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One Meeting, Two Standards, & A Simple Example of Special Interest

It is time to stop believing the current politicians with their claim that the only thing Overland Park has to offer is themselves.  According to the majority of members on the current Overland Park City Council. Overland Park has nothing to offer business other then their tax handouts.

As they have now ran the city budget into the red, even with a potential crisis around the corner (see Dark Store Theory HERE).  It is time to start believing in our city, our schools, and our people as a reason to attract and retain business.

PHOTO: CityPlace building. New building that received 30 million in economic development revenue bonds. Developer represented by Polsinelli, campaign contributor to Rick Collins and many other sitting councilmembers.

As election season ramps up expect these same members to repeat, ad nauseam, that these handouts "don't risk the general fund".  For an extremely short sighted view that may be the case.  When all the new southern development is shuttered much like those of the northern retail areas that have been abandoned I think we know we will have even more of a problem than already exists.  Public-Private partnerships to create newly built and future urban sprawl is in fact a very real risk to the City of Overland Park.  Tax incentive financing to revitalize an area is one topic of discussion worthy of having.  Tax financing just to build giant shopping centers further south that may have the same fate of many past developments threatens us all.

The repeated defense by City Council that their creative "tax incentives do not risk the general fund" is equivalent to any of us saying we are going to throw a college fraternity party at our home because someone else is paying for the food and drinks.  While they are correct, it may not jeopardize your pocketbook that night,  there will be nobody else left to clean up the mess and damage caused, but you!  If the project is not logical and sustainable this mentality absolutely jeopardizes both the future finances and health of our city.

As you may have read in my previous posts, a lot of these plans and developments stem from the special interests who have worked their way into local politics.  Here is a small example and proof on how special interest plays a roll even in the smallest of issues in just a standard council meeting.  This is not on the level of the millions we poured into Black & Veatch to buy new carpet for the multi-billion dollar international company, this is just a case where in one meeting Councilmember Rick Collins went to bat against his own constituents to push the agenda of a campaign contributor, developer, and the attorney who represents them. 

This is a simple case of a developer wanting to build a neighborhood that does not fit with the surrounding area and has been heavily opposed.  Not only does it not flow with the area, the developer want the new homeowners to access their new neighborhood by using the streets currently only used by this quiet 2-3 acre lot subdivision.

During a recent City Council Meeting and after passing the staff created 2020 budget without discussion the next item on the agenda was a Special Use Permit submitted by Michele Sublette.  The request was to house 2 or 3 chickens in her backyard.  Unlike the 2020 budget this drew conversation and opinions by all members of the council.  Sublette had followed the process entirely by submitting the required requests, informing the neighbors, and received no opposition with her neighbors.  If fact she had proof of the support of her surrounding neighbors. As reported by the Shawnee Mission Post the request failed on a 5-7 vote with Ward 6 councilmember Rick Collins offering the following opinion...

“The expectation when you move into an urban environment is you’re not going to find farm animals,” said Councilmember Richard Collins.

As for enjoyment of the chickens, “that’s why we have them out at Deanna Rose Farmstead. She (Sublette) wants to have fresh eggs. That’s why you go to Whole Foods and Sprouts.”

In a complete and immediate about face Councilmember Rick Collins supported the developer and campaign contributor in a highly contested rezoning request.  The request is to rezone a parcel of land that connects to the subdivision Ryan's Run into R1 zoning which would allow for lots sized as small as 8,000 square feet.  The area currently consists of residential properties with at least 2 or more acres per lot.  A rezoning request in such contrast to what currently exists that one resident who spoke in opposition described that the plan included for the back of his property alone to connect to 5 lots with houses.  The overwhelming majority of the council strongly opposes zoning this property to simply match the existing landscape.  This plan is now headed to the Planning Commission to see what can be worked out with the developer to hopefully bring some relief to the residents of Ryan's Run while keeping the R1 zoning.  The residents of Ryan's Run have done the hard work to organize a well designed and first class opposition to the development.  However, it should be noted that both the developer and/or their engineering firm and attorney partially funded the elections for both councilmembers of Ward 6.  That may explain the personal ideology reversal displayed by one member during the meeting.  Councilmember Rick Collins had this to say "when you have a process in place, most people expect to be successful if they adhere to that process."  A philosophy that, according to Councilmember Rick Collins only applies to highly contested developer plans and not unopposed and even supported residents requesting a Special Use Permit for a couple chickens. 

My advice to any future chicken owners would be to contribute to campaigns and hire Overland Parks most influential campaign contributing law firm, then make the request again.

In a recent campaign forum Councilmember Paul Lyons stated this about the Overland Parks lack of preparation for tax refunds that will inevitably be owed to large retailers and the resulting loss of up to 30% of budget revenue.  "I guess I don't share the pessimism that I have been hearing". He believes "it's probably years away before we know the outcome".

Many voters including myself would like him to share that same optimism concerning many overuses of tax incentives.  Let's prepare for what we know is coming yet have some optimism about Overland Park and start believing in the city, the schools, and the people as a reason to attract and retain business.  Not just the ability of 11 members to pass out our tax money to multi-million dollar businesses for ventures in the belief they have no other reason to locate and stay in this city.



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