation of the CID and the appointment of a board to oversee it, but the property owners must vote to actually implement the tax.

“When the ballots go out, who votes?” asked Councilwoman Sonya Morgan.

Lauber responded that no residents or tenant business owners would be allowed to vote; only those who own property may cast a ballot.

Jim Nelson, who currently owns a building but formerly had a business downtown—in addition to serving several terms on the council in the past—followed up Morgan’s question by asking if the votes were allocated according to the number of property owners, or the number of buildings owned.

“Say property owner A has one building, and property owner B has 25 buildings,” Nelson said. “Do they get one vote each?”

Lauber responded that each owner gets one vote, regardless of how much property he or she owns.

In response to a question from Mayor Ambrose Buckman, Lauber also explained that if DEP were to dissolve before the 20 years is up, there are a few options the city can pursue.

“There can be a succession plan, where another organization takes over,” Lauber said. “Or, as long as the CID takes care of all financial obligations, then the city could take action to abolish the CID.”

For more on this story, see the print edition or e-edition of the Friday, Aug. 16, Standard.

By Eric Copeland • eric@leaderpress.com

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