Woodlands redevelopment project approved by UG Commission

Plans for development of The Woodlands include five buildings. A 97-acre park-like area to the east, near Wyandotte County Lake, is proposed to be given to the Unified Government for parks. (From UG meeting)

On a 6-3 vote, the Unified Government Commission on Thursday night approved a warehouse redevelopment project for the former Woodlands horse and dog track at 97th and Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kansas. The Zoom meeting was online.

The redevelopment project is on 431 acres of property at 97th and Leavenworth Road, including the former Woodlands racetrack, and also Bennet Lake, according to developers. Wyandotte County Lake is nearby.

The owner of The Woodlands, Phil Ruffin, who also owns a casino in Las Vegas, is selling the track. During the past several years, the state legislature has failed to approve plans that would allow racetracks to keep enough gaming proceeds to reopen.

While nearby residents opposed the warehouse project, the offer apparently was too good for the UG to refuse, as the developer did not ask for incentives, paid the UG $2 million for some UG-owned property, agreed to put in sidewalks, gave land for parkland and agreed to help pay for trails.

At the public hearing Thursday, the commission heard from seven residents who were against the project, and one resident who was in favor of it.

The residents’ protest petition was thrown out, however. With a valid protest petition, nine votes would have been needed to pass the rezoning; without it, only six votes were needed.

Residents who lived near the proposed warehouse development said it did not fit with the character of their neighborhood.

“It’s like taking a bathroom and putting it in the middle of your living room, that’s how out of place it is,” said Laurie Torrez, a nearby resident.

Jeff Miles, a resident, was in favor of the project. He said he lived across from The Woodlands and is in favor of redeveloping the property. The redevelopment will be better than what they currently have, he said. He added the traffic and noise doesn’t bother him.

Rusty Roberts, a Realtor whose relative has an event center located near The Woodlands, also opposed the development, saying he believes real estate values will go down in the surrounding area a little. More studies need to be done on how it will affect the area, he said.

Karen Lauber, who lives near 99th and Leavenworth Road, said their experience with trucks and vehicles parked at The Woodlands previously was “a really bad experience, intolerable from the standpoint of noise with the trucks.”

Meghan LaDuke, a nearby resident, suggested moving the entrance so it is not directly across the street from residents. She said it will be hard for residents to get out on Leavenworth Road.

The zoning was changed from agriculture and planned general business districts to limited business and general industrial districts.

Gunnar Hand, UG director of planning, said the tops of the 60-foot buildings will be shielded by berms. There are sidewalks and trails planned with this project, also. There are plans for a traffic light on Leavenworth Road, according to Hand.

Hand said he focused on maintaining the character of the neighborhood and also mitigating the traffic impact. The berms and landscaping are intended to maintain the character of the neighborhood, while traffic will be focused on the main entrance on Leavenworth Road, according to Hand.

Shaun Cofer appeared at the meeting, representing Scannell Properties, an Indiana real estate development firm. According to the UG agenda, the proposal was to build five industrial buildings for warehousing distribution and manufacturing totaling 3.14 million square feet and 51 square feet of commercial retail. During Thursday’s meeting, officials said there would not be manufacturing on the site, but described it as warehouses and a business park.

The neighborhood retail center would be at the northeast corner of 99th and Leavenworth Road, according to the developers.

Each of the buildings would come back later before the UG Commission for approval, according to staff.

Seth Reece with Olsson Associates, representing the developer, said 97 acres to the east will be dedicated to the UG for a park. There are plans to put in trails and sidewalks, and the developer will provide funds for the trails, he said. Existing trees to the east and north of the project will be preserved, he said.

Reece said covenants will be added to the agreements to prevent the land from being used for heavy industrial purposes.

He also said the UG wants stoplights at the facility’s Leavenworth Road entrance and also at 103rd. He said the developer would be willing to assist with the costs if the traffic lights are approved by the Kansas Department of Transportation, which has authority over Leavenworth Road.

With the building in the first phase, there would be about 262 trucks a day going in and out of The Woodlands, according to Reece. The facility could operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be four shifts planned at the building in the first phase.

Greg Kindle, president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, supported the rezoning, saying that the current site hasn’t been used in nearly 15 years and is in significant disrepair. The project could bring 1,000 employees to the community, he said.

Kindle said the project would generate more than $1.9 million in property taxes the first year of operation. That includes $880,000 to the UG, $650,000 to the Piper school district and $300,000 to Kansas City Kansas Community College, he said.

“We are fortunate to have developers who want to invest in our community and be good neighbors,” he said. Plus, the project provides valuable jobs to those who have been laid off during the pandemic, he added.

