Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Building owners seek relief from excise tax

January 16, 2002

The owners' plans to rebuild a Basehor shopping center damaged by fire Dec. 15 have city officials reevaluating the city's transportation tax ordinance.

Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker said the building's owners, Tonganoxie residents Dennis and Debbie Breuer, intend to rebuild the shopping center.

Should the couple rebuild, the shopping center would fall under a transportation excise tax and a neighborhood revitalization program the city recently approved.

The two programs are almost opposites of each other.

While the revitalization program offers tax breaks to property owners that make improvements to their properties, the excise tax levies a nine-cents per-square-foot fee on properties improving more than 51 percent of their assessed valuations.

Council members approved the excise tax to gain funding for future road improvements in the city.

The catch-22 the shopping center now faces is something the city never considered in planning for the two programs.

"That situation was never considered and here it is and it is a deterrent to the rebuilding," Hooker said.

The fire destroyed part of the center, causing an estimated $1 million in overall damages, investigators said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continues to investigate the fire as being deliberately set.

The owners would have to pay more than $12,000 in fees under the current transportation excise tax ordinance if they were to rebuild, city officials said.

"We never really looked at commercial properties being damaged by fire in the planning," said Mike Hooper, Basehor City Codes Administrator. "That kind of got lost in the thought process."

City officials said the Breuer's have asked the city for an exemption on the excise tax.

Hooker said the city could choose to grant the exemption as well as change the excise tax ordinance to cover properties damaged by fire and other catastrophes.

"I think we should consider changing it to exempt those types of situations," Hooker said. "If they were to burn down, there would be no excise tax so there wouldn't be a deterrent for them to rebuild."

Hooker added the exemption to the Breuer's would be a benefit to the city.

"We need businesses here and I don't think we want to discourage them from rebuilding," he said. "I think it would be better for everybody if they were back up there."

The shopping center was the only area of retail sales for the city. Losing the businesses housed in the shopping center means the city loses out on sales tax revenue, Hooker said.

Although it has gained approval, the excise tax has not yet taken effect.

The City Council approved the charter ordinance for the excise tax a month ago, but the city has to wait 60 days before it can be enacted.

Hooper said he expected the excise tax ordinance to gain final approval at the March Basehor City Council meeting.

City officials said it is doubtful the Breuers could have remodeling plans done before the March meeting.

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