The Unified Government planning department staff has been meeting with groups and individuals in the Armourdale area during the past nine months to receive comments for the master plan. A steering committee has been working on the project.
The master plan was released this week, and will be a guide to future investment in the Armourdale community, according to UG officials. It is the first Armourdale master plan since 1979.
The Armourdale master plan was presented to the UG Neighborhood and Community Development Committee on Monday, Sept. 13, and also to the City Planning Commission on Sept. 13. Another presentation is scheduled to be given to the UG Commission Sept. 30.
According to UG officials, the 300-page master plan will go before the UG Commission at a later date, probably October, for final approval.
They would like to turn a cycle of decline into a cycle of prosperity, Gunnar Hand, UG planning director, told the NCD Committee on Sept. 13.
“The plan builds upon the work underway by the Unified Government to reimagine the Kansas River,” Hand stated in a news release. “Connecting this neighborhood to these investments will ensure this work benefits existing and future Armourdale residents and small business owners.”
“After a century of ambiguity,” Hand said in the statement, “this plan ensures that the existing residential community is sustainable and vibrant for the next generation.”
Andrew Moddrell, project consultant from Port Design, said at the Sept. 13 UG Committee meeting that the project now is moving into the final master plan phase.
Armourdale traces its history back to meatpacking plants and the stockyards. The entire Armourdale area is in a flood plain, and was devastated in the floods of 1903, 1908 and 1951, Moddrell said.
Some of the area’s past history included redlining, segregation and displacement that prevented development, according to Moddrell.
In the 1960s, everything in Armourdale east of 7th Street was cleared out after the flood, he said. New industrial development displaced about a third of the neighborhood.
Today, the Armourdale neighborhood core is surrounded by rivers, highways, and rail yards, he said. There are high productive industrial developments and low use, low land values, he said. Residential areas are surrounded by industrial uses.
The master plan found neglect of certain services such as lighting and sidewalks. Aging homes are about 50 percent renter-occupied and the Armourdale area has not seen new housing investment in a long time, he said.
The population of Armourdale has declined since the 1951 flood to where it is now about 2,500 residents, Moddrell said.
The master plan found that Armourdale is in many ways an isolated area, according to Moddrell. Health care is lacking. It has no grocery stores, but it does have a number of churches, grade schools, Cross-Lines and a county park. It lacks cultural amenities such as museums.
In some ways the master plan tries to strengthen the Armourdale community with community-led priorities such as access to fresh food and public spaces, according to officials.
Moddrell said at the Sept. 13 meeting that they would like to disrupt the cycle of disinvestment and isolation with a safe, empowered, included and accessible plan.
Reinvestment in the levee area in Armourdale, on the Kansas River, will mean better river access in the area, with potential for more development. There could be corridor enhancements linking to the Rock Island Bridge project area and other developments planned for the area, according to officials.
The master plan also looks at issues such as stormwater retention, bike lanes and trees.
Armourdale residents became part of the master plan consultant team, and workshops and surveys were conducted, Moddrell said. Some team members went door-to-door to talk to residents about the plan.
The levee projects and reinvestment in the river and perimeter of Armourdale, along with stormwater improvements, are expected to make a difference.
Five focus areas of the master plan included the neighborhood core; the corridors; the industrial ring; the Kansas River (or green machine); and the West Bottoms, Moddrell said.
Within each area are recommended actions. For the neighborhood core, for example, one strategy will be to support infill housing. Almost a dozen actions are recommended in the neighborhood core area.
The industrial recommendations are to try to phase out some lower uses, such as tire piles or pallet piles, he said. Also, the plan discusses how new development can be shaped to maintain pedestrian streets, add best practices, and improve stormwater retention to raise the overall value.
The plan also includes some ideas to connect corridor enhancements to the Kansas River, including through the Rock Island Bridge, walking trails and other features.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan remarked at the Sept. 13 committee meeting that it was a great road map, but the question was, can they follow the road map?
The Kansas Board of Tax Appeals sided with Nebraska Furniture Mart’s protest of its tax bill in Wyandotte County in the latest of so-called “dark store theory” cases.
by Steve Vockrodt, KCUR and Kansas News Service
Nebraska Furniture Mart, one of the busiest retailers in the region, stands to get a refund on property taxes it paid on its Kansas City, Kansas, location after winning an appeal to a state tax board.
