Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

City delays action on $40 million bond issue for Rock Chalk Park

October 1, 2013


The Lawrence City Commission agreed Tuesday evening to wait another week before casting a preliminary vote to approve $40 million worth of industrial revenue bonds to finance a portion of the Rock Chalk Park project.

Although the commission earlier had passed two resolutions of intent indicating that it planned to approve the bonds, Commissioner Mike Amyx asked for the delay to give the public more time to review the specific documents, which had just been posted on the city's website earlier in the day.

"I think it's very appropriate to give the public the opportunity to see the same documents we've had," Amyx said.

Gary Anderson, the city's bond counsel from the firm Gilmore & Bell, said the delay would not interfere with the schedule of the project. But he also said the bond issue does not impose any financial obligation on the city or create any financial risk to city taxpayers.

Anderson described the issue as a "buy your own bonds deal," meaning that developer Thomas Fritzel's company Bliss Sports would be both the tenant and the bond purchaser. The only purpose of channeling the money through IRB's, he said, was to make the project legally eligible for a 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement and a sales tax exemption.

The $40 million bond issue would finance the portion of the project that would be leased by Kansas University Athletics.

Other commissioners agreed to the delay, although most said they did not think it would make a difference.

Commissioner Terry Riordan said he doubted that very many people would read the lengthy bond documents, "but I think in the essence of trying to be as transparent, and trying to be as open as we can about this, I think it's a reasonable request."

The delay means the commission will consider first reading of the bond ordinance Oct. 8, with final approval now tentatively expected the following week, Oct. 15.

In other business, city commissioners approved a joint city and county resolution setting up a steering committee to receive public input and recommend changes to Horizon 2020, the comprehensive planning document for the city of Lawrence and the unincorporated portions of Douglas County.

Douglas County commissioners are expected to vote on that resolution when they meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday.


lawrencereporter 4 years, 8 months ago

Corliss places a two page ordinance 8862 on Cities A+ Transparency 2013 Website last Thursday but delays posting the four documents totaling approximately 110 pages (which comprises the important part of the ordinance) until a few hours before tonights vote.

Thanks to Amyx, taxpayers normally kept in the dark about this Rock Chalk Park/IRB issue will have a few days to review these documents.

Take advantage of this folks.

Currahee 4 years, 8 months ago

What's the point? You're still going ahead with it no matter what the public thinks. Public stewardship at its finest.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm suprised that there is so little reaction to the Planning Department's proposal to modify Horizon 2020 rather than develop a new comprehensive plan.

minimadoff 4 years, 8 months ago

"The only purpose of channeling the money through IRB's, he said, was to make the project legally eligible for a 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement and a sales tax exemption."

This city commission and this city staff are working so hard to make this project eligible for real estate tax abatement. Why?

Thomas Fritzel (Bliss Sports LLC) will own the track stadium, soccer field and a softball field and lease the use of them to KU Athletics Inc. Both of these entities are private for-profit companies neither are eligible for real estate tax abatement.

Schumm, Dever, and Corliss are using their powerful positions to direct the use of public funds and secure approvals of documents that make this project eligible for tax abatement and receive millions of dollars in additional public incentives. Why?

The citizens of Lawrence deserve and should demand an independent investigation into the dealings of the parties involved with the Rock Chalk Park project. No further actions should be taken by the city until this investigation is complete and the results released to the public. Parties include Mike Stultz (the land seller), city commissioners (Dever, Schumm, Carter, Cromwell, Amyx, Farmer, Riordan, Johnson) city staff (Corliss), KU Athletics Inc, Sheahon Zenger, Bill Self, KU Endowment, Thomas and Dru Fritzel, John T. Stuart, to name a few.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

I concur. Time for a complete audit and review before moving forward.

One issue regarding this project is that all of the discussion was not taking place at City Commission meetings. When the light bulb came on why didn't the parties come to a city commission meeting to say "Hey we have an idea"? Behind closed doors is not comfortable.

I do not believe any elected official or city hall staff should be talking about any aspect of a project that is not in full view of the taxpaying public. There are too many tax dollars involved for closed door sessions. Yes it may take more time but so what.

nick_s 4 years, 8 months ago

How would one go about "demanding an independent investigation"? Not being smart, just curious what the process would be? Is this something that an individual would have to personally hire an attorney for, or is there a city/county/state official that citizens can contact to get the ball rolling?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Has a person with the last name Fritzel paid that $50,000 fine for site plan violations?

