By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
October 15, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Not everyone in the River Market believes the area’s Community Improvement District is actually improving the district.

At last week’s business session, Sean O’Byrne, vice president of business development for the Downtown Council of Kansas City, presented information to the mayor and city council on why the River Market CID should be renewed. The CID was created in 2006 with a nine year term and a budget of around $300,000 a year. The River Market CID’s boundaries are the south bank of the Missouri River on the north, I-70/35 on the south, Missouri 9 Highway on the east and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad on the west in Kansas City. The services provided through the CID are funded through a special assessment and no city funds are used in providing the CID’s services.

“Our service delivery was a basic cleaning program,” O’Byrne said. “Since that time, we’ve grown into a very mature urban management operation providing safety, maintenance, landscaping, TIF [Tax Increment Financing] and PIAC [Public Improvements Advisory Committee] management, economic development and emergency resources.”

O’Byrne continued by noting the CID has completed over $300,000 in PIAC improvements, with an additional $150,000 in work over the next two years. That work included the installation of landscaping and tree planting, painting fire hydrants and light poles and the installation of trash cans and benches. They’ve also applied for, and received, over $850,000 in TIF funds for infrastructure improvements to date and used that money to rebuild curbs, improve sidewalks and driveways and Americans with Disabilities Act approved ramps. Additionally, he said, they’ve installed bright lights to create an atmosphere safer for night, while also using energy efficient technology to collect rebates and safe the CID money.

“One of my favorite projects is the creation of over 60 tree enclosures,” O’Byrne said. “I love these. They’re modular so if they get hit by a car, we can just replace it as opposed to replacing the whole thing. Plus, they’re good looking.”

O’Byrne also highlighted the CID’s hiring process, emphasizing the work done because of internships, which have provided close to 9,000 service hours and nearly $59,000 worth of services to the distinct at no additional cost. The CID’s community services provided over 500,000 hot meals and emergency services to the homeless. He closed by saying the renewal will allow the CID to leverage over $350,000 of the baseline budget with an additional $1.3 million in additional investments. They’re proposing to the city council a 10 year term keeping their rate methodology the same as it has been for the last six years with a three percent increase.

“That’s not three percent annually, but three percent over the term,” O’Byrne said.

How will they make the increase work?

“We believe that if we do everything we say we’re going to do, property values will increase, investment will follow and we’ll continue our relationship for more PIAC dollars, we’ll also go for more grants and continue on our TIF,” O’Byrne said. “It’s been a great investment and the River Market looks better now than it ever has. We’re looking forward toward the next 10 years.”

At the end of the presentation, councilwoman Jan Marcason, representing the fourth district which includes the River Market, said the River Market is another successful development area for Kansas City.

“Except for the construction, it’s really a hot place to be,” Marcason said.

When Mayor Sly James asked if anyone from the public had any objections to renewing the River Market CID, Sally Wells, a property owner in the CID boundary, stepped up and said she didn’t believe the CID was worth the extra taxes she’s paying.

“I really don’t see any improvements,” Wells said to the council, adding she also didn’t think the CID followed the exact statutory requirements. “I already pay taxes and I’m supposed to receive the same city services that everyone else is entitled to. Why should I pay extra for services that then go toward the benefit of only some property owners? It is a situation that I can’t believe exists.”

Rick Bettinger also spoke up against the renewal because the trash in front of his building is not always collected. He added he’s noticed some benefits in the area, but not near his property at 210 Wyandotte St.

“Our sidewalks are crumbling while your putting up flowers and trees,” Bettinger said. “What I object to is having so much money without audit. I feel that I’m paying this assessment to improve someone else’s property and I’m gaining no benefit.”

After the public testimony, the petition to re-establish the River Market CID was unanimously approved by the council. The ordinance to renew the CID will next be discussed at the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee before being voted on at a city council meeting.