Commissioner Mike Kane represents the district that The Woodlands is in, and voted against the project. He said almost all the calls he received were against the project, and he was voting with the residents. He also said since the facility operates 24 hours a day, it’s an industrial park, not a business park.

The proposed warehouse tenant for the development’s first phase was not disclosed at the UG Commission meeting. Also not disclosed by anyone at the commission meeting was how much the new jobs would pay.

During the discussion, Hand said the residents’ petition was invalid. When residents asked why it was thrown out, Hand said a protest petition required 20 percent of the residents of the land area, not the number of parcels, to sign a petition, and only 2.8 percent signed.

The commission also approved a Master Plan amendment for the Woodlands project on a 7-1 vote, with Commissioner Kane voting no and Commissioner Burroughs voting “pass,” saying he had a conflict of interest. The Prairie-Piper Master Plan had identified the Woodlands area as “entertainment” and the amendment changed it to “business park.”

At a public meeting on June 29 at the Venue at Willow Creek at the entrance to Wyandotte County Lake, about 45 people showed up, with most of them voicing opposition to the development, Commissioner Kane said.

At a UG committee meeting, a purchase agreement for Scannell Properties to buy 34 acres of Unified Government-owned land next to The Woodlands for $2.031 million was discussed.

According to UG Administrator Doug Bach at the July 30 meeting, the property was acquired by the UG in the past in a tax sale when real estate taxes could not be paid.

During a July 6 UG Committee meeting, committee members discussed how important this project was to the UG’s budget this year, with its $2 million payment to the UG. The UG is facing a shortfall in revenues.

At the July 30 meeting, Mayor Alvey said the $2 million certainly will not fill the UG’s budget hole. The shortfall was much greater than that. They had to make severe cuts to the budget, and they did not count on getting the $2 million, according to the mayor.

The mayor, mentioning another business park, also said he didn’t think the homes around the development would lose their value. He said if there isn’t economic development, the community would only see decline.

“There is no way out of this but economic development,” Mayor Alvey said. The community must take opportunities, hold developers to high standards and allow the development to happen, he said.

Commissioner Melissa Bynum, who voted in favor of the development, said she had heard from three residents against the project and a few in favor of it.

She said the project redevelops a blighted and vacant property and the proposed developer has a track record of quality development. They worked to mitigate as many of the residents’ concerns as they could, she said.

The project brings local tax dollars to the UG, Piper school and local governments. That’s a change from the current situation with the parcel, which has a lower property tax, thanks to decisions by the state Board of Tax Appeals, she said.

She also mentioned improvements to sidewalks and trails, and jobs that are coming to the county.

“What has to happen in order to have any chance of reducing the tax burden on residents is to grow our tax base,” Commissioner Bynum said. “Here’s a project to do exactly that.”

The vote was 6-3 in favor of the change of zone, with Commissioners Kane, Harold Johnson and Tom Burroughs voting no. Commissioners Bynum, Gayle Townsend, Brian McKiernan, Christian Ramirez, Jim Walters and Jane Philbrook voted yes.

In April 2019, when The Woodlands wanted to store vehicles on its lot, neighbors also opposed the noise and the traffic. At that time, the neighbors won concessions that prevented the business from driving trucks there at night.

The sale price of The Woodlands was earlier reported to be near $20 million.

To see an earlier story, visit www.wyandottedaily.com/neighbors-protest-proposed-business-park-at-the-woodlands/

Another earlier story is at wyandottedaily.com/woodlands-permit-sent-back-to-planning-commission/

The meeting is online at YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiFi_7TPsVk.

UG Commission approves budget, funds DA’s community integrity unit, defunds Fairfax fire station

Approved budget also raises sewer service fee, solid waste charge

$5 million payroll system approved

The Unified Government Commission approved a budget on Thursday, July 16, with no mill levy increase and no PILOT fee increase.

The UG administrator proposed a $380 million budget on June 25 that reflected reduced sales tax, gasoline tax and other revenues, but did not raise the property tax mill levy rate. The property tax rate of the city is 38.398, the same as 2020. The county mill levy rate is 39.263, the same as 2020.

While the city and county mill levy rates are not planned to change from last year, the assessed valuation is going up in Wyandotte County by around 5 percent each year, according to the UG budget document. That could result in a slight increase in some homeowners’ property taxes, depending on whether their home valuation increased and whether other taxing districts increase their mill levies.

