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Heading East: City moves to acquire land
Platte City wants 35 acres east of I-29

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

Development east of Interstate 29 in Platte City took a big step forward on Tuesday when the board of aldermen approved a 60 day notice of action to acquire the first piece of property through condemnation.

The property is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 29 and Highway HH and is currently owned by the F.M. Wilson Trust.

“The 60-day notice is the first of a series of actions required in order for the city to acquire ownership of the Wilson Trust property,” said Doug Patterson, special counsel. “This notice does not mean that the city will take action in the next 60 days, it simply means that we may take action after the expiration of the sixty day notice period. The city has been in discussions with representatives of the Wilson Trust for almost a year. We have reached the point in discussions where both sides are ready to move forward with the property acquisition process.”

The property is about 35 acres and due to the title for the property, it cannot be sold to a private owner. Ownership can only be transferred through condemnation by a public agency such as a school district or a city, officials said.

Offutt said the city is planning taking this step in order to use the property as a point to allow for digging under the interstate to install sewer service to the properties in the area. There is already water and fiber optic service available , but sewer service is the final utility the city needs to provide.

How will the cost of infrastructure improvements be funded?

“The long term infrastructure funding plan will largely be dependent upon the type of private sector responses we receive. The city anticipates using existing city resources to upfront costs of connecting the east side to the city wastewater system and recovering those costs from future connection fees and sewer rates charged to the new customers,” Gehrt told The Landmark.

“The board has directed staff to use only those existing resources that will not have an impact on taxes or fees charged to current residents. Funding for the remainder of the infrastructure (streets, storm water, street lights, etc) will be dependent upon the development proposals received from the private sector,” Gehrt explained.

The city anticipates a special taxing district being designated for the area in the future, the city administrator indicated.

“It would be unlikely that any private sector development proposal does not include some type of infrastructure financing mechanism such as the Community Improvement District (CID) in place for Price Chopper or the recently paid off Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) which funded infrastructure supporting the Platte Valley Plaza development. While we are going through the entire process we will look at actions the City can take to be able to consider a range of infrastructure funding options that may be included in the development proposals,” Gehrt told The Landmark.

“Development on the east side of Interstate 29 has been a long time city goal,” said Offutt. “This has been a community goal for almost 20 years. It is a good feeling to take the first step in the process. This is just the beginning of a very long effort, but taking the first step gives us some momentum for the development effort.”

According to D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, the city does not want to become a long term property owner, instead the city wants a private developer to purchase or develop the property.

“If the city completes the acquisition process, we will be conducting an open search for a private sector partner who is best suited to develop the property,” said Gehrt.

Offutt said the city has been in talks with several banks and private developers to seek partnerships for the development of the area.

If the city does acquire the property, it will be able to use some of the city's more than $10 million in cash on hand. Offutt said he does not want any of the development deals the city is seeking to be funded with additional tax burdens on the residents of Platte City.

Currently the city receives about 75 percent of its operating funds from sales tax revenue and Offutt wants to sustain that revenue and not have to increase property taxes on residents.

“We further believe that the time is right to take this step; the title issues and the lack of sewer access have been a problem for private development,” said Offutt. “Platte City is in a position to assist in these deficient areas and open the door to east side development after many years of waiting. There will be many more steps in this process over the next several years. It's good to finally take the first step.”

Offutt said the city's planning and zoning commission and the economic development subcommittee will be very busy in the near future.

The board approved the notice of action in closed session on Tuesday with a vote of 6-0.