I am writing today about a community that struggled to provide for themselves before they were given the opportunity to lift themselves up and make a better life and future for their residents.
Before 2011, Edgerton was a community struggling to survive. Even being located in Johnson County wasn’t protecting the community from the plight many other communities across Kansas have faced. Decreasing population, lack of business, and not enough $ to provide services like basic recreation programs. In 2011, 92 percent of the tax burden fell on the residential community. In 2018 the tax burden on the residential community had dropped to 18 percent. Prior to 2011, Edgerton was a community whose tax burden fell primarily on the shoulders of the residents. It was a community many people had to move away from because of the lack of opportunity. It was a community that at that time had a very daunting future.
I am not going to sit here today and tell you every single Edgerton resident supports the growth of the community. You never have 100 percent agreement on anything in any community. There will always be people who disagree, people who do not want their community to change and people who will fight to oppose everything. But do not fall for the illusion that there is more opposition than support.
If you were at the City Council meeting a couple weeks ago, you would have heard from many people employed at Logistics Park Kansas City. You would have heard how this project has changed their lives and their families lives for the better. Not just residents of Edgerton, but also Gardner and Spring Hill. You would have heard from small business owners in Gardner and Spring Hill talk about how LPKC has benefitted their growth. How they have been able to hire more people, invest more money back in the local community and help make this region a better place. At previous planning commission meetings, you would have heard from people who moved back to Edgerton because now there is a better future available for them and their kids. Any truly open-minded person cannot look at the facts and tell you this project has not been good for Edgerton, Johnson County, USD 231, Gardner, Spring Hill, or the State of Kansas. The only people that can are the people who from the beginning have villainized progress and everyone associated with it.
The opposition will tell you that every time new development commences, and an IRB is given, that it forces that tax burden to county residents. The conjecture and hyperbole of statements like “the residents of Johnson County pay much more in taxes as a result of these arrangements” in not only false but easily proven otherwise. Since 2014 the PILOT payment paid by companies located in Logistics Park Kansas City have totaled more than $10 million for all taxing jurisdictions. A figure that is exponentially larger than if there was no development and area properties were only rural residential or agricultural. In addition, when the tax abatement drops off, the property owner will be responsible for the full tax liability for the life of the building whether there is a tenant or not.
Also, the jobs created at Logistics Park Kansas City have generated over $6 million in new annual income tax revenue to the state of Kansas. This is revenue that the state would not be receiving if there was no development at Logistics Park Kansas City. Revenue that helps the State of Kansas fund services that all residents take advantage of every day.
Finally, there has been over $100 million invested into public infrastructure since the start of Logistics Park Kansas City. Public roads that used to be gravel are now paved. Public health and safety have been at the forefront of all infrastructure decisions leading to new intersections, sidewalks, and off-grade crossings. Projects which have used no residential tax $ to fund.
As you can see, no one is getting a free dinner and leaving the bill to be paid by someone else.
By now you have received numerous letters to the editor from people who oppose development in this part of the county. People who only believe in progress if it is somewhere else.
I could write today about the copious amounts of misinformation and falsehoods that are being spread about the process, city staff, governing body members and even just private citizens who live in this area. And the fact that the opposition can continue to spread these lies without any recourse or accountability.
I could write about the intimidation tactics that are being employed by this group that include posting pictures of private residences on social media to encourage harassment and rude behavior toward people that refuse to support their cause.
I could write about the fact that this group recruited a consultant from Chicago and paid for her travel to come to a recent City Council meeting to fight their battle. To oppose development in a community and a region she has no ties to or interest in, except for seeing a homegrown KC company fail.
Progress and compromise are not something they are interested in. Today the battle is against Edgerton. Tomorrow their sights could be set on Gardner or Spring Hill. Progress is only acceptable if it is not near them and they have proven they will stop at nothing to stand in the way of something that truly benefits future generations.
James Oltman, President of ElevateEdgerton!