Concerns from Lawrence residents have caused city commissioners to slow down on plans for retailers to create special sales tax districts in the city.
Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday evening were scheduled to receive their first application for a Community Improvement District, a new type of taxing district that would allow retailers to charge up to an extra 2 percent sales tax that could be used to fund private improvements.
Instead, commissioners deferred accepting the application until after they have a study session at 4 p.m. on Monday to further discuss the new districts.
“I’ll take as much blame as can be had in this matter,” Mayor Mike Amyx said. “I think there was a better opportunity to discuss this item. I think it is important to take a step back and explain this better.”
Commissioners last week gave approval to a policy that would allow the new taxing districts in Lawrence. But since then, commissioners have received multiple phone calls and e-mails citing concerns with the district.
Commissioner Mike Dever said people have asked him whether businesses in the taxing district could be required to post signs showing that they have a higher sales tax rate. Dever asked staff members to prepare a report on the feasibility of that idea.
A group of Mission-based developers had filed an application to create a Community Improvement District near 23rd and Ousdahl that would charge an extra 1 percent sales tax to help repair the building now occupied by Hobby Lobby, and the former sites of a Kwik Shop and Subway.
Commissioners were asked Tuesday to have an open mind about the new taxing districts, as some members of the development community said the new districts can help businesses get needed bank financing.
“Telling your bank that you will increase your prices will not get you a loan,” said Matt Gough, a Lawrence real estate attorney. “But the tax that comes with a Community Improvement District is something you can see and touch and collateralize. The reason this is important is because it can be a deal starter.”
In other city news, commissioners deferred a request by Louise’s Downtown to add a sidewalk hospitality area to its bar. The request would have required the city to rewrite the rules for when bars can have sidewalk seating areas. Commissioners instead asked staff members to prepare a more detailed report on the issue.