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Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Incentives review committee agrees to recommend tax rebate for Masonic Temple building

Stephen Maceli, owner of Maceli's, leads a tour through the Masonic Temple building Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Maceli is considering converting the historic building to host weddings and catered events.

Stephen Maceli, owner of Maceli's, leads a tour through the Masonic Temple building Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Maceli is considering converting the historic building to host weddings and catered events.

September 14, 2011

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A city advisory board is recommending that local governments provide a host of financial incentives to help a local development group remodel the long-vacant Masonic Temple building in downtown Lawrence.

The city’s Public Incentives Review Committee agreed to recommend that a development group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton receives a 10-year property tax rebate and also receives about $48,000 in city assistance with the installation of a fire sprinkler system and a handicapped-accessible ramp.

The development group is proposing to remodel the nearly 17,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1910 and has an Egyptian Revival-style facade, into a banquet venue for Lawrence caterer Steve Maceli.

“I think this project will be a big deal for downtown,” said Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, who also is a member of the incentives review board. “It isn’t creating a lot of jobs, but it is a building a lot of people see. I think this is a signature building for downtown.”

The incentives review committee recommended approval of the tax rebate on a 6-1 vote. City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who also is a member of the committee, voted against the proposal. He said he supported the project but thought a lesser tax rebate should be granted. The board is recommending a 10-year tax rebate that begins with a 95 percent rebate and declines 5 percent per year until it hits 50 percent in year 10. Schumm said he was more comfortable with a 10-year rebate that started at 75 percent and declined over time.

The developers had a sought a 15-year tax abatement, but city staff members recommended against that time frame.

In total, the approved incentives package will be worth about $330,000 to the development over 10 years. The project, though, is expected to produce about $660,000 in new revenue for local governments over the next 15 years. If approved, the tax rebates will come from the city, county and school district. The project would receive the rebate through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act. That act requires the developers to pay the full amount of taxes on the current value of the building, which is about $400,000. The development would get a rebate on the taxes paid on the expected $800,000 worth of improvements that will be made to the property.

Compton said that if the various governing bodies approve the request then he would like to have the renovation project completed by the spring.

In other news, the incentives committee also recommended a 65 percent, 10-year tax abatement for a project that would allow Lawrence-based Grandstand Sportswear & Glassware to move into the former Sauer-Danfoss building at the East Hills Business Park. The company, which currently is located in the former Honeywell avionics building near 31st Street and Haskell Avenue, expects to add 83 jobs over the next 10 years as it grows its business of making custom glassware for the microbrewing industry.

City commissioners are expected to consider approving that tax abatement at their Sept. 20 meeting.

Comments

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

What a surprise! Free sprinklers and and no taxes for the Commission Corporate Cronies.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

Chad could have broke this story a couple of months ago, if he could have been bothered to ask ...

Sigmund (anonymous) says… "How much in Corporate Welfare does Mr. Compton want so he can develop the empty Masonic Temple now that he has tax subsidized fire sprinklers? Will he be asking this Commission for taxpayer dollars and abatement, or does he think he will wait to see if yet another Commissioner with investments in downtown can be elected to improve his odds? At what point will the Commission decide Mr. Compton behavior is "demolition by neglect" and begin issuing citations and imposing fines?" "Town Talk: Downtown roundtable event planned for Monday, questions sought for downtown leader," By Chad Lawhorn, July 15, 2011

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/jul/15/town-talk-downtown-roundtable-event-planned-monday/#c1689377

Chad Lawhorn 3 years, 3 months ago

Just to be clear, we did report months ago ( in April) what incentives the project was seeking. The new information in today's article is the recommendation the Public Incentives Review Committee has made.

Thanks, Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

"City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who also is a member of the committee, voted against the proposal. He said he supported the project but thought a lesser tax rebate should be granted."

You know it is bad when Commissioner Schumm, who is no stranger to reaching into the tax payer pockets and piles it high to the sky (just like Buffalo Bob's greasy fries), is embarrassed by the amount that he votes against it.

