City Hall Round-up: Week of 1/15-1/19

Paul Thompson
Northeast News

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The Kansas City, Missouri City Council’s second attempt at approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate for the construction of a new single terminal airport continued on Thursday, January 18, with the Council’s first public meeting to discuss the subject since December 21, 2017.

The full Council gathered as a Committee as a Whole to provide the City’s hand-selected negotiation team with guidance as it works to mold an MOU that’s amenable to the whole body. Outside counsel Charles Renner of Husch Blackwell began the meeting by laying out the changes that had been negotiated since the Council approved continued talks with Edgemoor on December 21. The improvements to the deal include a more robust Community Benefits Agreement, clarification on Edgemoor’s planned financing method, new project perks for small local businesses and a more specific breakdown of minority and women-owned business participation goals.

Though it’s been more than a month since the City Council rejected the first incarnation of the MOU on December 14, Renner suggested that the timeline for the single terminal airport project can still be met as long as the Council approves an MOU with Edgemoor by the end of February.

“The current timeline you’re under is not an issue, not a problem whatsoever,” Renner said. “We’re within a window now, and are creeping up on some concerns.”

After Renner’s presentation, each Council member was provided an opportunity to describe changes they’d like to see to the document as presented. First District Councilman Scott Wagner began by requesting that the new benefits for Small and Local Business Enterprises (SLBE) – access to a low interest loan program, financial guidance and access to favorable interest rates through Edgemoor – be expanded to include businesses owned by military veterans, as well.

The SLBE language was only one part of a bolstered community benefits package included in the updated MOU. Edgemoor has also agreed to include a pre-apprenticeship program, new mentorship opportunities, and paid high school and college internships for up to five students per year over a four-year window. In total, Edgemoor is now offering a Community Benefits Agreement that reaches $24.2 million in total value.

Third District Councilman Quinton Lucas praised the negotiation team for identifying $90 million in cost savings through a debt-only financing model. However, he was less enthralled with malleable language related to the breakdown of the 35% minority and women-owned business participation goal, which has been separated into a 20% minority participation goal and 15% women participation goal for construction. Lucas took issue with language that suggested Edgemoor would defer to the City’s Human Resources Division for ultimate direction on the participation goals, leaving the door open to the possibility of reducing the participation expectations.

“I do not like that in the slightest,” Lucas said.

Later, 3rd District Councilman Jermaine Reed suggested implementing an outside monitor for the express purpose of MBE/WBE workforce compliance; 5th District Councilman Alissia Canady noted that based on the LAX airport model, the Community Benefits Agreement still needs more work; and 6th District Councilman Kevin McManus requested confirmation on where the funds for the financing model would originate from. Sixth District Councilman Scott Taylor lauded the Council for working hard to improve the MOU that was originally presented to the Council on November 30.

“Obviously, if this agreement is changing, then it wasn’t the best deal for taxpayers,” Taylor said.

Following the meeting, Renner expressed optimism with the state of negotiations.

“I think it was very positive and engaged and diligent, which is where we need to be,” Renner said. “We need to stay focused on pushing forward and staying on the timeline that’s necessary to deliver the project as the Council wants, and end up in a structure that’s in the best interests of the City for the 35-year commitment that they’re making.”

“All indications we’ve got, the goals that are set in that MOU are aggressive and meaningful,” Renner added. “The MOU is a framework agreement; the tighter the framework, the more comfortable everybody is.”

-The airport wasn’t the only project to progress during a busy week at City Hall. The City Council also modified an initiative petition approved by voters in August that called for a city-wide vote before the City plans any future extensions to the streetcar line. The Council’s actions modified the language to pertain to potential streetcar extensions that are not currently underway, in some form or another.

Essentially, the action would allow planning for a Main Street extension southbound to UMKC to continue, along with an extension northbound to Berkeley Riverfront Park. The language passed by voters in August, then, would apply to planning that wasn’t already underway at the time of the vote. City legal staff suggested during the Transportation and Infrastructure committee meeting on January 18 that an attempt to stop planning on the Main Street or Riverfront Park extensions could result in a breach of contract with the Streetcar Authority.

“KCATA enjoys a great working relationship with both the Streetcar Authority and the City of Kansas City,” said Chuck Ferguson, Vice President for Regional Planning with KCATA. “The KCATA feels very strongly that we need City involvement.”
While opponents suggested that the proposed ordinance undermined the will of voters, others pointed out that 70% of those who reside along Main Street had already voted to create a Transportation Development District (TDD) in the corridor – intended to help finance the streetcar extension to UMKC – before citywide voters cast their ballots in favor of language to limit streetcar planning.

“The compromise proposal protects the contractual obligations of the city, but it still honors the voters in that future expansion of the streetcar will be subject to a vote,” said Jan Marcuson, Chair of the Main Street Rail TDD Board of Directors. “This allows us to continue to move forward with the contracts and the plans in place.”

Second District Councilman Dan Fowler – who had planned on voting against the ordinance when the Transportation and Infrastructure meeting began – had his mind changed by public testimony and the arguments of his fellow Council members.
“It suddenly dawned on me; if this goes over to Jackson County court, what is the likely scenario? That it will be thrown out,” Fowler said. “You’re absolutely right; this is a compromise that preserves that vote. I can live with that, folks. If my constituents don’t like it, I can explain it.”

The measure made it through committee on the morning of January 18, and was heard during the Council’s legislative session later that afternoon. Though some Council members expressed concern about the message sent to Kansas City voters, the measure passed in a 10-2 vote. Council members Heather Hall and Teresa Loar voted against, while Councilman Scott Taylor was not present for the vote.

-The City Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development committee also re-considered a proposed ordinance that would codify a short term rental policy during the busy week at City Hall. Years in the making, the short term rental ordinance would set guidelines for city residents who wish to rent out their homes using platforms such as Airbnb or HomeAway. Because the City currently has no language on the books related to short term rentals, the practice is prevalent but technically illegal.
Sixth District Councilman Scott Taylor has been leading a compromise campaign that would allow the practice in most portions of the City, while also providing a method for neighborhoods to contest the practice if it becomes a problem in their communities.

The proposed City ordinance would require certification of liability insurance, certification that the property has no outstanding taxes or liens, and specific nightly fees that would fund an ongoing inspection process conducted by the City.
One undecided issue was whether or not to allow homeowners in single-family zoning districts R-7.5 and R-10 to host short term rentals in their home. Initially, the staff recommendation was a ‘no’ on this issue, but the City Plan Commission later recommended including all zoning districts. If R-7.5 and R-10 are included, 55% of adjacent property owners would be required to support the use of STR in the district, and a special use permit would also need to be obtained.
Taylor suggested that the R-7.5 and R-10 issue is one of the last sticking points as the Council considers the ordinance. The short term rental legislation will be held until January 31, when the committee will attempt to coalesce around one plan ahead of a February 7 meeting expected to welcome more public testimony and, if all goes according to plan, an up or down vote from the committee.

“For a couple years, this was discussed excluding Residential 7.5 and Residential 10. Those are single-family home neighborhoods in many parts of the city,” Taylor said. “At the City Plan Commission they added it back in, but a lot of the neighborhood leaders we heard from weren’t aware that was going to happen, or they probably would have been down at CPC. That’s one of the issues we’ve been working through.”

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