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Wichita council approves redevelopment district for Bowllagio

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at 12 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at 8:58 p.m.

The on-again, off-again Bowllagio entertainment district at Maize and Kellogg got a boost Tuesday when the Wichita City Council voted 4-3 to approve a redevelopment district for the area.

Council members Michael O’Donnell, Janet Miller and Pete Meitzner were opposed.

Developer Jay Maxwell’s 86.5-acre district, planned to include a bowling entertainment center, hotels, restaurants, retail and office space, is now eligible for tax increment financing to cover certain drainage improvements along the Cowskin and Calfskin creeks in the flood-prone area. Under an agreement with Sedgwick County, 65 percent of the TIF proceeds — tax revenue generated by new construction on the property — would be directed toward those drainage improvements.

The district already includes a council-approved community improvement district, which will allow extra sales tax to be levied within district boundaries and go to the developers.

“That is a huge disadvantage to anyone who might be competing with these businesses,” O’Donnell said.

Scott Lindebak, the city’s stormwater engineer, said the drainage improvements will remove 13 flood-prone homes — most built in the Dell area — from the city’s floodplain, including seven that are on FEMA’s repetitive claims list for frequent flood damage. The improvements also should reduce flooding upstream, Lindebak said.

Council member Jeff Longwell praised the project, saying it would be at least a decade before the city could pick up the tab for the millions in drainage improvements that will be covered by the TIF revenue.

Since the TIF captures tax revenue also bound for Sedgwick County and Goddard USD 265, the County Commission and school board may vote to veto the district.

The Bowllagio plan was sidetracked in 2010 over concerns about publicly subsidized competition for the city’s bowling alleys, and whether it met requirements for sales tax and revenue bond funding from the state of Kansas. The STAR bond request is no longer part of the Bowllagio development plan.

Those objections came up again Tuesday in a two-hour debate, including concerns from the city’s bowling community that Wichita is already overbuilt with bowling alleys and that they will lose business to Bowllagio. The project also drew opposition from representatives of the Wichita chapter of Americans for Prosperity, opponents of public incentives for private development.

Residents near the Maize and Kellogg intersection, though, told the council that Bowllagio could be a potential solution to a historic flooding problem. Brad Dopps, a 30-year homeowner from the area, said he’s used up two of the three flood claims FEMA will allow him.

“I built my home two feet above the 100-year floodplain,” he said. “I’ve had five 100-year floods since then. I’m feeling fairly old.”

Next up is approval of a project plan for the development, including approval by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and another public hearing. Project plan approval requires a two-thirds majority of the council.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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