Here are the private businesses who got corporate welfare for their fire sprinklers:

Tellers, 746 Mass: George Paley Lawrence Masonic Temple, 1001 Mass: Consolidated Properties, aka Doug Compton Buffalo Bob's, 719 Mass: Bob Schumm Goldmakers, Peter Zacharias The Bayleaf, 725 Mass: Anne Yetman The Casbah, 803 Mass, David Millstein Hobbs, 700 Mass, Mark Swanson Silverworks and More, James & Cara Connelly

Recently there was $300,000 reduction in what the city spends each year to replace aging fire equipment despite the infrastructure sales tax voters approved in 2008 and the city agreed to spend about $500,000 of sales tax money each year to purchase new fire equipment. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/jul...

Does the recent cut to the fire protection in the City of Lawrence, in spite of the the clear intention of the voters and promises of the Commissioners, concern Commissioner Schumm or Mr. Compton less because the tax payers paid for their private fire sprinkler systems?

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

When will the citizen's of Lawrence wake up to the fact that much of the "budget shortfalls" are in large part the result of Corporate Welfare for Commission Corporate Cronies and not that sales taxes, real estate taxes, utility rates, franchise taxes, etc are too low and need to be raised?

lunacydetector 3 years, 3 months ago

i wonder if food tastes different in a mausoleum.

jeromepichette 3 years, 3 months ago

If Doug Compton is such a smart business man why is he always asking for city monies to help him make his projects a success.? It is time for the city (and county) to make these developers use their own money and not the taxpayers of the city and county.

Cindy Wallace 3 years, 3 months ago

"If Doug Compton is such a smart business man, why is he always asking.....?" The answer is simple.....it is just, THAT....he asks and he GETS....pretty smart business man in my books. It never hurts to ask.....our commissioners just have a problem saying "NO"!

OutlawJHawk 3 years, 3 months ago

pichette--that is exactly what makes him a smart businessman...getting taxed less and getting free money for renovations. Wow.

John Hamm 3 years, 3 months ago

No surprise but this is absurd. Hey! Goofballs at City Hall this is OUR money your throwing away NOT yours.

John Hamm 3 years, 3 months ago

No surprise but this is absurd. Hey! Goofballs at City Hall this is OUR money your throwing away NOT yours.

BruceWayne 3 years, 3 months ago

How about an update on the football player that lost his arm to a Zebra?

ljwhirled 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree. I want to know more about the Zebra. LJWorld promised to follow up.

Why did the zebra attack? Who's property was the zebra on? Are zebra's black and white and red all over?

Something is fishy about the zebra story. I see a cover up.

mysterytrain 3 years, 3 months ago

If Compton's rents weren't so high downtown we'd have more businesses in some of the continually empty storefronts. I commend Schumm for voting no. Compton is one who needs no help and has really done nothing for our downtown except drive out local business owners with his high rents. And what about those freebie parking spaces in the parking garage he was looking for from the city for his tenants at his monstrosity of a building on 9th?

snitty 3 years, 3 months ago

Full agreement with this statement.

Bob Forer 3 years, 3 months ago

Despite the wide-ranging dislike of Compton, there are always plenty of Sycophants ready and willing to kiss his rich butt in the hope that some of the cash may find its way to them. .

BruceWayne 3 years, 3 months ago

"I couldn't raise a family in this town if I was hated as much as Doug Compton is." And that is why his wife resides in Florida most of the time. Keep in mind, he does not live in this town. Doug lives in the county, and this is why he is allowed to raise flesh eating zebras.

somedude20 3 years, 3 months ago

I do not like this!!! The rent is too damn high!!! Why does the human body dislike corn and peanuts so much? I grow tied of able bodied people who can work asking for and getting handouts from our pockets. I like hot pockets though, they sure is tasty

Joe Hyde 3 years, 3 months ago

It's cool that a local development group wants to remodel this building and outfit it with a fire sprinkler system. However, if the group lacks sufficient funds then why don't they go to a local bank and apply for an ordinary business loan that will cover however much is needed to complete the project?