Why are homeowners forced to subsidize this tax abatement? Would homeowners subsidize this tax abatement if allowed to vote? Would homeowners subsidize the "tax incentives" for downtown for profit ventures if allowed to vote? Duped I say.

Homeowners are hammered with language almost daily regarding tax incentives for new employers. Why must homeowners pay for new employers? Isn't there something wrong with this picture aka a mammoth tax dollar money hole ? Duped again.

Why is it homeowners property that is at least 50 years old that which has been generating tax revenue for 50 years or more not receiving a residential 100% tax abatement from this day forward? Or at least for the next 15 years?

Small town Lawrence, Kansas taxpayers are getting duped daily. I have become concerned as to how much taxpayers are spending on the Farmland project. What's on the table?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

More "nickel/dimed at a time" which means low income and middle class are being forced out of Lawrence due to fiscal recklessness and gross mismanagement of taxpayers money by guess who?

Yes those business people we elected as commissioners? Who must not know as much as we thought. Elected officials and local profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes.

nick_s 4 years, 8 months ago

Amazing. Now we're calling for transparency? On an issue that is assuredly already decided? What a crock. Where was the transparency from the start? There wasnt any. It was forced through under the guise of a gift, & as the details emerged, the commission had already pushed this thing through. Shame, shame, shame. Lawrence taxpayers are on the hook, meanwhile another article touts how KU Endowment has provided $120 million to the University.

While I hope this will stand on its own two feet, it seems that the commission has been fairly quiet about the 32+ tourneys we need to book for this thing to pay for itself. I have seen nothing about any retail, food, or lodging deals for the re-zoned area out there. It seems we are going to have a rec center in an extreme corner of the city, with nothing out there to support it. Im sure youth sports organizations are jumping at the chance to book a tourney out there. Putting the cart before the horse once again, using the build it & they will come approach. You are wise beyond your years city commission.

minimadoff 4 years, 8 months ago

"Anderson described the issue as a "buy your own bonds deal," meaning that developer Thomas Fritzel's company Bliss Sports would be both the tenant and the bond purchaser. "

There are a lot of blanks in these documents the city is rushing to approve, why doesn't the city know before the vote how much of the up to 40 million dollars of IRB's Thomas Fritzel will purchase? Can he purchase more then his actual costs, if so, can he use the funds for other projects.

repaste 4 years, 8 months ago

Little off topic, but there are a ton of construction vehicles using the bug, white buildings NW of RCP, it is not zoned for commercial. Those buildings were put up as agriculture use when RCP was decided, 3-4 years ago.

jack22 4 years, 8 months ago

This project is being paid for with the tax revenue every Lawrence citizen is expected to pay, so it would be kind of absurd to ask Fritzel to pay back into the pot that he's pulling all of this money from. It would almost be like the servant who after 30 years of service has the audacity to ask his master to help with the dishes. Let's not disrupt the status quo, we al pay taxes so rich developers don't have to.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

There are several communities in the USA on the bankruptcy table so the news said. Oddly the communities had a republican governor or are under a republican governor as we speak. These governors have one thing in common. ALEC.

These ALEC governors roped in tax dollars while cutting off communities at the same time. These governors then handed out sweet subsidies to wealthy corporations. Lawrence is handing out tax incentives like drunken sailors. Sam Brownback is still in office and showing signs of proceeding forward as the other like minded ALEC governors.

I'm not sure what kind of an impact Topeka could have on Lawrence BUT with Sam Brownback still around it might be wise to stop handing out tax dollars as if Lawrence does not need new dependable sources of tax dollar revenue.

Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

If Lawrence does not need new dependable sources of tax dollar revenue I say it is time to process 100% property tax abatements for all owner occupied homes that which are at least 50 years old.

Let the new properties pay their way as the others have done.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Consider adopting Joint City Resolution No. 7045/County Resolution No. , establishing a steering committee to oversee and guide the review and updating of Horizon 2020, the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Lawrence and Unincorporated Douglas County; and consider authorizing the Mayor to appoint steering committee members as noted in the resolution.

This looks somewhat dangerous and manipulated towards the development community. This is a group that should be available for public viewing always.

Taxpayers beware.

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