Good sense? A split council votes in the tax abatement
A divided DeSoto City Council last Thursday approved a tax abatement requested by the Mr. Goodcents restaurant chain.
In July, the restaurant franchise requested the city grant a 10-year abatement on a new research and development center it plans to build within the K-10 Commercial Park.
The requested abatement on the building and its equipment will start at 100 percent and decline 5 percent annually. That equates to a 75-percent property tax abatement level over the agreement's 10-year term.
The abatement request presented a problem because the city council recently approved a policy that set the maximum abatement level the city could offer at 50 percent.
Special circumstances, however, earned the Mr. Goodcents abatement the support of three council members.
The first consideration was the abatement the city council granted Custom Foods three years ago to entice that company to locate in DeSoto. The terms of that abatement were the same as those Mr. Goodcents requested for the research and development facility.
Mr. Goodcents President Joe Bisogno owns 50 percent of Custom Foods, which provides the restaurant chain with all its bread products. At the time the Custom Foods abatement was approved, Bisogno's understanding was the city council agreed that the research and development facility would receive the same abatement terms, Mr. Goodcents Executive Vice President Doug Westerhaus told the council Sept. 7.
Also helping the council overcome its reservations about the abatement was Mr. Goodcents' plans to develop a franchise training complex in DeSoto. With the abatement approved, Mr. Goodcents will exercise an option to acquire 17 acres of land to build its planned training complex, Westerhaus said. That indicates the company's commitment to DeSoto because only 3 acres are needed for the research facility, he said.
Despite the special circumstances, council members Tim Maniez and Linda Zindler voted against the abatement. Council member Duke Neeland was happy with the split vote, hoping that it sent a message to Mr. Goodcents and other businesses that the council intended to stay within its 50-percent policy.
"I hope it sent a message," he said after the meeting. "Those who voted for it could have easily voted against it. Those who voted against it probably could have gone the other way, too."
The split vote didn't dampen Bisogno's enthusiasm. He led a loud "thank you" shouted out by Mr. Goodcents employees, whose presence proved that not all those in the standing-room only crowd attended the meeting to protest Hunt Midwest Mining Inc.'s proposed annexation agreement.
In thanking the council, Bisogno made reference to that dispute.
"We're going to be good corporate citizens," he said. "A whole lot better than what we just heard."
In other business, the council:
Approved a number of measures at the meeting designed to end vandalism at Miller Park. The council passed ordinances that strengthened its loitering and youth curfew ordinances and voted to post new hours at the park. The park will now close two hours earlier at 10 p.m, except for special events.
Under the new youth curfew ordinance, Johnson County Sheriff's deputies can now issue tickets for curfew violations for the first offense. The old ordinance, which required a warning be issued for the first offense, was unenforceable because the sheriff's department kept no records of warnings.
Approved trading a vacant lot owned by the city east of the Dew Drop Inn on Lexington for a 3.7-acre tract of land owned by Dr. Gerald Blue near Lexington Avenue and Commerce Drive. Both lots are appraised at $90,000.
The city plans to build a retention pond on the newly acquired land. City Administrator Gerald Cooper said the tract and surrounding land owned by the city could become a future park.