The Kansas Board of Tax Appeals ruled last week that Wyandotte County overestimated the value of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s sprawling location in Village West.
If the board’s decision holds up — the county could appeal the decision in court — Nebraska Furniture Mart stands to collect a nearly $1.5 million refund. That refund would come from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City Kansas Community College as well as school and library districts in the area. The Unified Government and other taxing jurisdictions use property tax to pay for basic services.
The amount of the refund itself isn’t staggering. But cities and counties in Kansas fear that continued success by big-box retailers in appealing their tax bills could diminish the revenue they collect for basic services and shift the tax burden to small businesses and residents.
“Every taxpayer, whether a homeowner, a small business, or a large corporation, has the right to access the appeal process,” the Unified Government said in a statement. “However, rulings by the Board of Tax Appeals that significantly shift how large commercial properties are valued, will affect how critical services and schools in our community are paid for.”
Retailers on a roll
Indeed, the Nebraska Furniture Mart decision is the latest among several victories by retailers in Kansas that have convinced courts and tax boards that county appraisers miscalculate the value of their properties. They argue that appraisers place too much emphasis on the lease income that a business occupying the retail property generates rather than focusing on how much a buyer is willing to pay for the land and the building on the open market.
In other words, the retailers argue that appraisers should value property as though it is vacant when the new owner takes control of the property. Lawyers for retailers compare it to buying a house: A buyer will pay for the house and the land without regard for whether the seller is financially well-off or struggles to make ends meet.
“We value property on the assumption that the current owner-occupant will vacate, just as you would value a house,” said Linda Terrill, a Johnson County lawyer who is president of the American Property Tax Counsel and frequently represents Kansas retailers in appealing their tax bills. “It’s not dark, abandoned or empty.”
Terrill represented Nebraska Furniture Mart in its appeal, but stressed that she was not speaking about that case while it remains pending.
‘Dark store theory’ looms
Critics of retailers who appeal their taxes call the approach the “dark store theory,” an implication that retailers believe their properties should be evaluated as if they were closed, resulting in lower property values.
The Unified Government said it disagreed with the Board of Tax Appeals decision for relying on a methodology that is not consistent with how commercial property is appraised.
“The NFM building has never been vacant and, because of its desirable location, should not be compared to other vacant buildings,” the Unified Government said in a statement. “The Unified Government only seeks to ensure that all properties, commercial and residential, are valued fairly, so that the tax burden is shared equitable and appropriately.”
Nebraska Furniture Mart, which did not respond to a request for comment on this story, is the first Wyandotte County business to prevail before the Board of Tax Appeals using dark store theory arguments
But several big-box retailers in Johnson County have been successful in their appeals.
In April, the Kansas Court of Appeals sided with the Board of Tax Appeals in lowering the tax bill for the Bass Pro Shops store in Olathe.
In 2018, an analysis by then-Johnson County Appraiser Paul Welcome concluded that the county, as well as school districts, cities and libraries within it could lose close to $133 million if the dark store theory becomes the dominant methodology for large retailers, according to a story in the Shawnee Mission Post.
Terrill said Kansas courts are applying the law when they arrive at their decisions about tax appeals. She added that cities and counties should press their cases to the Kansas Legislature to make changes to the law.
“The decision of who pays and who shares what portion of taxation is up to the legislature, not the county appraiser,” Terrill said.
A mask mandate for Kansas City, Kansas, was extended on Thursday night by the Unified Government Commission.
The mask mandate, for all indoor public spaces in Kansas City, Kansas, was unanimously approved by the commission, 10-0. It will run through 11:59 p.m. Nov. 18.
According to UG officials, the mask mandate is the same as one passed previously, and it excludes the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. It also excludes school districts, which will make their own decisions. The mandate applies to Kansas City, Kansas.
The current mask mandate started on Aug. 5 and was scheduled to end Sept. 16.
Besides approving the mandate, the UG Commission also extended the state of emergency in Wyandotte County through Dec. 16 in a unanimous vote.
Matt May, Wyandotte County emergency management director, said it was extended for the same reasons as in the past. It will maintain the ability for the county to be reimbursed through state or federal programs, he said.
