By RACHEL COLEMAN
• Leader & Times
Liberal City Commissioners meet at 6:30 tonight for a regular meeting in the commission chambers, 325 N. Washington. High on the agenda is a special election resolution, calling for voters to decide whether or not the city should impose an additional one-half-percent — or half-cent — retail sales tax in order to assist USD 480. Funds from the tax would be applied to a bond issue, also up for voter approval April 8, to finance facility improvements in the district.
City and school district directors, staff and consultants have been hard at work on the resolution.
Rather than going back and forth with small revisions and tweaks to the document, “we wanted to bring an agreement that works for both parties,” said city finance director Chris Ford. “Hopefully, the commission will be able to approve this, and the school district will do the same, and we can move forward.”
City commissioners stated in previous meetings that while Liberal’s board is “for education,” the community’s wishes come first. Thus, allowing the half-cent sales tax vote is more an expression of confidence in the voters’ ability to speak their minds than an endorsement of the proposed project.
Housing issues will take up a significant portion of the evening’s business, with four items on the agenda. The commission will hear the first reading of a rezoning request for nearly 16 acres of land in the McCray Addition, for the purpose of building two-family dwellings, or duplexes. The land is currently zoned for commercial use.
Zoning administrator Kory Krause noted in his memo that the action “will help alleviate the rental property shortages in the City of Liberal.” An accompanying item requests that the city establish an addition Rural Housing Incentive District, a designation that will then be sent to the Kansas Secretary of Commerce for approval.
Documents attached to the proposal noted that without some kind of financial incentives to spur the development of more housing, a shortage will persist in Liberal.
Commissioners will turn their attention to existing housing, as they consider the adoption of a “Neighborhood Revitalization Act,” which would eventually provide tax rebates for property owners who choose to improve buildings and properties. The program would target areas described as “dilapidated or obsolete … deteriorating or defective,” and thus a detriment to public health and safety.
Kansas law sets out specific requirements for how cities go about this type of program, and tonight’s resolution, if approved, would be the first step in addressing areas of Liberal that meet the definition of “needing revitalization.” A map, available for viewing at City Hall, marks a large portion of Liberal’s core neighborhoods as eligible for the program. Tax rebates would be offered to property owners that improve existing buildings, not to new construction or to conversions that change single-family dwellings into two or more units.
Finally, city commissioners will review information about the brand-new housing project, “Village at the Plaza,” which requests final approval for its plan. Architectural plans and official schematics showing the location of the proposed complex on its site have been reviewed by city staff, which recommends approval. When complete, Village at the Plaza plans to offer four, 16-unit apartment buildings just north of 11th Street, behind the “Village Plaza” office and retail complex.
Rounding out tonight’s meeting are board appointments to the Convention and Visitors Bureau; information about the Mid-America Air Museum’s upcoming robotics exhibit and competitive meet; upgrades to the Willow Tree Golf Course golf cart rental fleet; and purchase of three scanners for municipal court.