Council to weigh Cabela's fee

A proposed east-side Cabela's store took a step forward Tuesday morning when the Wichita City Council set a March 8 public hearing on a community improvement district, or CID, for the outdoors retailer.

The public hearing will examine a proposed 1.2 percent extra charge that Cabela's would tack on to all sales at the store it is proposing near K-96 and Greenwich.

Cabela's plans to open an 80,000-square-foot store in the Regency Lakes Shopping Center by the spring of 2012.

Company officials call the store a prototype of a smaller Cabela's. The store near the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City occupies 180,000 square feet.

An estimated $17.2 million raised by the extra sales charge over 22 years will offset infrastructure, construction, site improvements, parking and landscaping at the $28 million project.

The Cabela's proposal came under fire from citizens who questioned the public incentives for private businesses.

Craig Gabel said public support of a private outdoors business would further bury any potential locally owned sporting goods stores.

Gabel also questioned whether the city is competing with the city-funded Gander Mountain store along the Arkansas River in WaterWalk.

City Council members, though, were intent on reminding the public that the extra charge comes out of Cabela's customers' pockets, including out-of-towners.

"If the CID is implemented, who pays the tax?" Mayor Carl Brewer asked Allen Bell, the city's urban development director.

"It's collected from the customers of Cabela's and only from the customers," Bell said.

Cabela's also has agreed to put some of the CID revenue into off-ramps from K-96 to the store, said Steve Krajewski, the company's real estate manager.

The interchange now restricts access to Greenwich to the eastbound lanes of K-96 and an exit from Greenwich to westbound K-96.

"Our customer is the most important person to us," Krajewski said.

"We look at how they get to us, how they're going to get out," he said. "We have people come in with the big pickups, the RVs. We have buses that bring in tours that will spend a half-day in our stores. Ease of access is why the interchange is important to us."

The interchange improvements ordinarily would be financed by taxpayers, council member Paul Gray said.

"That's something that should have been done a long time ago, when we built the highway," Gray said.

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