Two supportive public comments were received during the discussion. One was from a child who lived in Jackson County, Missouri, and attends school in Wyandotte County, and said his grandfather died of COVID. He requested that they keep masks on until kids can have vaccines.
During the 6 p.m. COVID discussion, Dr. Erin Corriveau, UG deputy medical officer, recommended extending the mask order.
The average in Wyandotte County has been about 63 new COVID cases a day, she said. There was a huge peak late in August, she added.
Currently, there could be a start of a downward trend in COVID cases, but they can’t be sure because it’s possible there was a slight data lag because of Labor Day closures, she said.
Last week alone, there were 421 new cases, and there were four COVID deaths in the last week, she said.
The UG Health Department is engaged in a very robust testing program, she added.
The Wyandotte County positivity rate is just under 20 percent, which is better than around 30 percent at the last report to the commission, she said.
“Unfortunately, the majority of residents in Wyandotte County still remain unvaccinated,” Dr. Corriveau said.
Those Wyandotte County residents with one vaccine dose total 47.4 percent, while those who completed their vaccines total 40.5 percent, she said.
She added that the Health Department is still unable to get any data from the state of Missouri about anyone from Wyandotte County who has been vaccinated in Missouri. However, they have been able to get the totals of Wyandotte County residents who were vaccinated in other Kansas counties.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s county COVID rankings had some good news for Wyandotte County, she said.
Wyandotte County ranks ninth in the state overall in its COVID rankings, she said.
The county’s vaccination rate is ranked 16th in the state, she said. The KDHE uses 54 percent as the vaccination rate here because it includes those who are eligible, ages 12 and over only. The county numbers include the total population.
Under testing, Wyandotte County ranks 10th in the state, Dr. Corriveau said.
However, under COVID cases, Wyandotte County is 61st, she said.
“We know there is still community spread of this Delta variant in our community,” Dr. Corriveau said.
The Health Department is focusing its efforts on stopping the spread of the virus, she said. The mask resolution was an effort to do that.
Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackson County, Missouri, have indoor mask mandates currently in place, she said. Johnson County requires masks to be worn in kindergarten through sixth grade for the remainder of the school year.
Reasons to support a mask mandate are the uncontrolled high community spread; the high transmissibility of Delta; the majority of Wyandotte County residents who are not vaccinated; children under 12 who are ineligible to get a vaccine; and strained hospital resources, she said.
At the University of Kansas Health System, they still have high numbers of patients on the ventilators and in the hospital with COVID, according to Dr. Corriveau. Lately, the number has been about 100 patients with COVID. They also are seeing people in their 40s and 50s, as well as many children hospitalized.
While Dr. Corriveau recommended the mask mandate until Nov. 11, the UG Commission passed a resolution extending it until Nov. 18. According to UG officials, that change was to make it work in conjunction with the UG’s meeting schedules.
In answer to a question from Commissioner Melissa Bynum, Dr. Corriveau said she would like to see the percent positivity cases decrease below 10 percent, and the daily case rate go down from 60 to 20 or less, before the mask mandate should be lifted.
She said with flu season coming up, she is a little worried about flu cases on top of COVID cases. Health officials have recommended that people get their flu shots in early October.
There has been a downturn in some areas, probably due to masking, she said, and if they were to let up too soon, they could have another bump in the numbers.
James Bain, a UG attorney, said in answer to Bynum’s question that state statutes have allowed violations of health orders to be a Class C misdemeanor, long before the COVID pandemic. The UG during the COVID period passed ordinances making a violation of health orders a crime, since last March. That is so it could be prosecuted in municipal court as a city violation, if needed, he said. The misdemeanor language is part of all the local health orders.
There have been no convictions, no tickets written, under these ordinances, he said. There was an education focus on all the health orders, with no criminal prosecutions, he added. Representatives of the Health Department have talked to some of those who violated the ordinances, and explained the rules to them.
The mask mandate also includes the small, unincorporated area of Loring in Wyandotte County.
COVID-19 testing will continue on Friday, Sept. 10, in Wyandotte County.
The former Kmart building at 7836 State Ave., a Unified Government Health Department vaccination site, will be open for testing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and for free COVID-19 vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. There are incentives being offered for Wyandotte County residents, while supplies last.
