*Conflict of Interest: A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
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VOTE ON WALMART ZONING APPLICATION EXPECTED ON TUESDAY
The public discussion continues on the Walmart Grocery Store application for Downtown Raytown.
And, it has taken an interesting turn. Mayor David Bower's past association with Walmart representatives has surfaced as part of the debate.
Does the Mayor have a Conflict of Interest? Should he recuse himself from further discussion?
To learn more about those allegations use this link DOWNTOWN RAYTOWN
The Tuesday, May 21st meeting is the second Public Forum on the Walmart application to change design standards in Downtown Raytown to suit their proposal.
The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. at Raytown City Hall.
The meeting is a Public Forum. The public is invited to speak on the record and voice their opinion as to how their representatives on the Board should vote.
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As Yoga Bera famously said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” We already have a Super Wal-Mart here in Raytown of course. It was built several years ago under a veil of secrecy that to me, as Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, never made any sense. Why did proponents of the project refuse to acknowledge that a Wal-Mart was being built? The answer, of course, both then and now had to do with the many controversies regarding this big box retailer, which I will discuss in a moment.
However, going back to six years ago, let’s first recall how the people of this city, along with the Chamber, were sold the idea to begin with. We were told, in effect, that this new undertaking was so important that Raytown would die without it. It sounded to me like an exaggerated claim back then, but now with some history behind us, what are the facts? What is undeniable is that the Wal-Mart on Highway 50 was built at a heavy cost to the city and the school district. But how much revenue does the city collect in taxes from this store, and what are the pay-outs on the debt from the Tiff project? How long does the city have to make these payments? The problem is, it’s hard to say with any degree of accuracy because, despite all of the promises, so much of the project is still not discussed in public. It has been published that The City has paid out over 1.8 million dollars from reserve funds to make up shortfall of revenue from the Wal-Mart TIF since its creation. Most of that payment was due to the fact that Wal-Mart did not open on schedule. Payments to bond holders were due and had to be paid. The City of Raytown has guaranteed the bonds, so it fell upon the City to use taxpayer dollars to make payment on the Wal-Mart TIF bonds. If this is true would you not ask for the 1.8 million back before allowing another Wal –mart owned store?
Then there is the strong police presence at the store. Many people reading this have probably witnessed arrests there, and it would be hard to miss the frequent sight of police cruisers racing to Wal-Mart with sirens blaring. Just think of how much this costs Raytown, in both dollars and cents and in police services that could be utilized elsewhere in the city. Yet last year, funding for the police department was slashed. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
So who is to blame? The Kansas City Star said ” Wal-Mart often gets what it wants because elected officials give in to them.” So does that mean the Board of Alderman are to blame? Not necessarily, their job is to make the best decision on the information given to them. I believe this is where the chamber should play an important role to help inform the Alderman.
Before opening up yet another Wal-Mart owned store in our city, let’s consider the impact that Wal-Mart stores haves had on the local economies of other communities throughout the U.S. Researchers at UC Berkeley concluded in 2011 that “jobs created by Wal-Mart in metropolitan areas pay less and are less likely to offer benefits than those they replace…Wal-Mart workers earn an estimated 12.4% less than retail workers as a whole, and 14.5% less than workers in large retail.” Yet we are supposed to believe that this new store will help our community to thrive – on such paltry wages?
Then there is the negative impact on the overall jobs’ picture that seems inevitable whenever Wal-Mart comes to town. There are typically numerous store closures by smaller retailers that simply can’t compete, leading to job loss. One recent study found that a Wal-Mart store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about 150 workers, and each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately 1.4 retailer workers at other merchants.
The lack of transparency regarding this project is deplorable, and the local Chamber should not tolerate it. To the contrary, the Chamber needs to help the City all, demanding that any developer who wants to build in Raytown needs to be up front with what they want to build.
Moreover, upon careful consideration and study, it seems to me that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the addition of yet another Wal-Mart owned store in our area will be counterproductive for local businesses, their employees and ultimately the citizens of Raytown. We should have learned a lesson dealing with Wal-Mart on the 350 Hiway project. Tiff or no Tiff project this is not good for Raytown. I urge the Chamber to adopt a strongly worded resolution opposing this highly dubious project.
Letter from Steve Mullaly to the Chamber of Commerce
Steve Mullaly is the owner of Rolland Studios located near Downtown Raytown at 9813 East 66th Street. He is a former President of the Raytown Chamber of Commerce. The following letter was sent by Mr. Mullaly to members of the Chamber of Commerce.