The budget included many cuts, according to UG officials, including furloughs for employees and cuts to services and programs. The UG started furloughs during the past several weeks. The UG also is dipping into its reserves for funds.

Several UG departments reported they might see service cuts such as less mowing on right-of-ways, less snow removal, and less programs offered by parks and recreation centers. There were also cuts discussed in the police department that might result in some reductions in traffic units, school officers or community police or the possible closure of a police station, according to another recent budget workshop. More discussion about budget cuts is at http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-budget-hearing-to-be-tonight/.

UG Administrator Doug Bach said there was a reduction in force affecting about 30 people. He said they are trying to find other positions in the UG for some of the employees, but some may not be able or may not want to transfer to other areas.

Commission funds DA’s community integrity unit

The commission voted in favor of the district attorney’s community integrity unit. The unit will include 1.5 full-time positions, at a cost of $48,000 in 2020 and $165,000 in 2021, according to Doug Bach, UG administrator. It was only part of the original request for the unit. One of the tasks of this unit will be to investigate complaints about officers in the police department and other law enforcement officers in Wyandotte County.

Commissioner Melissa Bynum said that while she supported the idea of the community integrity unit, she wondered if it would be better placed in another area, such as with the legislative auditor or the ethics commissioner, who are independent under the UG charter. Commissioners also discussed the idea of encumbering the funds for the community integrity unit, much as they discussed a few years back when the district attorney proposed the conviction integrity unit.

Some commissioners mentioned that the district attorney made his proposal for the community integrity unit late in the budget process, and some of the commissioners felt they wanted more time to ask more questions about it. The district attorney presented the program at the Monday budget workshop. Some commissioners also remarked that if the unit isn’t working the way it should, they could look at its funding again next year.

More than 10 persons had made comments in favor of the community integrity unit during the UG budget hearing on Monday night.

Commissioners Townsend and Harold Johnson supported leaving the community integrity unit in the district attorney’s office, and not encumbering the funds. The CIU funding, unencumbered, was approved for the district attorney’s office on a 10-0 vote.

The county and city budget also was approved at that time.

Bach said the money for the community integrity unit will come from the contingency or reserve line item. The total overall county general fund budget will stay the same at $67.4 million for 2020 and $70.6 million for 2021, he said.

Fire station discussed again, without action

The UG administration earlier proposed closing the Fairfax fire station, and covering the Fairfax area from the Quindaro fire station. The Fairfax firefighters were proposed to be transferred to Piper to staff a new fire station there.

A task force then discussed ways to keep the fire station open in the Fairfax industrial district, including a possible public safety sales tax and also, drawing funds from several other sources in the budget. It was estimated to cost $1.8 million to staff the station. However, there were not enough votes for this plan in a straw poll at a recent UG Commission budget workshop.

An alternate plan proposed at a recent budget workshop by Commissioner Gayle Townsend to share firefighters between the two stations part-time, was not recommended by Fire Chief Mike Callahan in a presentation at tonight’s UG budget adoption meeting. Chief Callahan said there could be issues with computer-aided dispatching potentially resulting in firefighters in one part of town, for example, being dispatched far across town.

He also cited potential issues with firefighters’ personal vehicles being left at one station while they were working at another station; and issues with firefighters having to take their protective equipment and items back and forth between stations. He also cited problems with staffing programs and said scheduling would become burdensome. Scheduling training also would be burdensome, according to the fire chief.

It is not a “best practice” in the fire service, and he would not recommend it, he said.

Commissioner Townsend said the possibility for human error from her plan to share firefighters between two stations is too great a risk to take. She said she did not want to sacrifice the safety of the constituents or the firefighters.

There was no action taken to fund the Fairfax fire station.

$5.3 million payroll system approved

The commission voted unanimously to approve a $5.3 million home rule resolution for the county portion of the enterprise resource planning system and other items. About $1.9 million is coming from reserves in the debt service fund, according to Kathleen Von Achen, UG chief financial officer.

Temporary notes would be issued, which would be repaid from debt reserves in the county bond and interest fund, she said.

Von Achen said the UG has a financial system acquired over 25 years ago for paying bills and payroll. It also processes accounts receivable and deposits and records them. It doesn’t have the capability to help them manage people in the organization, and this new program has a series of modules that would allow the UG to manage its workforce, she said.

Von Achen said the return on investment of the system is that within two to three years it would pay back the cost of implementation. She estimated they would save $5 million a year by putting in place more streamlined business processes.

The system was approved 10-0.

The commission also passed a resolution to sell municipal temporary notes and to refund bonds.