Mobile vaccines can be requested online at WycoVaccines.org or by calling 3-1-1 (913-573-5311). For more information on the Unified Government Health Department’s vaccine schedule, see WycoVaccines.org.
COVID-19 vaccines and tests are available at other locations in Wyandotte County, including some pharmacies. For locations and availability, visit www.vaccines.gov.
COVID-19 testing from WellHealth will be available beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 100 S. 20th. The site is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make an appointment, visit https://www.gogettested.com/kansas.
Free vaccinations at KU Health System are open to the public, and appointments are required. Current patients may use MyChart to make an appointment. Others may call 913-588-1227 or visit kansashealthsystem.com/vaccine to make an appointment to get vaccinated. KU Health System currently is vaccinating residents of Kansas and Missouri who are 12 or older, by appointment only. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian throughout the appointment.
A special vaccine event is planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at the Area Agency on Aging community room, 849 B N. 47th, (Indian Springs area), Kansas City, Kansas. The Unified Government Health Department is presenting the event with the Area Agency on Aging. Free COVID-19 vaccines, $50 gift cards for Wyandotte County residents who get vaccinated, while supplies last, and a free lunch will be available. For a free ride to the event, call 913-262-5190, with the code VACS, or contact UG transit at 913-573-8351.
Soccer Nation, 550 S. 55th St., Kansas City, Kansas, will sponsor COVID testing and vaccinations from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11. Appointments are not required. Pfizer vaccines will be available for ages 12 and up, with parents or guardians required for 12-18. Johnson and Johnson vaccine is available for those ages 18 and older. Also, PCR saliva testing kits will be available. Vibrant Health will be conducting the vaccinations.
Case numbers reported
The University of Kansas Health System reported 100 total COVID-19 patients on Thursday, Sepet. 9, the same as Wednesday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. Fifty patients with the active virus were inpatients on Thursday, a decrease of five since Wednesday. Two COVID patients died on Wednesday. Sixteen patients were in the intensive care unit, the same as Wednesday, and only two were vaccinated. Nine patients were on ventilators, the same as Wednesday. Fifty other patients were still hospitalized from COVID, but were out of the acute infection phase, an increase of five since Wednesday.
Last year on Labor Day, KU Health System had 21 patients with active COVID infections, compared to around 60 this year. So far in September this year, there have been 18 deaths, compared to 17 in the whole month of September last year. In August of this year, the health system had 37 deaths, compared to 18 in August of last year.
Wyandotte County reported a cumulative 23,076 cases on Thursday, Sept. 9, an increase of 63 cases since Wednesday, Sept. 8, according to the Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative total of 340 deaths on Thursday, an increase of two from Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the Unified Government Health Department reported that 47.37 percent of Wyandotte County residents had received at least one dose of vaccine. Those completing their vaccinations totaled about 40.52 percent. The percentage of Wyandotte County residents who were age 12 and older who had received at least one dose was 58.3 percent.
The Mid-America Regional Council reported 204,111 cases in Greater Kansas City, a nine-county area. There were a total of 2,768 deaths. The daily average of new hospitalizations was 130. . The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 382,850 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Kansas on Wednesday, Sept. 8, an increase of 5,727 since Friday, Sept. 3, (the second most recent reporting date for state totals). There was a total of 5,693 cumulative deaths reported statewide, an increase of 63 since Sept. 3. The KDHE reported 71,224 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Johnson County on Sept. 8, an increase of 698 since Sept. 3. Leavenworth County had 9,373 cases on Sept. 8, an increase of 139 since Sept. 3. Sedgwick County (the Wichita area) reported 69,756 cases on Sept. 8, an increase of 1,270 since Sept. 3. On Friday, the KHDE reported 10,820 cumulative cases in Douglas County (the Lawrence area), an increase of 183 since Sept. 3. Riley County (the Manhattan area) had 7,236 cumulative cases, an increase of 60 since Sept. 3. Shawnee County (the Topeka area) had 22,876 cumulative cases, an increase of 439 cases since Sept. 3.
On Thursday night, there were a cumulative 40,601,577 COVID-19 cases in the United States, with a cumulative 654,579 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.