City approves sales tax incentive for Bowllagio

The Bowllagio bowling center project that developer Jay Maxwell has been trying to get off the ground inched forward Tuesday when Wichita City Council members voted to let him add an extra 2 percent sales tax on sales at the development.

Tim Austin, who works with Maxwell, said there's no way the project could go forward without the sales tax incentive because the location requires significant flood control projects and other complicated development efforts.

But it remains unclear whether Maxwell will try again to get a council endorsement for STAR bonds, which would channel state sales tax back to him to pay for a variety of expenses. Maxwell's development group, Maize 54 LLC, withdrew its request for $13 million in STAR bonds in June after it became clear the council wouldn't give a full endorsement, as is required by the state, which administers STAR bonds.

Ray Baty, general manager of West Acres Bowling Center on Ridge Road, said he doesn't strongly oppose the additional 2 percent sales tax since that is paid by the potential development's customers. But he questioned whether Maize 54 LLC developers could use the council's approval of that tax to improve their chances of getting STAR bonds.

City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf said that the two incentives are entirely separate and that the improvement district won't affect any potential decision on STAR bonds.

Baty said he co-founded a new group called Businesses Against Government Subsidies after the initial debate over STAR bonds. He said the group now includes about 20 businesses, though he declined to provide names to protect members' privacy. "We have to quit letting government interfere with private enterprise," he said.

Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell said that the developers' excavation and planning significantly reduces flooding in the area. He cited several flood-reduction projects and said the city will have to work with developers at every opportunity to cut down on flooding. "There's no question we need to do more for west-side flood control," he said.