Iola gets its wish – Revitalization plan gets county support



January 15, 2014 - 12:00 AM

County Counselor Alan Weber’s assessment that it was perfectly legal for Iola to include all of the city in its Neighborhood Revitalization Program zone was good enough for Tom Williams.
Williams, noting that “the city voted to do it and it’s legal,” moved to give Allen County’s support to open all of Iola, save land owned by governmental bodies, to tax abatements. The abatements will be in force at 95 percent for six years, with tax bills restored to 100 percent at 20 percent a year starting in the seventh year.
Jim Talkington’s vote passed the motion.
Dick Works said the “issue of fairness” prevented him from making it unanimous.
Iola and the county have been at odds on the city’s expansion of the NRP zone for several weeks. USD 257 members joined in on a split vote, 4-2, Monday. Allen Community Trustees completed circle of taxing bodies support Tuesday evening, also on a 4-2 vote.
All along Works has maintained that it was unfair to permit new or expanding businesses to have tax abatements when it put those in place, many for years, at a competitive disadvantage. He also questioned the legality of an all-encompassing zone when the law mentioned “blighted” areas as a prerequisite.
Residential or commercial improvements or new construction are eligible for abatements if they involve $5,000 or more.
City Administrator Carl Slaugh said emphasis for the city council to put all of Iola in an NRP zone was recurring exceptions that were sought when only part of the city was in the program, as well as to aid with economic development.
“You can make the argument that all of southeast Kansas has economic development problems,” Weber said. He also said that Iola had broad issues, in regard to blight, that permitted all of the city to be in an NRP zone.
The only reservation, he continued, would arise if a more narrow view were taken.
Weber allowed taxing bodies would not gain revenue immediately, with the six-year 95 percent rebate, but would over time.
“In southeast Kansas we need all the advantages we can get,” he said. And that “the law doesn’t keep all of Iola from being in the program. It’s been tested in court.”
Williams said he wanted to pursue putting all of Allen County in an NRP zone. That would affect unincorporated areas, not the county’s several cities, and would affect tax collections by unified school districts and ACC, as well as the county.

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