Thursday, February 23, 2017

Baldwin City Council Discusses Neighborhood Revitalization Program, Rejects New Setback Proposal

Kevin Surbaugh

The Baldwin City council had a lively discussion about the proposed Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) at it's regular meeting  Tuesday February 21, 2017.  Community Development Director, Ed Courton told the council that, it would create a district covering  all of the city limits, excluding governmental or other tax exempt properties. "If they don't pay taxes, they don't need to be part of the program."

  • The plan would Rebate 100 percent of the property tax value of new residential, industrial and commercial construction for five years and allow sliding-scale rebates for the next five years.
  • It would also offer a rebate of five-years at 100 percent on increases in property value from improvements to existing homes, businesses or industrial buildings that add more than 10 percent to a property’s appraised value.
  • In addition it would offer a ten-year rebate at 95 percent for projects with affordable housing or historic building designations.

  • Hank Booth briefly told the council that he taken copies of the proposed plan to the home show in Lawrence, the previous weekend.  He said that there was a loot of interest from the builders and developers, who were at the show.
    Council-Member Kathy Gerstner expressed concern of the five-year sliding scale. She felt that a total of ten-years of no or reduced taxes, was to long. She would like to see the ordinance amended to just five-years.
    Mayor Marilyn Pearse concurred with Gerstner's thoughts.  Courton said there was language that the council could cancel the program if it wasn't successful. Council-Member Steve Bauer felt they would be just catching up if the program was scaled back. The idea, Bauer explained, is to get more rooftops to get more taxes. It will take a while, but eventually there will be more tax revenue.
    The idea of the committee is that, what the city is doing now isn't working, Council-Member Brown said. "We need to do something more drastic," Brown continued, "other communities in the area are doing this. We know the results won't be immediate, but we will see results in the long-term."
     The plan isn't costing the city anything, Mayor Pearse said, the city isn't laying out any cash. The city won't collect any increased taxes for few years, but the new residents will be paying for city utilities and services.
    Dave Hill, Economic Development Corporation, believes five-years is very adequate. He would love to see the tax base spread out.
    The council also finished up discussion from the last meeting on ordinance 1362 regarding zoning regulations and the setback of homes.  Gerstner and Simmons both voiced concern about the properties about the properties not being uniformed. Simmons said he had no problem in new developments, but not in existing developments.  Gerstner likewise said she would not want a new house next door to her that would be ten-feet in-front of her.The ordinance was unanimously rejected.
    In Other Business:

  • Unanimously approved Ordinance 1360 amending the cities fireworks ordinance.
    Council-Member David Simmons voiced concern about language restricting personal displays during permitted displays.  The motion was amended to strike the word during and replace it with "within.".
  • Unanimously approved 1361 amending the special events ordinance. 
  • Heard first reading of ordinance 1363 to set requirements for filing for city elections to a $20 filing fee or collecting 20 signatures of registered voters within the city limits. 
  • Unanimously approved a facade grant application for 723 8th Street, the future home of the new Edward Jones office.

    1. Let’s take a journal along the “Money Trail” and see who we encounter with their hands out along the path……

      Who really “lines their pockets” from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program? Certainly its not current and future taxpayers, voters, and property-owners.

      Imagine a new home development being built with 25 new houses and tax abatements for 10 years. Or an “old school building” renovated for low-income tenants with 10 years of paying no property taxes. (What was the trade-off on that cheap purchase of the old school’s gymnasium?) Or how about a retail mall along the highway with 10 years of property tax relief. Who then pays for the street and curb repair in those 10 years? Who pays for the snow plowing? Or the repairs to the water lines or electric service? Who pays for the new public park in the housing development? NOT the new property owners. They get 10 years of no property taxes. It’s the current taxpayers and property owners whose money will pay for these repairs and improvements from tax money that should go to their own neighborhoods and streets. Your tax dollars intended for your neighborhood upkeep and services now gets spread around to cover those new neighborhoods where those homeowners and property owner pay NO property taxes for 10 years. Either property taxes are raised to cover these costs from current property tax payers or your neighborhood has less money for upkeep and improvements.

      This sure is a winning deal for Baldwin City's citizens.

      But wait……… we’re on the Money Trail…….. so who is really pocketing the money ins this deal?

      Think mortgage bankers, title companies, home inspections services, HVAC companies……… Starting to see a slightly unethical picture being painted here? Who does Hank Booth REALLY work for? Surely not all of the citizens of Baldwin City.

      And if you thought your city government was looking out for you……… Remember they took $15,000 out of the advertising/marketing fund of the utility department to help pay ½ of Mr. Booth’s salary at a “privately” owned and managed Baldwin City Economic Development Corporation. So, the city is using Baldwin City utility dollars collected from ratepayers to screw its own citizens. Higher electric bills anyone?

      1. Thanks for your comments, the final version which was passed this past Tuesday, was a duration of 5 years rather then 10.

    2. Is Community Development Director, Ed Courton the only responsible, reasonable, ethical, future-seeing employee that this city has? And no ones seems to listen to him because it won't "line their pockets"......I suppose.

    3. Imagine also, the first time Developer A gets a NRP tax abatement, and then on second thought Developer B does not..... Let all the taxpayers pay for this court battle.....

    4. Not sure I feel as strongly as Ms. Tarp, but I'm not the biggest fan of this measure. I agree something needs to be done to increase the number of homes available in Baldwin. I believe a scaled back duration and a discussion of the concerns of addition infrastructure cost would help. There should also be a set of parameters for sunset of the program. I'm also concerned that we already have some unoccupied commercial properties along 56 and this program would encourage building another instead of occupancy of existing vacant properties.

    5. Thanks for your comments, the final version which was passed this past Tuesday, was a duration of 5 years rather then 10.

    6. Since the city clerk won't publish "how" each council member voted, can you please begin to publish your articles with the vote tallies? Who voted how is important to voters and property owners on all issues. How did each council member vote on the NRP ordinance? Thanks

      1. I generally do, if the votes aren't unanimous. Generally I will say the vote was say, 4-1 with so and so voting nay. I don't list all the votes the other way, since it is understood everyone else voted the other way.

    7. This is somewhat misleading, Kevin. After Councilman Steve Bauer may have received a sweat heart deal in buying the old school gymnasium from a desparate, cash-starved developer, he then led the committee to write this ordinance which has a 10 or 15 year, 95% sliding scale tax abatement because of low income housing in the remaining school property. Estimated to cost city government (and Baldwin City citizens) up to $350,000 in property taxes.

      This means current property owners and taxpayers will fork over their property taxes for 15 years to repair the streets, water lines, electric cabling, and winter snow plowing, etc. for this developer's privately owned, money-making property where all the profits go to out of town investors.

      When there is little to no funding for your neighborhood's upkeep and improvements, taxpayers should hear that "big sucking sound" of their property tax dollars being funneled to abated property tax developers living far from our city.

    8. Gabe. One big problem in Baldwin is the severe lack of high quality, upper scale housing and neighborhoods that attracts higher income, higher property tax appraisal buyers. Higher income residents pay higher property taxes. Baldwin as a city also doesn't offer city services that attract these quality buyers / homeowners.

      There is no "vision" or urban planning of any worth happening with city leaders. Most city governemet action is aimed at benefiting one local banker and his cohort of business pals to the detriment of the city as a whole.


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