Has the group even tried this conventional approach?

ljwhirled 3 years, 3 months ago

I am sure they have financing. They can make more money, however, if the taxpayers subsidize their project.

Shane Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

Developers with money have no were to put it except into realestate, which is in a depressed market. They are taking a risk that in the future their investment will pay out. So why are they asking for free money? I am in agreement with riverat, go get a loan.

JustNoticed 3 years, 3 months ago

Where can I find Doug today? I want to get in line to kiss his ass.

irvan moore 3 years, 3 months ago

gaughan is a disaster as a county commissioner, he has no respect for the taxpayers and makes it very clear every time he votes.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

riverat (Joe Hyde) says… "Has the group even tried this conventional approach?"

Further, if the current owners of the building do not have the resources to develop this property why don't they sell it to someone who does have the private resources to develop the property? Or why not donate/sell this to the local theater (or theatre) group who is also begging for taxpayer dollars?

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

riverat (Joe Hyde) says…"However, if the group lacks sufficient funds then why don't they go to a local bank and apply for an ordinary business loan that will cover however much is needed to complete the project?"

The answer to the question is obvious. Why take out a loan when Compton's Commission Cronies will simply give you taxpayer dollars for free? Money that was raised by increased taxes should be spent on local fire/police/streets/parks free for the asking.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

clawhorn (Chad Lawhorn) replies… "Just to be clear, we did report months ago ( in April) what incentives the project was seeking."

Sorry Chad, I missed your PR release for Compton. It was mixed in with the news and reporting and I just missed it.

Chad Lawhorn 3 years, 3 months ago

Apology accepted. I know a fair-minded individual like yourself meant nothing by it. Thanks, Chad

Kat Christian 3 years, 3 months ago

I think the City says YES to Compton cause these people don't want to get on his bad side. Afterall they have to keep up their image so they can be invited to all those social events Compton hosts. Its political clout. But I agree Compton should go to the Bank just like small businesses do and apply for a loan. Read between the lines here folks, he is just buying up Lawrence to own us and he's almost there that is why he gets what he wants. Far as I'm concerned he's just another greedy man. Wonder just how much he puts back into Lawrence. How much of his money actually goes to help non-profits organizations in Lawrence? How much of his money helps the school district? All I see is him take, take, taking and not giving enough. If he call building more buildings giving he's sadly mistaken.

1southernjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Don't get me wrong; I'm not in favor of this at all. I think our local government is out of line in helping businesses that compete with other existing business by handing out money. For me, it started with Eagle Bend golf course. As far as what he puts back into Lawrence, my guess is north of $300,000 a year in property taxes alone without considering donations to numerous other causes and programs. How many of you whiners can say that? I thought so.

Kat Christian 3 years, 3 months ago

P.S. We don't need another Party House downtown, not if its taking away from our taxpayers.

fivedollarmc 3 years, 3 months ago

Why is it that someone can buy property, knowing fully well what it needs, sit on it for years until it becomes an eyesore and then can ask the city for money after the fact? This makes no sense.

Will the city allow me to let my house go into disrepair and then give me tax incentives to fix it back up, because it brings up the value of surrounding houses in my neighborhood?

Sure, this will bring in sales tax dollars to downtown, but there are other businesses doing catering events downtown and as far as I know they didn't get handouts from the city.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 3 months ago

I am all for giving Compton the money and more of it. We gave the transit people a new bus barn and a 1% sales tax, (Welfare), we have a new 18 million dollar library for the vagrents, (Welfare), a new city and county funded playhouse for another less than 1% of the population (Welfare), all the non-profits like the LAC, van-go, etc, funded by the city which are other forms of welfare. As far as a level playing field, they owe Compton more and should cut a check to every one downtown that has put in sprinklers. Pay for one, then the taxpayer should pay for all.

It does not suprise me that all you that are for spend tax dollars on your pet projects whine and moan when someone else gets a hand full of taxpayer cash for their personal projects.

Get off your arse and get a freeking job. No where does it say the taxpayer has to fund your item of choice.

