Saying yes to the largest-ever private investment made in downtown Lee’s Summit was going to require some bold leadership from our city council.
And boy did they deliver.
After weeks of wondering, a contentious TIF Commission meeting and countless public comments on the proposed Cityscape Residential development plan to build 276 apartments at Second and Douglas, the council had the issue squarely in their lap on April 16.
After more testimony, presentations and a litany of positive public comments asking the council to approve the TIF and, ultimately, the development plan, District 2 Council member Craig Faith came out of the gate with what has probably been his strongest comments yet as an elected official.
Faith’s endorsement left little doubt that the TIF and development would pass council that evening. We’ve all been counting votes since the TIF Commission forced a supermajority with its thumbs down weeks earlier. Any hope the dissenting council members had of killing the TIF, and the project, went out the window after Faith spoke his mind. His narrative is too long to rehash here, but it’s worth a watch if you pull up the council meeting video.
It’s not unheard of for the council to overrule a TIF Commission’s recommendation or the Planning Commission’s, but it sure doesn’t happen often. And in this case, it was the absolute right decision.
As usual, we got very little discussion from the “no” side, particularly council members Phyllis Edson and Fred DeMoro. We all know where Bob Johnson stood on this topic, and my goodness he didn’t disappoint with his words or his vote.
But why can’t we hear a word from Edson or DeMoro on their no vote? Was this a vote against downtown? A vote against more multi-family housing? A vote against new residents or taxpayers?
We will never know. They simply didn’t tell us.
Edson’s disdain for the project was so deep, she voted no across the board on the TIF, the LCRA and preliminary development plan. Why? You’ll have to ask her.
We got quiet yes votes from other council members as well. But in the case of a $50 million development and all the issues and discussion surrounding it, those aren’t nearly as egregious as the silent no votes.
Personally, I spoke in favor of the project because it checks all the boxes for what we want and need in downtown and in Lee’s Summit.
We don’t necessarily need a housing study to tell us that new apartments will be a hot commodity in downtown. But we have one. We didn’t have to hear directly from downtown business owners that 400 or so new residents would be more than welcome. But they did.
It should go without saying that when private investment is put at our feet and we will see decades of return in our city, that we should not let those opportunities pass us by. But we said it anyway. Over and over.
That this development was one council member’s vote away from not becoming a reality in Lee’s Summit is slightly alarming. The good news is, we sent a pointed message to the development community and the region that Lee’s Summit is open for business and that we have enough reasonable and rational elected officials to take projects like this, dissect them, ask the right questions and then make bold votes.
In a couple of years, we will be saying “welcome to Lee’s Summit” to hundreds of new residents in our downtown.
Those are hundreds of potential downtown volunteers. Hundreds of adults that could give time to our schools and community. Hundreds of shoppers at the farmers market and all over Lee’s Summit.
And Addy and I will be first in line to greet our new neighbors.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.