County library budget approved

The county library budget, which includes an increase for those who live in Piper, Edwardsville and Turner, was adopted on a 10-0 vote.

Earlier, commissioners had asked about whether they could change the library mill levy, set by the county library board, and were told that state law required them to approve the budget as submitted by the county library board.

They asked at the earlier meeting what they could do to change the situation.

Bach tonight proposed to investigate the use of home rule to change the current structure of the county library board. A proposed change would make the mill levy rate a recommendation and not a requirement for the UG Commission to pass, according to Bach.

Also, since the county library board is appointed by the UG commissioners, the commissioners may want to engage individually with their appointees to discuss the commission’s goal of lowering the county-wide mill rate, Bach said, pointing out that this was suggested by commissioners at the last meeting.

He said any actions may take several months.

Other budget items

The Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District (Downtown Improvement District) budget, at 9.957 mills, was approved 10-0.

The UG Commission on a 10-0 vote approved the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan for Community Development.

The sewer service rate charge will increase 5 percent, with the monthly base charge going from $20.30 a month to $21.32 a month. The vote was 8-2 to approve it, with Commissioners Tom Burroughs and Mike Kane voting no.

The solid waste fee will increase from $15.65 to $16 in 2021 for residential units. The vote was 7-3 to approve it, with Commissioners Burroughs, Kane and Christian Ramirez voting no.

The PILOT fee, currently at 11.9 percent, will remain the same. The vote was 9-1, with Commissioner Kane voting no. The PILOT fee, sewer service rate charge and solid waste fee are collected on the BPU bills; the fees are sent to the UG.

The capital maintenance project list was approved, including:
• 131st Street and Leavenworth Road intersection reconstruction, $1.1 million;
• 51st north of Cleveland, replacement of concrete box, $700,000;
• 6th Street improvements, Ann Avenue to Central Avenue, $650,000;
• 7th Street and Central Avenue reconstruction, $2 million;
• 90th and Parallel, Brune Elementary, $2 million;
• Annex parking lot improvements, $400,000;
• ADA modification for UG facilities, 2019, $100,000, $100,000 in 2020 and $100,000 in 2021;
• Alley improvement program in 2020, $300,000; $300,000 in 2021;
• Concrete repair program in 2021, $1.77 million;
• Elevator upgrades 2021, $500,000;
• Emergency bridge repair, 2019, $300,000; emergency bridge repair 2020, $300,000; emergency bridge repair 2021, $300,000;
• Pavement preservation program 2021, $3 million;
• Railroad crossing improvement 2020, $150,000;
• Bonded equipment, $3.57 million;
• 18th Street bridge over Turkey Creek, $150,000;
• 36th and Ohio bridge replacement, $700,000;
• Dump station improvement – relocation, $1 million;
• City Hall structure study and stabilization, $10.35 million;
• Courthouse, $4.37 million;
• Enterprise Resource Planning System, $5,23 million;
• Facilities and parking annual maintenance and repair for 2018, $550,000; facilities and parking annual maintenance and repair for 2020, $700,000; facilities and parking annual maintenance and repair for 2021, $900,000;
• Fairfax entry and informational signage, $1.75 million;
• Fairfax industrial area improvements 2019, $100,000; Fairfax industrial area improvements 2020, $100,000; Fairfax industrial area improvements 2021, $100,000;
• Fiber connectivity projects, $4.1 million;
• Future fire station 2021 replacing two stations in the Turner district, $6.9 million;
• Green infrastructure improvements, 2019-2020, $2 million;
• Holliday Drive bridge replacements, $1.3 million;
• Hutton and Donahoo Road intersection improvements, $350,000;
• Hutton and Leavenworth Road reconstruction, $7,450,000;
• Infrastructure migration, $75,000;
• I-70 and Turner Diagonal interchange reconstruction, $7.5 million;
• Jail system ionization project, $100,000;
• Kansas levee betterment, $10.2 million;
• Kaw Point biosolids digestion, $80.5 million;
• Leavenworth Road, 78th to 63rd, $9 million;
• Lombardy Drive sanitary sewer improvements, $1.7 million;
• Maintenance facility on Kansas Avenue, $3 million;
• Metropolitan bikeway improvement, $350,000;
• Minnesota Avenue from 6th to 7th Street improvements, $1.23 million;
• Neighborhood ADA pedestrian handicapped ramps, 2020, $400,000; Neighborhood ADA pedestrian handicapped ramps, 2021, $400,000;
• Neighborhood street repair 2021, $100,000;
• North 34th Street box culvert, $380,000;
• Online permitting and electronic plan review software, $150,000;
• Pavement marking and signing program, $100,000;
• Piper Creek interceptor, $9.5 million;
• Plant 20 and 3 equipment and structural rehab, $3 million;
• Plant 20 biosolids dewatering, $5 million, prior authorized;
• Police station annual maintenance program, $50,000;
• Police station major facility improvements, $50,000;
• Police tow lot, $5 million, prior authorization;
• Priority traffic signal replacement 2016, $360,000; Priority traffic signal replacements 2020, $400,000; Priority traffic signal replacements 2021, $800,000;
• Pump station 18, 5, 4 upgrade, $4.45 million prior authorization;
• Pump stations SCDA, $17.5 million;
• Relocation of sewer maintenance facilities, $11 million prior authorization;
• Route 107 bus stop and station upgrades, $760,000 prior authorization;
• Safe Routes to School, Group D, prior authorization, $570,000;
• Safe Routes to School, Phase G, prior authorization, $528,000;
• Salt dome repairs, $60,000;
• Stormwater enhancements 2021, $500,000;
• Stream bank stabilization improvements, 2017-2019, $300,000 prior authorization; Stream bank stabilization improvements, 2020, $100,000 prior authorization; Stream bank stabilization improvements 2021, $100,000;
• System capacity upgrades 2020, $1.5 million; System capacity upgrades 2021, $3.5 million;
• Technology projects, $917,000;
• Timekeeping upgrades – integrations, $58,000;
• Upgrade land management system, $324,000;
• West annex, $190,000;
• Wolcott expansion – Connor Creek, $63.69 million;
• Wyandotte County Lake waterline study and repair, $2.89 million;
• Wyandotte County Park road repairs, $200,000, prior authorization.

