Neighbors protest proposed business park at The Woodlands

by Murrel Bland

An Indianapolis, Indiana, real estate investor has proposed to buy The Woodlands which is near the intersection of 99th Street and Leavenworth Road. But nearby neighbors have some other ideas. That was obvious at a public meeting held June 29 at the Venue at Willow Creek, a meeting place at the entrance to Wyandotte County Lake.

Scannell Properties wants to build five buildings that would serve as warehouses. Shaun Cofer, representing Scannell, said the proposed sale would need a change in zoning from AG, CP-1 and CP 2. The proposed change would be to C-1 and M-2 which would allow it to be a business park. There would be five buildings which would have an estimated one million square feet of floor space. Existing buildings would be razed.

Neighbors said that they are concerned that trucks would be able to come and go from the locations 24 hours a day. One area resident, Jamie Brann, said she was concerned that the project could decrease the value of her nearby home.

Another woman who said she lived nearby asked if there was someone there from the Unified Government. Melissa Brune Bynum, a Unified Government Commissioner, said she was there only to observe and learn about the development. Another woman said she did not trust the Unified Government because it promised lower taxes when the Legends was being proposed, yet her taxes increased.

A few other neighbors, including Joe Vaught, a commercial Realtor, said they favored the complex.

The Woodlands was developed in the late 1980s, boasting as one of the finest and only combination horse and dog tracks in the country. It opened for dog racing in 1989 and for horse racing in 1990. During its early days, it attracted more than 1.7 million visitors annually.

However, by 2000, because of stiff competition from casinos in Kansas City, Missouri, attendance dropped to less than 400,000 a year.

The original developers and owners of The Woodlands were R.D. Hubbard and Richard Boushka. They estimated the cost of the project was $68 million.

In 1998, William Grace bought the track out of bankruptcy. Grace died in 2005; his heirs closed the track in 2008.

Phil Ruffin, a Las Vegas casino owner, bought the track in 2015. He is the present owner.

According to the Unified Government’s website, the property, which has about 380 acres, has an appraised value of $8,935,010. Annual property taxes are $373,004.54.

A person familiar with similar warehouse developments said such buildings could be built for about $50 a square foot. That would mean the development, when built out as proposed, could cost an estimated $50 million, or about five times the present value of The Woodlands. That could mean annual property taxes of $1.8 million. Cofer said Scannell is not asking for any tax abatements.

Scannell is proposing to donate 70 acres of the property to the Unified Government for use as a park. The development is estimated to produce more than 1,000 jobs.

The issue of the change in zoning will come before the Unified Government’s Planning Commission at 7 p.m. Monday, July 13. It will be a virtual meeting on Zoom. The website will be, password 721618. The meeting can also reached by telephone at 1-346-248-7799. The webinar ID will be 911-8147-0857, password 721618.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

Neighborhood meeting planned Monday for Woodlands redevelopment

A neighborhood meeting has been scheduled for the Woodlands redevelopment.

The neighborhood follow-up meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, June 29, at Willow Creek, 3150 N. 91st St., Kansas City, Kansas. It is near the entrance of Wyandotte County Lake Park.

The Woodlands property, at 97th and Leavenworth Road, is proposed to be sold to Scannell Properties and redeveloped for a warehouse project.

The redevelopment would require a change of zoning for a business park. The plans also called for a neighborhood retail center. A master plan amendment also is part of its application.

At the meeting, developers will explain the proposal and answer questions. There will be social distancing at the meeting.

Plans underway for a warehouse distribution facility for The Woodlands

The possible end of The Woodlands as a horse or dog track is under discussion, with the property at 97th and Leavenworth Road up for sale.

According to Mike Taylor, a Unified Government spokesman, The Woodlands’ owner has put the former racetrack up for sale to Scannell Properties, which wants to build a 1 million square foot warehouse distribution facility and office park with retail development at a corner of the former racetrack. The current owner, Phil Ruffin, is a Las Vegas casino owner.

Taylor said he understood the deal with Scannell was near closing, and if the sale happens, the development then would need to go through planning and zoning with public hearings. The horse and dog track buildings would be demolished, according to Taylor. The new plans would require UG approval.

About 1,000 new jobs would be created by the development, and plans called for 70 acres between the new development and Wyandotte County Lake to become walking trails and green space, according to the UG.

The selling price of The Woodlands was said to be near $20 million, as compared to about $15 million that Ruffin paid for it about five years ago, according to Taylor.

Taylor said the Unified Government has backed Ruffin’s efforts to reopen The Woodlands during the past few years in the Legislature. Under a different UG Commission and administration, the UG had opposed efforts to reopen. This past session, the Legislature again did not approve a law that would have allowed the racetrack to make a profit.

Taylor said The Woodlands issue did not come up again today in the Kansas Legislature, which was called back for a special session. The Legislature is largely dealing with COVID-19 legislation, he said. He added there was an attempt to bring up Medicaid expansion again today, but it failed.

The Woodlands opened in 1989 and closed in 2008 in a dispute with Kansas lawmakers over the amount of taxes that would have to be paid when slot machines were authorized. Horse and dog tracks were allowed to add slot machines, but would have to pay almost twice as much in gaming taxes as the state-owned casinos.

Scannell Properties is a real estate development firm with headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, that has more than 300 development projects in 44 states and in Canada.

According to the UG, project plans are being reviewed at the local level, and also by the state of Kansas and Army Corps of Engineers.

The Woodlands these past few years ran into some local opposition from neighbors at planning and zoning meetings when it used its parking lot to store vehicles, with neighbors complaining about traffic coming in and out of the facility.