City working on plan to correct Southfork boundary errors

The city’s urban development director said Thursday that he will have a plan soon to correct boundary mistakes in a south Wichita tax increment financing district, mistakes that an official said should not threaten a multimillion-dollar retail and office development.

Allen Bell, who heads the city’s economic development efforts, said he hopes to have an answer soon on how best to correct two boundary errors made in the Southfork TIF, a 72-acre retail, office and hospitality project near I-135 and 47th Street South. Bell took responsibility for the errors, which were discovered by Sedgwick County Clerk Kelly Arnold and conveyed to Bell in an e-mail obtained by The Eagle.

“We haven’t determined what we’ll do,” Bell said. “It was an error ... I was responsible.”

According to the e-mail, Arnold has found two errors in the Southfork TIF district: one where it extends into the Haysville school district, and another where it expands past the Wichita city limits into Riverside Township.

Officials at Haysville USD 261 confirmed Thursday that city officials did not notify them about plans for the Southfork TIF, a district that would capture $9.9 million in taxes generated by developer Jay Maxwell’s project. Notification of all organizations that collect taxes inside a TIF is required by law.

City Council member James Clendenin, in whose District 3 the proposed development falls, said Thursday that city officials are still working through the errors.

“I’m not sure if we’ll have to revote,” Clendenin said. “Mistakes were made and they were very technical in nature, but the boundaries were drawn wrong.”

Clendenin said the mistakes shouldn’t threaten the Southfork project, one of his priorities as he seeks re-election.

“The people of south Wichita have been underserved for so long,” he said. “This development means the world to this area. We’ve made a lot of progress getting the boundaries set, and now we want to see dirt moving, and that’s my goal in the next few months.”

Tim Austin, a spokesman for Maxwell, said this week that his development group is waiting for a city determination on how to proceed.

“I’m surprised the media knew about it before we knew about it,” Austin said. “Before we understand all the issues, I don’t think we have any comments.”

The Southfork plan includes retail, hotel, restaurants and office space on the initial 50 acres, along with a medical complex on the 22 acres west of the Riverside Drainage Canal.

It’s the third economic development problem confronted by the city in recent months.

In May, Cabela’s officials had to issue sales tax refunds for extra taxes charged in the first 12 days of their Wichita operation, when city officials neglected to notify the state in time that it had created a special sales tax district to spur the store’s development.

A month later, a STAR bond district at K-96 and Greenwich had to be expanded after the project’s signature $65 million athletic complex was omitted.

Southfork barely cleared the Sedgwick County Commission in May on its second attempt before the county, receiving a 3-2 approval vote amid concern whether the project actually needed public funding.

It passed the Wichita City Council by a 6-1 vote in April, with Clendenin saying the project will provide sorely needed quality retail and office space in a blighted part of his district.

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