By Anne Meyer
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
11:27 AM CST, December 20, 2011
The public will decide if a proposed hotel in downtown Wichita should receive tax incentives from the city. The special vote will happen February 28th.
Wichita council members could have taken back the incentive, which they approved previously. Instead they voted to put the issue before voters.
Americans for Prosperity pushed for the special election after it collected enough signatures during a petition drive to prompt a public vote. The group wants to prevent the hotel project from getting the tax incentives.
In October, the Wichita City Council approved $7.5 million in a variety of incentives for the project. Part of the incentive package included giving the guest tax generated at the hotel back to the developer. That action required a charter ordinance by the city. State law allows charter ordinances to be overturned by public vote if the issue is put to a petition.
Developer Paul Coury says he believes Wichita residents will support his project, once they learn more about it. “We understood that the number of signatures required to have a referendum was very low. Only, 1.3% of the registered voters had to sign the petition. Many people that signed the petitions were unsure of what they were signing and in some cases were not provided the facts about the ordinance. We are confident that when voters learn the facts about the project, they will vote yes for the project and the new jobs it will create.” says Paul Coury.
Coury says a study by WSU shows that the project will create 978 new direct and indirect jobs. "These new jobs will generate millions of dollars in revenue that will be spent in the community. In addition, the city, county and state will receive additional revenue each year as a result of the project. A comprehensive financial feasibility study (Required by the City of Wichita) found the benefits derived from the Douglas Place (Ambassador Hotel) project exceed the costs," he said.
It will cost about $50,000 to do the special election, which will be paid for by the hotel developer.
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