The UG budget adoption meeting is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr2SPT5odUw.

The UG agenda for the budget adoption meeting is online at https://wycokck.civicclerk.com/web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?p=1&aoid=1756.

The UG budget document is at https://www.wycokck.org/WycoKCK/media/Finance/Documents/Budget/2020-Amended-2021-Proposed-Budget-Unified-Government-WYCO-KCK-FINAL.pdf.

For previous UG budget stories, visit:


UG committees to meet Monday night

Two Unified Government committees will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, June 22, in a remote Internet meeting.

The Public Works and Safety Committee meeting will meet at 5 p.m.

On the agenda:

• A $1 million grant for the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, in conjunction with the Health Department, on community-based crime reduction.

• A resolution recommending the naming of a 7-mile tributary in Wyandotte County after Chief Ne Con He Con, who lived from 1809 to 1863. He was the chief of the Wolf Band of the Delaware Tribe and is buried near the headwaters of an unnamed tributary of Wolf Creek. Ne con He con Creek was the historical name of the tributary. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has received a proposal from the vice president of the Bonner Springs Historic Preservation Society to make Ne con He con Creek the official name. They have asked the Unified Government for their input.

• Also on the Public Works and Safety Committee is an update on the KC Levee projects, including the Argentine, Armourdale and Central Industrial District units.The UG has joined with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kaw Valley Drainage District and Kansas City, Missouri, in a $435 million KC Levees Project. The design of the 17-mile levee upgrades on Argentine, Armourdale and CID Levee units is taking place and real estate acquisition has begun, according to the agenda.

The Administration and Human Services Committee will meet after the Public Works and Safety Committee meeting.

On the agenda for the Administration and Human Services Committee will be:

• A proposal to rename the UG Urban Planning and Land Use Department to the Planning and Urban Design Department.

• An update on Parks and Recreation Department software.

• A discussion about the Community Development Department Revised 2020 and Proposed 2021 budgets, and the Draft 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan.

• A request to accept grant funds of $750,000 from the Metro Rapid Response Fund for the UG Health Department’s COVID response.

The agendas are online at www.wycokck.org.

To view the meetings, see cable channel 2 on Spectrum or channel 141 on Google TV. It also is on YouTube.

The meeting will be on Zoom at
Password: 799603

Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +13462487799,,96881223765# or +16699009128,,96881223765#
Or telephone:
Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 9128 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312
626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656 or 888 475 4499 (Toll Free) or 877 853 5257 (Toll Free)
Webinar ID: 968 8122 3765
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/atZUpG904
Or an H.323/SIP room system:
H.323: (US West) (US East) (India Mumbai) (India Hyderabad) (EMEA) (Australia) (Hong Kong SAR) (Brazil) (Canada) (Japan)
Meeting ID: 968 8122 3765
Password: 799603
SIP: 96881223765@zoomcrc.com
Password: 799603