Pastor_Bedtime 3 years, 3 months ago

I thought we were going to get some protection from panhandlers downtown.

blindrabbit 3 years, 3 months ago

Sigmund in your 1:35 A.M. post regarding the "Sprinkler Benefit Set". Isn't it ironic that at least 50% of the owners listed are assumed to have benefited also from lax drug laws and enforcement in Lawrence during the 1960's- 70's when their businesses and real estates were purchased. I wont venture to name names, but most people already know; BTY as far as I know, Compton was not part of that group!

mysterytrain 3 years, 3 months ago

Informed: it's not a wood building, so that wouldn't work this time, at least on the outside. Excellent point though.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

clawhorn (Chad Lawhorn) replies… "Apology accepted. I know a fair-minded individual like yourself meant nothing by it."

Actually I meant to imply that you are little more than a PR hack for Downtown Lawrence interests and their Commission Cronies who use tax payer dollars as their personal Corporate Welfare to further their private interests, but maybe my criticism has been too subtle.

Did I also miss the PR release that answered the following questions?

  1. Why do you always talk about "Our Downtown" when you need tax payer dollars for your businesses, yet the taxpayers never see our share of downtown profits from your "privately owned" businesses?

  2. Just how much equity did the average downtown landowners cash out with new loans when the economy was good and interest rates were low, and just how far underwater are they now? Which local bank do you think has the most exposure to bad loans downtown?

  3. How many shoppers, and how many dollars, do you think the EmpTy brings to downtown Lawrence? Would you oppose a more rational routes for the EmpTy if that meant fewer buses used downtown as a hub?

  4. For Commissioner Schumm, you recently gave the City Staff raises for their invaluable service, so why after this excellent staff recommends the Olive Garden project do you oppose it? Is it because you own a downtown restaurant and don't want the competition or is it because you own downtown commercial property and oppose anything that draws traffic to the South Iowa shopping district?

  5. Are Commissioner Schumm and Mr. Compton less concerned about the cut in the fire department budget to fund his private businesses because they both have taxpayer funded sprinklers protecting their private property?

Finally, next time you talk with Doug, could you ask him to send the taxpayers a nice thank you for the $330,000 gift. It would be a small effort and it would mean so much to all the little people here in Lawrence who are propping up business.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

I suspect that a thriving business in that location will generate more revenue for the city than the cost of the abatement. And I suspect it was based upon that assumption that this decision was made. Is it the correct assumption, time will tell. I've always advocated for an independent analysis being conducted with the city's best interests being considered as the first priority. Hopefully, that was done and we can look forward to a win/win situation.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 3 months ago

"The city’s Public Incentives Review Committee agreed to recommend that a development group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton receives a 10-year property tax rebate and also receives about $48,000 in city assistance with the installation of a fire sprinkler system and a handicapped-accessible ramp."

Here we go again. Developers request tax breaks as part of their routine. We should break the corporate welfare cycle. Especially now, when our tax base is weak.

BTW, Cant_Have_it, the other recipients are non-profit organizations or local government. They did not request tax breaks. Doug Compton plans and should plan to make a profit.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

jhawkinsf (anonymous) says… "I suspect that a thriving business in that location will generate more revenue for the city than the cost of the abatement."

Compared to what and based upon what? Doug Compton has been wrong on the Masonic Temple investment for the past decade or so, but tax dollars will make it profitable? How many of the Commission Cronies are we going to bail out of bad Downtown Lawrence investments? If he can't make a profit without tax breaks he needs to sell it to someone who can, even if he needs to sell it for a loss.

hear_me (anonymous) says… "Doug Compton plans and should plan to make a profit."

Based upon what, blue skies, smoke and mirrors? If the Masonic Temple project is going to be profitable he doesn't need tax payer Corporate Welfare, he can go to the Bank and get a loan and put up his own security. Any business is going to be more profitable if the Commission simply waives taxes, so why not do it for everyone?

