Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2012

County approves tax breaks for Ninth, N.H. development

August 22, 2012


The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved tax breaks for the hotel project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

Related document

8-22-12 County Commission agenda ( .PDF )

The tax incremental financing district for the project will capture between $300,000 and $400,000 in county sales tax over a 20-year period. That money will be repaid to the developers.

Commissioner Mike Gaughan asked Lawrence planner Diane Stoddard if the hotel’s guest tax would benefit the county. The guest tax goes to the city, county administrator Craig Weinaug said, but the city often uses those funds for historic preservation and promotion projects that are joint ventures with the city.

Stoddard said that the commission had the ability to veto its portion of the tax break, as does the school board, before Friday. All three commissioners expressed support for the project.

The city approved its portion of the TIF in its meeting Tuesday.

In other business from Wednesday’s meeting:

• The commission also unanimously approved the creation of a joint economic development council, a project Commissioner Nancy Thellman has been working on with Lawrence city commissioners and members of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Thellman said that she didn’t know the timeline going forward but that the group will soon be looking to appoint members. The county seats will include one commissioner and two members of the public.

• The burn ban for unincorporated parts of the county remains in effect. The commission will again vote whether to extend it during next week’s meeting.

• The Berry Plastics project got official approval of its bond issue. The warehouse project will go forward thanks to a $21 million bond with the Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company of St. Louis.

The commission will next meet at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the County Courthouse, 1100 Mass. Two or more members may also be present at a regional transportation study meeting from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.


flyin_squirrel 5 years, 8 months ago

Good to see, as this will help all the businesses downtown and create more tax revenue from the people staying in town spending money!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

"The tax incremental financing district for the project will capture between $300,000 and $400,000 in county sales tax over a 20-year period. That money will be repaid to the developers. "

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

This hotel has been able to accomplish $12,000,000 in tax breaks. How many decades will it take taxpayers to realize a dividend on that tax dollar investment?

A $12 million tax dollar handout for low wage employment seems like a risky investment.

Well, what is tax increment financing? I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government.

Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart or whomever and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it’s important to think about this. One is, that means your kid’s schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money.


joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

Great to see you are for this development Merrill! Really glad to have you aboard because your opinion goes a long way (about as far as Kirk McClures does at a City Commission Meeting).

paulveer 5 years, 8 months ago

well jo do, you could count his thumb-up's compared to yours.

blindrabbit 5 years, 8 months ago

Which corner at 9th and N.H., Southeast or Northeast???

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

" Anyone paying full rate is a chump."

By that calculus, everyone but well-connected developers is a "chump."

chootspa 5 years, 8 months ago

Pretty much. Taxes are for poor people. Rich people have abatements and off shore shelters.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Is your disgust reserved for just corporate welfare, or does it extend to all recipients of all types of welfare?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm OK with need-based welfare. This is not need based.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

I need. I need. Me. Me. I. I. My. My.

A more honest discussion, in my opinion, would differentiate between welfare and workfare. When it comes to individuals receiving public assistance in exchange for some form of work, I would object to that far less than if the assistance was given with no strings attached. The same is true for businesses. Assistance given with nothing given back to the community, I'd say no. But if the business, or the need based individual were willing to provide something in return, then yes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

"I need. I need. Me. Me. I. I. My. My."

That pretty much describes our current corporate/mover-and-shaker, "greed is good" way of granting tax abatements, TIFS and other gifts to the already wealthy.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe they do subscribe to a greed is good philosophy, maybe not. I don't know. But if the community receives a benefit in return, I'm not certain it matters what their personal philosophy is. And I would reserve the same judgement, or lack thereof, for recipients of intergenerational welfare. If they provide work in return, then whether or not they house a sense of entitlement is not really any of my business.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

OK, you worship the rich, and despise the poor-- we get it.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

It's really hard to figure out how you got that from my comment.

Liberty275 5 years, 8 months ago

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

The disgust only counts when it doesn't involve their handouts.

And lets not forget Doug Compton has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Lawrence. He could have sat on that money earning interest but instead has invested in other real estate that is paying taxes. That money he has spent has generated 100 times more money for the school districts, roads, city, etc... than probably all the posters on here combined.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Ah, yes, the worship of the wealthy and all they do for us speech.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

By that logic, every business in town should get the same deal.

deec 5 years, 8 months ago

And every homeowner who improves their property thereby raising its tax value should have their additional taxes abated and paid to them.

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

Every business in town can get this if they meet the requirements.

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

For the less educated who don't know how to work the internet, here is the link and a short statement.

"It is the policy of the City to consider the judicious use of TIF for those projects which demonstrate a substantial and significant public benefit by constructing public improvements in support of developments. For the purposes of this policy “a substantial and significant public benefit” may include one or more of the following benefits: creating new jobs and/or retaining existing employment, eliminating blight, strengthening the employment and economic base of the City, increasing property values and tax revenues, reducing poverty, creating economic stability, upgrading older neighborhoods, facilitating economic self sufficiency, promoting projects that are of community wide importance, or implementing the Comprehensive Plan and economic development goals of the City. Projects which encourage redevelopment congruent with City goals, plans and/or policies will be considered more favorably. The City Commission also encourages projects that will be sensitive to the environment and contain elements which promote energy efficiency."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

So, that could apply to anybody doing anything anywhere in town-- where's my abatement?