To the Board of Directors of the Raytown Chamber of Commerce:
The most recent worst kept secret is that a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market will be built on the former First Baptist Church property in downtown Raytown. An Attempt to confirm this with President Vicki Turnbow was unsuccessful because nothing was yet “official”. The lack of transparency regarding the project is deplorable and the local business community should not tolerate it. It seems to me that the addition of another Wal-Mart branded store will be counterproductive for local businesses, their employees, and ultimately the citizens of Raytown.
Political Movement Born Out of Walmart Frustration? BY GREG WALTERS
It started as a petition drive at Doughboy’s Donut Shop. Small merchants frustrated with what they perceived as unfair advantage being given the retail giant Walmart in the marketplace.
Over 1,000 signatures later, the petition drive appears to be blossoming into a political movement by like-minded people. The signs of political unrest have manifested itself in many ways:
SIGNS OF POLITICAL VIABILITY: Three newcomers were elected to the Raytown City Council. Two of whom defeated seasoned politicians many city hall observers believed were bullet proof. The victories were lopsided landslides. Those three candidates all ran campaigns that did not endorse the plans for a 40,000 square foot single user building in Downtown Raytown.
PUBLIC HEARINGS held over a proposed Walmart Grocery Store in Downtown Raytown has drawn record breaking crowds to both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Raytown Board of Aldermen. By far, the vast majority of those attending have been in opposition to changing zoning for the benefit of Walmart. The last meeting was so crowded that citizens left because there was no room to sit or stand at the meeting.
THE PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION VOTED TO DENY THE APPLICATION When you consider that Mayor David Bower has re-appointed most of the members of the Commission, the action speaks very clearly. The majority of Commission members sided with the public in their decision to deny the application.
It has become clear that Citizens and Local Business Owners envision a retail paradise of pedestrian friendly stores, connected to a proposed light rail service on the old Santa Fe rail line.
A 40,000 square foot big box Store – with over 60,000 square feet of paved parking lot gobbling up valuable retail space – is seen as a step backwards by the public.
Former Mayor Sue Frank, a local business owner and Raytown resident, has been active in opposition to the proposed Walmart in Downtown Raytown.
“I am not sure where this is going”, said Mrs. Frank. “There is a lot of frustration and disappointment in the disconnect between the people of Raytown and its elected representatives.”
“I have heard people expressing an interest in running for City Hall office in the next round of elections,” continued Frank. “It is a pretty impressive ‘short list’ of people active in the community who have never run for public office before.”
Long time political observers note there are signs of a new political base forming for candidates and supporters to rally around.
Former State Representative Jim Barnes agrees with Frank’s assessment.
“I remember the last time there was so much dissension and disunity,” said former State Representative Jim Barnes. “The public was so upset with the status quo that every incumbent running, including the Municipal Judge were defeated at the polls. At the following election the Chief of Police was defeated, as were the few remaining members of the old Board of Aldermen.”
What would it take to cause the same reaction in today’s political climate?
“Not much,” said Barnes. “All it takes is a general distrust of City Hall and a series of events that re-enforces that image.”
Barnes points to the failure of the city to negotiate a solution with the YMCA as just such aa failure.
“Add an unpopular decision that appears to ignore the wishes of the people, and you have the makings of a perfect storm,” said Barnes.
He views the Walmart debate as a game changer in Raytown City politics.
“In many ways,” continued Barnes, “the Board has its fate in its hands. They can decide to listen to the people or ignore them. It is up to them.”
Urban Legends / Raytown Style
An urban legend is defined as “an untrue story or so-called fact presented as accurate, which, upon close investigation are exaggerated half-truths.”
Raytown has a version making the rounds in the wake of the controversial Walmart proposed for Downtown Raytown.
URBAN LEGEND No. 1: The city is making money on the sale of the property now known as the Green Space.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The city bought the property from the First Baptist Church of $500,000.00. The property is currently being held with a $5,000 deposit for Walmart.
The city originally paid $500,000 for the property when it purchased it from the First Baptist Church of Raytown. The city paid interest on the property for a couple of years before concluding the sale. Then, the city, through a grant paid for by taxpayer dollars, paid another half million dollars to have the building demolished and carted away.
URBAN LEGEND No. 2: The city made $150,000.00 on the sale.
The reality is that the city actually went in the red to the tune of $350,000.00.
We have done the math to illustrate:
$1,000,000.00 - $650,000.00 = ($350,000.00)
A word of advice to our readers; if one of the “we want Walmart” crowd offers to help sell your house . . . run, don’t walk . . . away from them as fast as your legs will carry you.