Carol Bowen 3 years, 3 months ago

That's my point. We expect him to make a profit. He should not need our help. We agree.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

Let's put the Compton hating aside for a moment. I've never met the man so I have no interest one way or the other. Compared to what is your question. Let's look at that property. It's currently valued at a certain amount and I assume the owner is paying that amount. If the property goes undeveloped, he will continue paying that amount. Just for the sake of argument, suppose that amount is one dollar. If the property is developed and he receives no abatement, the amount owned on the improved property will be two dollars, so the city is foregoing a dollar for the benefit of having an improved property in the most valued part of town. But with the abatement, the owner will continue to pay the one dollar and the city gets the improvement. The question is, do we want to risk having an unimproved property? Remember, the city gets the dollar either way, so we're not really losing, we're exchanging the hope of an additional dollar for the benefit of the improvement. Simply yelling corporate welfare or yelling Doug Compton isn't sufficient reason for the city to decline the offer of an improved property, just because it might also help a corporation or a disliked individual.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

If the Masonic Temple had been owned by anyone other than Doug Compton over the last decade the Lawrence City Commission would have been cited the property for numerous code violations and discussed demolition by neglect of the property. Instead the Commission opens up the coffers and buys him fire sprinklers and waives $330,000 in taxes.

Do you also notice that Chad's articles almost never cites anyone who opposes these gifts, Corporate Welfare, and special favors when it comes to the Commission Cronies or his favored projects? It is as if there is absolutely no opposition and everyone agrees. Can't wait for Chad's next article touting new taxes as the Commission threatens there will be draconian cuts to fire, police, streets, sidewalks (except those downtown), and basic infrastructure.

kansasredlegs 3 years, 3 months ago

County Commissioner Gaughan has not met a tax increase or welfare give away that he would not support. Both he and Thellman have to go. Compton is an experienced real estate developer. You know he paid cash and got a discounted price because he would have to bring it up to code. So, Mr. Gaughan what this means, in case you can't follow the bouncing ball, is that Mr. Compton "received" the sprinkler money when purchased, so congratulations Mr. Gaughan, the developer gets a cheaper purchase price and wins the lottery because you don't have the sense of a Missouri mule to recognize when you are getting played. Compton & Boys are smoking fatties (cigars of course) laughing at you. Wake up and stop recommending the give away off our tax dollars.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

jhawkinsf (anonymous) replies… "Let's put the Compton hating aside for a moment. I've never met the man so I have no interest one way or the other."

I've never met the man either but I am sure he is a sweetheart of a guy! After all, look at all the friends he has in City and County Government and I can't remember any recent negative articles by Chad Lawhorn of him in the LJWorld. The fact that his companies advertize in the paper, which desperately needs revenues, I am sure has nothing to do with that. Just as I am sure the reason there are never any negative articles on real estate agents or car dealers who also provide the World Company with significant ad revenues is because they are all great people and and not because without those revenues they might have to cut their payroll.

The fact that Doug Compton has fallen on hard times I am sure tugs on the heart strings of everyone. So I can see why all his friends at the City and at the World Company want to help him out, even if that means we cut fire protection to the entire city and our streets and sidewalks (except for those that lead downtown) will have to go without repair for a couple of years just so we can help Doug out with his fire sprinklers and taxes.

So if a great guy like Doug Compton is having problems with the high taxes downtown, might there be others who are also struggling as well? Shouldn't we also be helping out not only those downtown but all over Lawrence by also forgiving their taxes? Don't they also provide revenues and jobs to the City? Maybe the City should help them out as well by forgive their future tax bills and Chad will write a series of articles about that.

