The Love’s Travel Stops project, which has been a divisive topic for aldermen and citizens alike, took a critical step forward June 6.
Rick Deluca, director of community development for the city, said he expects the company to begin construction next month.
The company will move forward because the Aldermen approved, with a 5-3 vote, a Commercial Improvement District petition by Love’s and other property owners in the approximately 56-acre district. Aldermen Clint Long, Morris Coburn and David Dickerson opposed the CID petition.
A CID is a tax tool that will reimburse Love’s for its development of public infrastructure by adding 1 percent to the sales tax in the district. It does not reimburse the company for its private improvements.
Rick Shuffield, vice president of development for the company, attended the regular Board of Aldermen meeting. Dickerson asked Shuffield if he’d been approached by city staff to expand the area covered by the CID to fit city needs.
Shuffield said that when he originally looked at the site, located at the intersection of South Commercial Street and Brookhart Drive, he had no intentions of expanding public infrastructure in the area.
“But when we had a conversation (with city staff) about doing a large expansion of public infrastructure — upsizing water lines, electric and sewer service — it’s all for the public good. Yes we benefit from it, but the cost that I could have come in at is a fraction of what (we’ll pay).”
Shuffield also said that city staff informed him that paving the way for an industrial area near the Love’s site is part of the city’s long-range plan.
Without the tax tool to fund the public infrastructure that could lead to that industrial area, Shuffield said the project would not meet the company’s minimal return standards.
With the tax tool, Shuffield called the project a win-win.
City Administrator Keith Moody said the terms of the CID in no way pose a financial liability for the city.
“The developer pays up front for improvement,” Moody said, adding that the developer will not be reimbursed for interest.
During a public hearing prior to the vote, six citizens voiced their support of the project, while one expressed concern that the CID is a new tax on Harrisonville citizens that was not voted on by those citizens.
“Missouri passed a law that you cannot raise taxes on people without their vote. It’s a law,” Butler said. “Folks, if you don’t think it’s a tax you’re crazy.”
Butler was referring to the Hancock Amendment, which requires voter approval before state or local governments raise taxes.
Butler’s comments incited multiple citizens to call out that Butler did not have to shop at the Love’s travel stop if he wanted to avoid the higher sales tax.
, an attorney from Kansas City’s Polsinelli firm, represents Love’s and attended the meeting. She said the CID meets the requirements of the Hancock Amendment by creating a political subdivision in the 56-acre district.
“In this particular case, it will not be a city obligation,” Koch said.
She called it an at-risk project for Love’s, and the first time she’s represented a company that would forgo having its interest repaid by the city.
“With a CID, it’s amazing what they’ve done for communities,” Koch said. “Property owners have been willing to come in and make investments that they otherwise would not make in the community.”
According to the CID petition from Love’s, those improvements include street paving, construction of storm drainage improvements, highway ramp and interchange improvements, street paving, sewer extensions and water main extensions.
Jay Shick said that with Peculiar to the north, Harrisonville’s only expansion can come to the south and west, where the Love’s project is located.
“I think this (project) is going to be a faucet and you’re installing the spigot and opening it up,” Shick said. “I think we’re going to see some growth out that way.”
Supporters of the project pointed to the fact that the city is not financially liable, that the project will bring jobs to the community and that the increased sales tax can be avoided by Harrisonville residents by not going to Love’s. Shuffield predicted that as much as 95 percent of Love’s customers will be non-Harrisonville residents passing through the area.
“(It’s a) miniscule tax for the amount of improvements the city gets,” Shuffield said.