URBAN LEGEND No. 3: Former Mayor Sue Frank presided over the City Council when the deal on the 350 Highway Walmart was completed..
Not true. The final vote on Walmart was not approved until Mayor David Bower was elected.
The Walmart package on 350 Highway had stalled out while Frank was Mayor for a number of reasons. Chief of among them was that the city went through two city administrators during the process.
When Bower was elected, the Board of Aldermen voted to direct City Staff to work exclusively on the Walmart package for 350 Highway.
The final vote for approval, which re-started the project, was under Mayor David Bower. The vote was nine to one. Alderman Greg Walters was the lone vote against the package because of the 23 years of debt the city would have to pay off before any gain would be realized.
Final word – the construction on the Walmart on 350 Highway did not even begin until Mrs. Frank had been out of office for over two years!
Bits and Pieces
- Did anyone else notice what was NOT on the agenda of the last meeting of the Raytown Board of Aldermen? If you guessed the item appointing former Ward 3 Alderman Christine White, you are correct! No official from the Mayor’s office on why Mrs. White’s appointment to the Board of Zoning Adjustment was remove from the agenda. We will leave it to the reader to speculate.
- We also noticed something else that was out of place at the last meeting. Traditionally, the Mayor Protem is seated to the Mayor’s right. It was noted that Ward 2 Alderman Bill Van Buskirk, who was unanimously appointed by the Board of Aldermen at the previous meeting, was still sitting at his old spot on the dias. Wonder why? So do we.
- A phrase can mean many things. How someone reacts to words can say even more. At the last meeting Mayor Bower expressed umbrage when Ward 1 Alderman Josh Greene used the term “commercial cronyism”. Bower demanded to know what he meant by that. Greene calmly replied with word to the effect that it is when favoritism is extended to one commercial entity over another. Well said, Mr. Greene!
Raytown Board of Aldermen Meeting – May 7, 2013
This was a very long meeting, so we are breaking up the minutes into two parts. Since the majority of the meeting was about the proposed Walmart Neighborhood Store, we will provide those minutes first. Later in the week, we will have the rest of the minutes for the meeting, as well as the work session held prior to the BOA meeting.
The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance to grant a change in zoning on land located at 6200 Blue Ridge Boulevard. John Benson told the Board that Raytown entered into a real estate purchase contract in September, 2012. There will be no tax incentives or reductions. The City approved the purchase agreement and now should approve the zoning change to allow the grocery store. Walmart will comply with most of the code requirements. Some can’t be met and Raytown needs to make code changes. A Walmart representative said the store will sell groceries, have a bakery, pharmacy, and meat market. It will not be a super center. Citizen comments made at the zoning committee caused Walmart to make some changes. They will no longer ask for on-street parking.
Many residents were given the opportunity to address the Board during the public hearing.
David McCauley said he owns a business in Raytown Plaza. Everyone wants Downtown Raytown to develop into a walkable area. We want shops and restaurants. Most of downtown Raytown is vacant, empty, or on the way down. No new building has occurred in downtown Raytown in 30 years. Raytown doesn’t have the demographics to support a downtown make-over. Walmart will increase traffic to the downtown area. He said he is not concerned about Walmart coming to downtown. Hy-Vee and Cosentino’s aren’t at the meeting, so they must not be concerned. The only people concerned are the ones who want to run this town. He thinks that attitude is getting old.
Norma Storms said she first got interested in the proceedings by watching the Board on television. She also saw a flyer at Fox’s Drugstore that said Walmart won’t conform to current plans. She thinks there are enough smart people to work out any differences. The flyer said when Walmart pulls out they will leave a big, empty building. She said businesses come and go and should not be a factor in making any decisions.
Jeanette Gingery asked if the extra exhibits passed out at the meeting would be available to the public. She was told they would be available on the City’s website the next day. She asked that the next public meeting be advertised on the Public Access channel. If not, she would like to know why.
Ed Clark said the zoning application states that 57% of the zoning laws will have to be changed. He said when Google Fiber wanted to do business in Raytown, they sent a Google employee to represent the company and answer questions. He wanted to know why Walmart sent lawyers.
Darlene Ryan said Walmart is like a cancer. It kills everything around it.
Shelly Shuman asked the Board to not discount the comments made by the public. If Google Fiber is attracted here and is willing to work within the laws and codes of our city, other companies will also. She asked the Board to not give into Walmart.
Steve Gunther said according to the National Retailers Association, a neighborhood store is less than 20,000 square feet. Anything over that requires too much parking space.
