Archive for Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Associated new development could support Clinton Lake outdoor center financing, Douglas County Commission told

The proposed Kansas Outdoor Lifestyle Center at Clinton Lake would be a 1,500-acre facility hosting outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting and kayaking, zip lines, biking, running, hiking, climbing and paddle boarding.

The proposed Kansas Outdoor Lifestyle Center at Clinton Lake would be a 1,500-acre facility hosting outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting and kayaking, zip lines, biking, running, hiking, climbing and paddle boarding.

December 14, 2016

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The outdoor recreational center proposed for Clinton Lake State Park could be reliant on additional new off-site development to retire the public financing its advocates say would be necessary to make the $70 million project a reality, the Douglas County Commission was told Wednesday.

A day after they gave a presentation on the Kansas Outdoor Center to the Lawrence City Commission, Jeff Wise, Plei managing principal, and Linda Craghead, assistant secretary of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, introduced county commissioners to the proposal.

The non-profit Plei would run the outdoor center, which Craghead said would be built in the undeveloped Campground No. 2 of the 1,200-acre Clinton State Park. That site is on the western section of the park and accessed by North 1450 Road.

The Clinton Lake outdoor center would have the same features as the U.S. National Whitewater Center that Plei developed near Charlotte, N.C., Wise said. Those include a manmade whitewater rafting and kayaking facility, zip lines, rock climbing, a trail system, outdoor amphitheater, restaurants, beer garden and conference center.

Wise said the center would have about 850 seasonal workers and 150 full-time employees.

The center would showcase what Kansas has to offer to visitors and its residents, Craghead said. Because it would appeal to the active lifestyles of Millennials, it would help keep them from moving elsewhere or entice them to move back home, she said.

“This is not an amusement park,” she said. “Everything you do there is active. It is an active lifestyle center.”

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Craghead and Wise told commissioners Sales Tax Revenue Bonds are one mechanism being explored to finance the $70 million center.

STAR bonds allow Kansas municipalities to issue bonds to finance the development of commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and use the sales tax revenue from the development to pay off the bonds.

There were two concerns with the use of STAR bonds, Craghead said. One was that the state’s STAR bond enabling legislation expires June 30. She said a number of municipalities have made extending the public financing tool a priority for this coming legislative session.

The other concern was that only 49 percent of sales tax revenue captured at the center could be used to retire the STAR bonds, Craghead said. An associated off-site development would be needed to provide the remaining 51 percent of sales tax revenue needed to service the bonds, she said.

Plei, the state, Douglas County and city of Lawrence could work together to find an appropriate site for the associated development, Craghead said.

“Obviously, that’s not going to be in the park, but it potentially could be in the county or the city based on your comprehensive land-use plan,” Craghead said. “There might be some areas that there’s been efforts to develop, but there just hasn’t been much happening. If you are trying to recruit, could this be a helpful tool to help recruit there?”

Craghead told commissioners STAR bonds could be a tool to extend infrastructure west of Kansas Highway 10. After the meeting, she mentioned the West Six Street corridor as a possible location of an off-site commercial development. The undeveloped commercially-zoned Mercato property adjacent to Rock Chalk Park is in the Sixth Street corridor.

Any plan the city and county give initial approval to would be subject to a third-party feasibility study of its potential to generate the needed revenue to retire the debt, Craghead said.

Lawrence by itself couldn’t support the center, and it would need to draw from a 90-minute drive radius, especially the Kansas City metropolitan area, commissioners were told.

After the presentation, commissioners agreed it would be premature to make any comment on the proposal. Commission Chair Jim Flory, whose term on the commission will end Jan. 9, said he thought the center would work with the youthful demographic Plei looked to attract. After the meeting, he said there was much he didn’t know about the use of STAR bonds in general or for the specific proposal, including what entity would be required to back the bonds.

Even though the proposal is in its early stages, commissioners did hear concerns about the proposal In comment after the presentation, an emotional Mike Myers of Lawrence disputed Craghead’s statement that the center would not be an amusement park.

“You can say it’s not a theme park, but it is,” he said. “The state of Kansas is broken. It is willing to take our most pristine property and bastardize it.”

Comments

Jim Fisher 1 year ago

I have this great idea, and you're going to pay for it.

Clara Westphal 1 year ago

The area needs more important things than an amusement park. How about the law enforcement center that the city tells us they can't afford? Streets need to be fixed, etc.

Richard Heckler 1 year ago

How is it that Lawrence,Kansas can afford an additional hike in sales tax?

Taxpayers will be forced to help pay for infrastructure?

This will be another financial disaster why bother investing in such a wasteful project?

NO this project cannot use MY tax dollars for any portion.

Melissa Kounelaki 1 year ago

“You can say it’s not a theme park, but it is,” he said. “The state of Kansas is broken. It is willing to take our most pristine property and bastardize it.”

This is the whole truth in a nutshell. This area is used by people because it's underdeveloped and want to have an experience of being in nature. We've already destroyed the habitats of the wildlife around Lawrence with trafficways and over building, let's not let someone looking for profit come in and do more.

There's plenty in Lawrence that needs work--as mentioned--street repair, infrastructure, etc. The focus should be on our needs first, not some outside party's wants.

Carol Bowen 1 year ago

What about the Sunflower Munition property. There was a plan to build a entertainment center.

Joshua Montgomery 12 months ago

KS ranks 50th out of 50 states in public ownership of land. Dead last - and these developers want to put a project in on public land while passing the risk off to the public.

http://www.nrcm.org/documents/publiclandownership.pdf

We live in Donald Trump's America now, so I'd expect it to pass with flying colors.

Welcome to the kleptocracy.

Gene Douglas 12 months ago

One thing I will say to the county commissioners is this " Doncha mess with my drinking water".
"Water is life"....Lately we've seen Clinton and NE Kansas with lotsa water...what about the preceding few years when the lake was way down and they had 'alge bloom warnings' over at Bloomington. Who's gonna get the water then? and who's gonna make the payment on the 'Star Bonds' then, which one of our outgoing commissioners admits to knowing little about. This idea is someone's 'brain gas'...

Michael Kort 12 months ago

Well. maybe the City Commission, the County Commissioners and the developers should all dress warmly on Sunday night and do a site tour ( when it is supposed to be -3 degrees bellow zero ) .

Hopefully the wind chill of common sense will guide their enthusiasm back into reality .

This is not sunny southern California ........year around doable .

Lawrence badly needs sidewalk solutions, a centralized police station........and no body works for free ( other than volunteers ) at any non profits .

70 Million $ is going to go somewhere and we get a seasonal attraction that could go south and leave whom with the debt ?

Is this the next $ Dracula needing a pubic $ fix like the Rock Chaulk Basketball Courts Promised Walk Back ?

Kelly Ryan 12 months ago

Operating costs will run in the millions each year. Who covers that when this comes up short?

Mike Riner 12 months ago

Probably the same people who pay for Eagle Bend.....

John Lee 12 months ago

“This is not an amusement park,” she said. “Everything you do there is active. It is an active lifestyle center.” Pig, meet lipstick. It is shameful to attempt branding this as anything more or less than an unnatural eyesore on public land that so happens to be our escape from things grotesque and manmade. Most of us locals won't patronize the park, partly due to the cost and partly because some of us are holding onto our souls rather than pimping them out.

850 seasonal workers and 150 full-time employees... So, come winter, 850 of the 1,000 people hired will be poor and looking for work to make ends meet.

All those in favor of this proposition MUST be reading other information than what I've found (and I read the official proposition). That or they genuinely don't care at all whether or not folks who ACTUALLY enjoy nature have anywhere to go.

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