Lawrence City Commission to consider tax breaks for 5-story downtown condo project

Former City Commissioner Bob Schumm has filed plans to build a five-story building on a pair of vacant lots in the 800 block of Vermont Street.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will decide whether to give a tax break to a mixed-use condominium project in downtown Lawrence.

The incentives request is a reconsideration of a request the commission denied in December, and has been modified in response to concerns from some commissioners regarding the developer’s plan to live in one of the condos.

The developer, former City Commissioner Bob Schumm, resubmitted the request and proposed removing the personal residence from the property tax breaks.

Schumm is requesting a 10-year, 75 percent property tax rebate through the Neighborhood Revitalization Act, as well as a sales tax exemption on construction materials. The two incentives have a combined value of $1.3 million.

Financial advisers to the city factored Schumm’s personal condo out of the property tax rebates. Tom Jackson, of National Development Council, previously told the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee that exempting the condo that Schumm would occupy from the property tax rebate calculation amounts to about $87,000 over the 10-year rebate period.

Plans call for a five-story building with retail space, offices and 12 condos to be built in the 800 block of Vermont Street, where two vacant lots currently exist. The building would have an underground parking garage and one of the condos would be permanently designated as affordable housing.

In December, the commission voted 3-2 against the request for tax breaks. In addition to concerns about Schumm benefiting personally from the NRA, some commissioners stated that they didn’t think the project provided enough community benefits to warrant incentives.

In a letter to the commission, Schumm states that he thinks the project is in line with the city’s new economic development policy. He lists several benefits, including affordable housing, infill development and on-site parking.

As with the previous incentives request, city staff are recommending that the commission approve the request based on the financial analysis completed by National Development Council. PIRC voted earlier this month to recommend the project for approval.

The cost benefit for the city would be 1.82, meaning that for every $1 in public incentives, $1.82 of benefit value would be returned. The city’s policy is that the cost benefit be at least 1.25.

“Fiscal impact is anticipated to be positive as currently vacant parcels generate very little tax revenue compared to taxing revenues anticipated to be received from the finished project, even after incentives are provided,” a city staff memo to the commission states.

Douglas County and the Lawrence school district will consider their participation in the NRA at meetings later in October.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.