(WICHITA, Kan.)—Wichita City Council members vote 4-3 to approve an incentive for a new development near Kellogg and Maize Road.
The developers behind the Bowllagio asked for the creation of a Tax Increment Financing, or TIF district. The incentive allows property taxes generated from the project to help pay for land improvements.
City leaders say the TIF district in this case is different from past TIF districts. They say it requires all money to be used for greater public good. In this case, it will be used to improve drainage in the area surrounding the Bowllagio development.
The area around Kellogg and Maize is known for flooding along the Cowskin and Calfskin creeks. Some improvements to the area followed in the years after the Halloween 1998 flood, but other floods have happened in the area since then.
"It isn't until big investors come in that they start developing our streets," says Doug Matthews, a resident of the area.
More than 62% of the TIF district is in the federal 100-year flood plain. The area includes 23 homes, 13 of which are in the flood plain. The city says eight homes have filed for flood claims from FEMA, seven of those have filed multiple times. The city says the improvements will get 13 homes out of the flood plain. The improvements could also benefit adjacent areas to the TIF district, including Hidden Lakes and The Dell, which are not in the TIF.
The plan requires the development to occur in phases, with each separate project subject to approval from the city council. It requires TIF funds to only be used for flood/drainage related improvements, with expenditures limited to 65% of revenues collected in the district. The plans would widen the creek channel, add more floodplain storage ponds and enlarge a bridge on Maize Road.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, a few homeowners from the area spoke out in support of the TIF and the flooding improvements it would bring. Several bowling center operators spoke out against it, saying the additional bowling development would oversaturate the market, and ultimately cost the city revenue.
The $95 million dollar Bowllagio was first proposed two years ago, but developers stopped the project after facing criticism from other business owners for trying to get state sales tax incentives called STAR bonds.
In 2010, the city approved a Community Improvement District, or CID incentive for the development. It allows the development charge a higher sales tax to pay for land acquisition and infrastructure improvements. The CID covers just the development, and not the additional area covered by the TIF district.
The Bowllagio is supposed to be an entertainment area including a bowling and training center, restaurants, hotels and shopping.