Maybe the recent increase sales taxes is hurting sales not only downtown but all over Lawrence by reducing the discretionary spendable income of everyone in Lawrence. Maybe that encouraged residents to do more of their high ticket spending online to avoid taxes and stretch their budgets. Maybe Chad will include that point of view the next time he and LJWorld do a series of articles touting higher taxes. Maybe, but I think that is as likely as a positive article on any conservative point of view on any issue ever appears anywhere in a World Company property.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

Why is it the only tax abatement program has to be focused on Downtown Lawrence? Is it because so many people in local government have interests in downtown Lawrence? Has the staff learned if they want to get praises and raises to focus their efforts on downtown? Why is it that the people that get over $300,000 worth of free fire sprinklers get all the breaks, but nobody else? People like:

Tellers, 746 Mass: George Paley Lawrence Masonic Temple, 1001 Mass: Consolidated Properties, aka Doug Compton Buffalo Bob's, 719 Mass: Bob Schumm Goldmakers, Peter Zacharias The Bayleaf, 725 Mass: Anne Yetman The Casbah, 803 Mass, David Millstein Hobbs, 700 Mass, Mark Swanson Silverworks and More, James & Cara Connelly

Why are other "distressed" properties, like the proposed site for the Olive Garden for instance, isn't offered tax payer dollars? Won't they provide jobs and desperately needed tax revenues for the city? If you forgive $330,000 in real estate taxes I promise you they would generate far more tax revenues than Commissioner Schumm's Buffalo Bobs and Doug Compton's Masonic Temple combined.

Commissioner Schumm recently gave the City Staff raises for their "invaluable service," so why after this excellent staff recommends the Olive Garden project did he oppose it? Is it because he owns a downtown restaurant and doesn't want the competition? Is it because he own downtown commercial property and opposes anything that draws traffic to the South Iowa shopping district? Or is it because he would rather give it to Doug Compton because it will improve downtown and have a positive impact on his own downtown properties?

I don't know, but it sure would be nice if a "reporter" would ask some of these folks some hard questions. Not Chad Lawhorn of course, it might upset the people he is hired to "cover."

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

Anyone seen Merrill lately? I mean I expected at least a cut-n-past post about "profiteers" and some irrelevant article talking about "corporate capitalist" vs. "local businesses", but nothing. I sure hope he is OK and that his lack of interest in this topic is because his downtown interests are still upside down and he is hoping that this downtown project, or the next downtown project, or the downtown project aft that will finally bail him out.

Sigmund 3 years, 3 months ago

"In total, the approved incentives package will be worth about $330,000 to the development over 10 years. The project, though, is expected to produce about $660,000 in new revenue for local governments over the next 15 years"

How exactly, through sales tax revenues? That would only take $7,500,000 dollars in sales over 15 years to accomplish, which is only $500,000 in sales a year generating only $45,000 in sales taxes every year. I am quite sure that your average McDonald's does that every month, let alone an Olive Garden.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

Sigmund - I suggested we put the hating of Doug Compton aside. You then went into a long diatribe against the man. Fine. But let me just reiterate my position. I've made it clear with this thread and in others regarding other properties such as the proposed Olive Garden location. The city needs to do what is in the best interests of the city. That means everyone in the city. If, in doing that, a developer like Doug Compton benefits, fine. If, in doing that, a developer like Doug Compton is hurt, fine. I could care less about one developer or another, or any one person in particular. I want what's best for the city as a whole. I want decisions that will benefit the most possible citizens of our community. What I don't want is for the animosity directed against one particular person to cloud our judgement. And I don't want a rigid philosophical point of view to cause us to pass on good deals, should they be presented. With specific regard to this proposal, and with any specific proposal, I want the city to study the matter, get an independent analysis of the costs and benefits to the city and then make the best decision for the people of Lawrence.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 3 months ago

jhawkinsf, I agree that hating Compton or developers, in general, is unhealthy, but I do think that we should stop offering incentives. Private interests need to develop using their own incentives.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

I also said I don't want a rigid philosophy to cloud our judgement, either. Sure, private industry should develop their own interests, no more corporate welfare. And everyone should support themselves, no more individual welfare. However, neither of those positions is likely to occur in the real world, at least not anytime soon. Each incentive, just like each individual application for welfare should be looked at and decided upon using good sound judgement.

LivedinLawrence4Life 3 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't Larry Brown (former b-ball coach) own the Masonic Temple? I heard Compton is just Larry Brown's property manager. Does Larry need the financial help from Lawrence taxpayers?

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