Because of COVID-19, some of the rules governing restaurants and retail stores have been loosened to allow sidewalk cafes and retail space.
The Unified Government Commission approved the rules on June 4 and they went into effect on June 11, after publication.
The ordinance and resolution allows some businesses to use public rights-of-way as additional space to do business.
Businesses that are listed can offer outdoor sales on sidewalks, yards, in surplus off-street parking and in parklets, with certain restrictions. The “parklets” are parking spaces that temporarily can be turned into a sidewalk extension in order to provide more amenities and space for people using the street.
The ordinance temporarily will suspend enforcement of certain sections of existing Unified Government code of ordinances in order to provide Wyandotte County businesses trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic more space in which to operate in accordance with guidelines asking them to provide adequate room for proper social distancing between staff and customers.
“Recognizing Wyandotte County businesses would need assistance and flexibility as they worked to get their operations back up and running, I previously directed UG staff to identify opportunities and areas in which we might be able to help and support in that recovery process,” Mayor David Alvey stated. “This new ordinance allows businesses to temporarily create added outdoor space for retail customer sales, utilizing sidewalks, parking lot spaces, and other areas to sell their products and serve their customers, while still maintaining proper social distancing guidelines. It’s a win-win situation for residents and business owners, and a common sense approach to governing in these unique and unprecedented times.”
“In essence, the ordinance effectively legalizes sidewalk cafes, open-air markets and other retail spaces in what are normally public rights-of-way,” said Gunnar Hand, UG director of urban planning. “These common areas are the most valuable and widely used public open spaces in our community. The ordinance is a dramatic statement that allows this space to create a safer, more dynamic, and supportive environment for businesses.”
The Ordinance goes effect on June 11 and lasts until 11:50 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020. It allows businesses within Wyandotte County to temporarily use the public right-of-way for the sale of goods as long appropriate access to services can be provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that social distancing is maintained. This means maintaining a distance of at least six feet between workers, customers, and others while in public.
Businesses allowed to provide service within the public right-of-way include:
• Bars and restaurants • Traditional retail • Arts and crafts • Book stores • Jewelry stores • Offices • Nonprofit organizations
Businesses not covered by the ordinance include those providing any type of repair service, or any sales of appliances, electronics, or machinery.
Businesses providing alcohol sales are required to go through the normal Kansas Alcohol Beverage Control approvals process. Failing to do so will trigger an automatic review.
Other restrictions apply to businesses taking advantage of the terms of the ordinance, including: • All temporary parklets and other temporary structures used for outdoor sales such as pop-up tents will only be allowed during regular business hours. • Any items (such as merchandise, tables, chairs, etc.) brought into the public right-of-way are required to be stored in the associated business each night.
Unified Government Health officials caution that it’s important to continue to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 remains a threat in our community,” said Dr. Allen Greiner, chief medical officer with the Unified Government Health Department. “While it’s exciting to see our businesses reopening, everyone needs to continue to practice safe social distancing, wear a mask when in public, stay home and seek testing if you are sick, and continue with excellent hygiene such as washing your hands frequently with soap and water, covering your cough and not touching your face with your hands. It’s the combination of these actions that has been most effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Residents or business owners with questions about this change may contact 3-1-1.
The ordinance and resolution are online at wycokck.org/Clerk/Agendas for “Special Session 6/4/20” under the “Agendas and Minutes” section.
Mayor David Alvey told residents Thursday that Kansas City, Kansas, is at a crossroads
“We’re at a time and place where we have an opportunity to choose our future,” Mayor Alvey said in a speech at a community meeting Thursday night at the Joe Amayo Argentine Community Center, 2810 Metropolitan Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. More than 50 persons attended the meeting.
The mayor said the fundamental responsibility of local government was to enhance the quality of life and to be good stewards of financial resources. Kansas City, Kansas, can improve its financial situation if it invests in quality of life improvements for residents and businesses, he said.
He began a series of community presentations on Thursday night, just days after about 80 percent of Wyandotte County residents received notices in the mail about their home valuations increasing.
What residents want: Survey results
Showing the results of the citizen survey released recently, Mayor Alvey noted several areas where residents’ perception of the city had improved, and also noted areas where the residents wanted more services. The recent survey showed significant improvements, according to the company that conducted the survey.
Residents in the survey said they wanted the top focus for services to be maintenance of city streets, police services, communication with the public, code enforcement, trash collection and recycling and storm water runoff – management system, he said.
“Residents stop me and say, mayor, we need you to fix our streets, or mayor, we need you to send the police out to catch the speeders on our streets, or mayor, we need more services for our young people in our communities,” Mayor Alvey said. “And then they say, and I need you to lower my taxes.
“We want it all, we want better service, better infrastructure, we want lower taxes,” he said.
Gap between existing revenues and what residents want
He said a large gap exists between where the city is now in revenues and where it would be if all the services were offered that residents wanted.