Marion Breitenbach said Walmart is a big company. Their representatives are looking to get the best deal they can from Raytown. The Board’s job is to get the best deal for Raytown. If Walmart closes, Raytown has a white-elephant that has to be filled. He asked the Board to look at the Sam’s Club at 40 Highway and Noland Road. He has been told Walmart is over $3 million in property tax arrears. He said the Walmart representatives are salesmen and are just trying to seal the deal.
Mark Moore told the Board if this deal goes through, Walmart owns the land. If they decide to close the store, they still own the land. They can do anything they want with the property. Raytown should lease the land to Walmart.
Wayne Gadt said the Board should ask themselves three questions. Is this project filling a need that is now unmet in Raytown? He said he can go a mile in any direction and find a grocery store. Is there anything unique about this development? He said the answer is no because it is just a grocery store and it is just Walmart. Will this project take business away from other grocery stores in the area? He also asked if the green space is rezoned for Walmart, what does that do to the zoning for other businesses.
Ann Delaney said she is proud to be a resident of Raytown. She said there has been lots of talk about bringing traffic in downtown. There has been no talk about how to get them downtown. What roads will be used to get them there? What about the school zone? She is a former resident of New York City and she knows first-hand how loud garbage trucks are when empting the trash at 4AM. This big store is going to affect the people who live next door. She said Walmart should have turned the old Walmart store into a neighborhood grocery. She said Walmart claims they will only have a grocery store, but she sees plans for a pharmacy. There is already a pharmacy on the corner and has been for over 70 years.
Ellen Klope said she works at the library. Walmart will sell liquor. She doesn’t think liquor should be sold so close to the library or school. Because of the increased traffic, it won’t be safe for the senior citizen to walk to Walmart.
Diane Krizek said Walmart has a history of going into a community and getting the tax assessment lowered so they can pay less tax.
Gary Peterson said according to the New York Times, Walmart paid $86 million to settle labor charges in 2010. They paid over $600 million in 2008. Many Walmart employees are eligible for food stamps and Harvesters because of the low wages.
Sue Frank said on April 25, the applicants stated that if the Zoning Board did not approve the zoning change, they would withdraw the application. She asked why everyone was there. She told the Board this is just the first in a long line of broken promises to come from Walmart. Be prepared for requests for abatements for gas stations and requests for waivers. The Board should revisit the problems with the last Walmart deal. The Board failed to openly post the properly for sale and neglected to properly post the public hearings on re-zoning. The Board issued confusing meeting dates and had a lack of clear communications that will cause future problems. There has been no economic impact study, no traffic study, no water retention plan and no nuisance, trash and noise impact study. These should be done before any re-zoning.
Rebecca Dickerson said we already have a lot of grocery stores. She reminded the Board that the residents of Lee’s Summit won’t come to Raytown to shop at a Walmart grocery store.
Terry Tuggle asked if there are any other viable offers for the property. If not, he said, this is the time to re-coup the city’s investment.
Elisa Breitenbach said she has over 1,000 signatures on a petition against Walmart.
Greg Walters said a 40k square foot building with a 60k square foot parking lot does not meet the definition of a multi-user pedestrian-friendly development in downtown Raytown. He said he was opposed to the plan. However he also noted that the Board may approve the plan despite his wishes. If that is the case he asked that the Board of Alderrmen restrict hours of operation to regular business hours for neighborhood stores. In Raytown that would be 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The Kansas City Star ran a story last week in which it was announced that the high speed internet service provider, Google, had reached an agreement with the City of Raytown over a franchise agreement. Within a couple of days, another story appeared in which the City of Grandview, Missouri, had a similar story in the Star.
Make no mistake about it, Google is coming. And it appears that Raytown is first in line to come to terms with the internet giant.
Or is it?
A quick check of the Google website to get some of the particulars on the story came up empty. In fact, Raytown was not even mentioned.
So we did some more digging. Grandview is mentioned. Apparently they passed legislation ratifying the agreement between the City of Grandview and Google, a step that Raytown has not yet taken. Though we have been assured it is on the horizon by City officials.
None the less, it is clear that Google is coming to Eastern Jackson County. From the report given to the Board of Aldermen the same package offered to neighborhoods in Kansas City, Westwood and Olathe.
Competition is good for any marketplace. The internet is no exception. For Raytowners, with three large providers, it is certain to give more power to the buyer.
Community Leader Speaks Out on the Future of Downtown Raytown
The following letter was written by Patrick Searcy, local Raytown business leader and President of Power On Technology. In his letter, originally sent to the Raytown Board of Aldermen, Mr. Searcy laid out a clear vision of the best path for development of Downtown Raytown.