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

You tell me? All the tools are in front of you, now all you need to do is the work...

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

You filled out the forms, filed the appropriate paperwork and were denied? When exactly did this happen?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Don't be so dense. These gifts to the movers and shakers were designed to be available only to them. That's the whole point.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Do you really think that a homeowner who improves their property would get a tax abatement for it?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

No, I don't. Specifically because from the paragraph provided, the words "substantial and significant" are prominent in the first sentence. (Funny how that word substantial comes up again, as it did in yesterday's discussion of the DA in Topeka).

However, if a group of homeowners were to attempt a "substantial and significant" neighborhood revitalization project, one where millions of private dollars were being infused into the community, that might be a project that would receive support. And if millions of outside dollars were involved, as well as the creation of a significant number of jobs, I'd be jumping on that bandwagon. Fair?

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Actually, I'm not at all sure it is fair.

While one homeowner improving their property doesn't have the same economic effects as a large scale development project, the combination of a number of them doing so may, whether or not they're operating at the same time as a group in a certain neighborhood.

So, why not give all of them tax abatements?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm not certain of why the difference. I could take a guess, though. If a hundred homeowners filed the paperwork necessary to apply for the abatements, they would overwhelm the city's ability to process them, as compared to one major project that would require one, all be it more complicated application. Any benefit to the city would be eaten up by the extra workers needed to process it. It's just a simple explanation of what is practical and what is not. Just a guess. But as I said, I'd be all for your neighborhood pumping millions of outside dollars into the local economy, hiring many construction workers, and applying for abatements. Of course, I'm not sure how your home improvements will provide jobs beyond those initial construction jobs, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Any home improvements involve very similar sorts of benefits to larger projects - immediate jobs, increases in property values and taxes, money spend by workers in the local economy, etc.

The one difference is in possible longer term jobs, like hotel staff - but those are only really new jobs if other similar businesses don't go out of business, which just moves jobs around from place to place.

All of the electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. spend their money, and that's good for local businesses, and produces more sales taxes, right?

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

The obvious reason isn't paperwork, as you comment, but the increasing love for those at the top of the food chain.

And, the strange failure to notice that all of Compton's success (just to name one wealthy developer) is due to employees and customers, at least in large part, who don't get to share in his tax avoidance.

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago


It isn't worth arguing with Bozo.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

My last comment, ending with the question, was directed at Jafs' previous comment. Though I agree with your overall sentiment.

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

Bozo, when does the library shut down for construction? And what are your plans for using a computer then?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Haven't you heard-- I have one in my mom's basement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Unfortunately, in the case of the Democrats on this commission, the alternative is a Republican who thinks the tax giveaways aren't quite big enough.

irvan moore 5 years, 8 months ago

i don't think this has anything to do with political parties, i think it's more like the connections to and the self interests the commissioners have in development

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Jafs, (continued) The love of those at the top of the food chain might explain the actions of our elected leaders. Or maybe not. I'm not going to speak for them.

But speaking for myself, that's not true. As I've said, I have no interest, other than that as an ordinary citizen. That said, let me revise something I said earlier. When I mentioned 100 homeowners getting together in a neighborhood revitalization project, that number actually doesn't work when we're comparing it to an 18 million dollar project (I'm using that number from memory, hopefully it's accurate). But anyway, 100 homeowners would have to each do a $180,000 remodel to equal that 18 mil. That's some remodel. Maybe 1,000 homeowners doing $18,000 or 2,000 homeowners doing $9,000 remodel would be more realistic. But of course, that many homeowners doing that amount of work is itself unrealistic. But it puts things in some perspective. That hotel, it's a BIG deal. And that in itself might explain why them and not you. It's the same reason Obama and Romney are having dinner at $10,000/plate in Beverly Hills and not at your place or my place. Then again, if either of us does a $180,000 remodel, maybe we would have enough cash on hand to host such a dinner.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

It's not at all unrealistic - my wife and I have done multiples of those amounts in remodeling and improvements to houses we've bought.

Given how expensive things are, it's quite easy to spend $10K on home improvements these days.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

I'll give you a quick example.

$3K on painting, and $3K on carpeting, plus assorted odds and ends gets you to $10K pretty fast, in my experience.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Yes, but a thousand or two thousand homeowners all doing that kind of remodel in a relatively short period of time? I just don't see it. And if it did happen like that, it may overwhelm the city planning offices. But, hey, if it could work out, I'm fine with it. Of course, we'd have the same discussion with the next 18 million dollar project and the next. Are you, or 2,000 other homeowners likely to paint, new carpet, etc., every couple of years? If yes, and if the city can handle the paperwork, and if it provides jobs, I'm for it.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

I didn't say it was in a short period of time.

Your position is at least consistent, but I'd go the other way. Nobody gets abatements, and everybody just pays their share of taxes.

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