Part of the gap was caused by past decisions made by the Unified Government Commission responding to residents who wanted lower taxes, he said. The city’s budget was reduced 6 mills since 2016, he said. A consequence was that there was less money available for services, he said.
Borrowing just means the city will have to pay the money later, with additional funds for interest, according to the mayor. Currently 17 mills, or 44 percent, of the city’s 38 mill rate goes toward debt, he said. Fifty six percent, or 21 mills, goes toward UG operations, he noted. Paying the debt that the city already has limits what it can do, he said.
“We have only so much money, and we have to be careful with it,” Mayor Alvey said.
The UG is using priority-based budgeting, going over each department’s expenditures to make sure expenses fit with the commission’s priorities, public input and surveys, according to Alvey.
Solution: ‘Broaden the tax base’
While it would seem that cities can’t have better services and lower taxes at the same time, the solution is to broaden the tax base, he said, with new businesses coming here, existing businesses growing and more residents. More people paying the taxes means fewer tax dollars each person pays, he said.
For decades, people left Kansas City, Kansas, and businesses left, with tax revenues reduced, he said. Those who remained had to pay more.
“We’ve been down that road,” he said. “That’s a road of decline, that’s a road of blight, that’s a road of depopulation. We’ve been down that road. It wasn’t good.”
Residents can choose to take a road of growth or a road of decline, he said.
“That’s a crossroad as well,” he said. Residents have said through surveys and input that they don’t want to take the road of decline, he said.
Both commercial and residential contribute about equally to the property taxes of the city, he said. Tax revenues are generated across the city, he said, with opportunities all across the city.
He said people ask him why the UG gives incentives to companies to locate here.
“The simple answer is because it works,” Alvey said.
In 2002 the Legends and Village West produced total tax revenues of $213,000. By 2019, it was producing $36.2 million in taxes, with $24.2 million from property tax and $12 million from sales tax, he said.
“That happened because of STAR (sales tax revenue) bonds,” he said. “Why did we offer STAR bonds? Because they worked for us.”
The UG also uses industrial revenue bonds as an economic development tool. It helps pays for the building construction and equipment. He showed a slide listing five major projects that would add millions to the tax revenues when the bonds are paid off.
New projects to bring in additional tax revenues
As examples of growing infrastructure, Alvey said the Turner Diagonal project will bring in thousands of jobs, and eventually will bring in additional property taxes.
The old Indian Springs site, Scavuzzo’s KC Foodie Park, will add 140 jobs in a food distribution center and will bring in offices and restaurants to the site in a $140 million development, he said.
The American Royal development at 118th and State will build new facilities in a $250 million complex, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the area, staying at hotels, shopping here and building up tax revenues, while allowing the city to provide more services and reducing the property tax burden for residents, he said. On the north side will be an office park.
A new Menard’s store on 98th north of State Avenue probably will generate about a million dollars a year in sales tax revenues, he said.
“We do economic development deals because it works for us,” he said.
Problems still need to be addressed
But there are some serious problems in parts of the community, he said. There are too many vacated properties, he said. Generally, the lots aren’t paying any taxes, but services still have to be provided to the area, he said.
The UG is mowing lawns about three times a year on vacant lots, of which the city has around 4,000, and it has been demolishing homes that are beyond repair, according to Alvey.
An empty structure brings a higher incidence of violent crime around it, and other properties around it are valued less, according to studies, he said.
Renovation has been raising property values
By encouraging remodeling, including Land Bank remodeling, the UG has helped raise the value of those blighted properties and the homes around it, he said.
Through the UG Land Bank, there have been about 53 homes formerly on the tax delinquent list that have been remodeled, and those homes’ values were dramatically raised, in some cases going from about $20,000 to $100,000 or more. There also have been private renovation projects.
The effect of this renovation throughout the city is to increase property values, he said. There was an average 8 percent increase in valuations in the appraisal notices that went out last week.
“That’s a good thing,” Mayor Alvey said. “If property values are declining, that means a city is dying. We’ve been down that road. We can’t afford to go back.”
The appraiser’s office is using market data to set the appraisals.
“People are responding to the improvements they’re seeing, and they want to buy in,” he said.
The UG also is going after those who won’t pay taxes, he said. The UG went from 7,156 delinquent properties in 2016 to 3,863, he said.
Quality of life issues
If the city improves the tax base but not the quality of life, what’s the point of it, he asked.
He said the recent citizen survey indicated more satisfaction with cleanup, mowing, and maintenance of property.
People who have lived here a long time, still see problems, he said, but people who are coming in, are noticing improvements.
The survey also showed that residents wanted to work most on cleanup of trash and junk citywide; mowing and trimming of weeds on vacant and private property citywide; cleanup of junk, trash and debris in neighborhoods; and maintenance of residential property in neighborhoods, he said.
“We’re not done yet; there’s so much more to do,” Mayor Alvey said.
There were 311 sites across the city that were illegal dumping sites, he said. Recently, the city picked up 811 old tires around the city.
“If you see someone you suspect is dumping illegally,” he said, “get a picture of them and send it to us.”