There has been tons of material written on this subject. None hit to the core of what needs to be understood on the issue. Please take a moment and read what Mr. Searcy has to say.
Letter From Patrick J. Searcy to the Raytown Board of Aldermen
Although I am no longer a resident of Raytown, a sizeable portion of my assets currently remain in and are invested in Raytown. With emotions running high with the current debate about the “Green Space”, I wanted to be sure to make a few points.
We are not in the grocery business and Wal-Mart is not a competitor. My competitors are located in Johnson County Kansas, North Kansas City, and Lee’s Summit. We all compete for and employ technical and professional people from around the entire Kansas City metropolitan area. Please create an environment that helps me to attract and retain good employees.
- Do we want one large store or twenty to thirty small shops in downtown Raytown? It’s simple; you have the choice of one big 42,000 square foot building with a huge parking lot or the potential for 20 to 30 small shops, restaurants, and bars facing the road with sidewalks, trees, and benches. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a grocer or a furniture store; one large building is one large building. Give my employees a reason to stay in, and enjoy Raytown. Raytown has had an Economic Development position for a few short years and just recently has had a responsible owner take over the Raytown Plaza; certainly there will be other opportunities for this space.
- The city will not gain any new sales tax revenue. Although there could be a gain if it were a Trader Joes or Whole Food Market - I find it hard to believe someone would drive to Raytown from another city to shop specifically at a Neighborhood Market.
- I’ve heard, “It works in Brookside”. Take a look at the two maps. Brookside’s Neighborhood Market is on the extreme Northeastern edge of the entire area which is two blocks from Brookside Blvd and an entire block from 63rd street (the two main streets). The proposed site in Raytown is right smack in the middle of everything and will be adjacent to the main thoroughfare. Hardly a comparison.
- I’ve heard, “They are paying more than the asking price and are not asking for special tax treatment or TIF’s”. Throwing money around is more commonly known as greasing the wheels to get things done your way. Unfortunately it happens far too often at the state and federal levels – don’t let it happen here. It’s obvious the developer has deep pockets and is currently trying to buy their way in.
- I’ve heard, “The city should not be in the real estate business”. The city of Raytown got into the real estate business on July 17th, 1950 - the moment Raytown staked out some real estate and incorporated to prevent Kansas City from annexing it. Cities control the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Planning and Zoning Commissions. Cities regulate zoning so that pig farms aren’t put in neighborhoods and property values are protected. Looking out for the welfare of property values through good planning is the roll of any competent city. Many cities even have land banks to deal with abandoned properties.
With Mayor Bower’s letter to Mr. Guenther that he would not re-nominate him to the Board of Zoning Adjustment; it’s not hard to notice the political games that are being played. I urge you to direct your City Administrator and Economic Development personnel to either reduce the size of the building or find a developer with a downtown vision that fits within downtown main street guidelines.
Patrick J Searcy
POWER ON TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
5893 Raytown Rd S-101
Kansas City, MO 64133
City Official Contact List
On Tuesday, May 21st, the Raytown Board of Aldermen will vote on whether to accept or deny the Walmart application for design changes in Downtown Raytown. Their vote will decide the future development of the Downtown. The following list is was taken from the City's website.
Mayor David Bower. . . . 737-6000
ALDERMAN, WARD 1
Alderman Joe Creamer (Ward 1) . . . . 517-4773
Alderman Josh Greene (Ward 1) . . . . 260-6325
ALDERMAN, WARD 2
Alderman Jason Greene (Ward 2) . . . . 255-8407
Alderman Jim Aziere (Ward 2) . . . . 358-8375
ALDERMAN, WARD 3
Alderman Charlotte Melson (Ward 3) . . . . 356-6244
Alderman Janet Emerson (Ward 3) . . . . 737-5050
ALDERMAN, WARD 4
Alderman Bill VanBuskirk (Ward 4) . . . . 737-2799
Alderman Pat Ertz (Ward 4) . . . . 356-8233
ALDERMAN, WARD 5
Alderman Steve Mock (Ward 5) . . . . 225-3217
Alderman Michael Lightfoot (Ward 5) . . . . 686-8213
So, in a bit of celebrity news, I recently learned that Gwyneth Paltrow allows herself one cigarette each week. Gwyneth Paltrow, of detox diets. Gwyneth Paltrow, who got serious about cleaning up her health after losing her dad to cancer. Gwyneth Paltrow of Tracy Anderson-following, picture-of-health fame. She says her cigarette is… Continue reading
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