If there is a conviction, the UG will pay a reward, he added.
The UG also added a second property abatement team this year, he said, more than doubling the number of properties abated.
The UG has spent $1.7 million in taking down blighted buildings and mowing vacant lots, he said, and much of it is from sales tax funds.
Mayor Alvey said the UG has filled about 9,000 potholes in January and February, using new asphalt equipment.
In addition, the mayor helped launch an Adopt-a-Spot program cleaning up local parks and streets. So far, 37 places have been adopted, with 98 more available. He urged people to pick up trash when they see it.
The UG is also addressing stormwater problems, and has 2,000 work orders out for projects, he said.
“We have to spend what we need to spend to fix these problems,” he said. “If I don’t fix the roof on my house and it starts to leak, next year I’m paying not only to fix the roof, but to fix the drywall and floor as well.”
Mayor Alvey also cited a new program to reduce crime, using data in targeted areas, citing the Central Avenue area as one of the places where it was implemented. In addition, he said there is a new police crime analysis unit and new license plate readers used to catch stolen vehicles. The UG also is installing body cameras, community cameras and in-car cameras, he said.
The UG also has invested in three new aerials and four new pumpers for the Fire Department, as well as equipment for cleaning gear, he said.
‘Road to growth’
“We can take a road to growth, we can take a road to improving the quality of life, or we can take the other road,” Mayor Alvey said. “We’ve done it already. We can take a road to blight, to decay, to increased crime, to people leaving, to businesses closing. How did that work for us? It simply goes nowhere.”
He asked residents to continue paying their taxes, to watch the UG Commission’s meetings, to communicate with the UG, to report illegal dumping and to pick up trash.
“Neighborhoods are the heart of Kansas City, Kansas,” he said. He encouraged people to get involved in their neighborhoods.
He also encouraged people to participate in the census and to encourage their neighbors to fill it out. The UG’s federal funds depend on it, he said. The census also determines the county’s representation in Congress.
Meeting with residents
After the mayor’s presentation, residents had the opportunity to meet with representatives of Unified Government offices, including mayor’s office, police, Sheriff’s, appraiser’s, public works, code enforcement, animal services, economic development, Livable Neighborhoods, parks and recreation, and planning and zoning. The Board of Public Utilities also was represented.
Commissioners Angela Markley, Tom Burroughs and Christian Ramirez were in attendance, along with Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools board member Janey Humphries and Board of Public Utilities General Manager Bill Johnson.
‘Wyandotte County is moving in the right direction’
“I commend the mayor for hosting these community meetings,” Commissioner Burroughs said.
Commissioner Burroughs, 2nd District at large, said he attended to support the mayor and also the results of the citizen survey.
While there are challenges ahead, the tide has turned and the mayor and commission are not afraid to face challenges, he said.
“Wyandotte County is moving in the right direction,” Commissioner Burroughs said. “Property values are increasing and people want to be here.”
People should take pride in the growth, he said.
During the meeting, Mayor Alvey also expressed his sadness about the fire at St. John the Divine Church at 25th and Metropolitan on Tuesday night.
“We need to find a way to continue to sustain the Mexican heritage in our community,” he said. “It continues to be important.”
While he understands that the building was a decaying structure, it is important to celebrate the heritage of Mexican-American citizens, he said.
Mayor Alvey has scheduled other “KCK at a Crossroads” community meetings throughout the community.
The remainder of the meetings: March 10 – Bethany Community Center, 1120 Central Ave., Kansas City, Kansas; March 24 – Northwest Middle School, 2400 N. 18th St., Kansas City, Kansas; April 7 – Patricia “Diane” Kane Community Center, 3130 N. 122nd St., Kansas City, Kansas; and April 21 – USD 500 headquarters, 2010 N. 59th St., Kansas City, Kansas.
The State Finance Council today approved the more than $1.5 million award for Lamonte McIntyre of Kansas City, Kansas, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 23 years.
“This award is a long time coming,” State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., said today. “There is no one who is more deserving than Lamonte McIntyre.”
According to Sen. Haley, the last hurdle for McIntyre’s compensation has been cleared. There was no opposition to the award, he said. Sen. Haley said he discussed the approval with the state budget director and the governor afterward, and was told that the award should be forthcoming shortly.
“As the one who introduced the original bill for the wrongfully incarcerated to be compensated, the McIntyre case was the inspiration for my advocacy,” Sen. Haley said.
Sen. Haley sponsored the bill for the first two years alone. Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, was added as a sponsor the third year, and was instrumental in the bill’s passage, he said.
Sen. Haley said that Alvin Sykes, a human rights activist, is the reason he found out about the McIntyre case and the impetus behind the wrongful incarceration statute, and Sen. Haley also became aware of the case through the Innocence Project.
The Kansas attorney general approved McIntyre’s claim on Feb. 24, forwarding it to the State Finance Council.
McIntyre also has a case in federal court against some former Kansas City, Kansas, police personnel and the Unified Government.