March 8, 2011
By a 6-1 margin, the Wichita City Council has approved a special taxing district to help fund a Cabela's sporting goods store in Northeast Wichita.
Cabela's requested the area at K-96 and Greenwich Road be made a Community Improvement District or CID. Cabela's plans to buy 9.4 acres in the CID area and build an 80,000 square foot outdoor sporting goods store.
Council member Janet Miller was the only dissenting vote. She argued that Gander Mountain - another city subsidized venture - will likely be put out of business.
"Cabela's had the opportunity to come here before and take a risk and be the first one in the market," Miller said. "They chose not to and I understand that. It's a business decision."
At least five people spoke out against the taxation district during the public comment portion of the council's weekly meeting.
"Any more taxation than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery," said Clinton Coen, quoting President Calvin Coolidge. "That's what this is. You're taking taxpayer money and giving it to a business. If the business needs more money to come here, it should charge more for it's products."
Other speakers also urged the council to stay out of the free market, but several people spoke in favor of Cabela's, including Mike Christensen. Christensen is the president of the Pass It On Outdoor Mentoring Program.
"Having them come to Wichita will be a tremendous asset to the community and to helping sportsman groups in this area advance their efforts with conservation work and getting kids outdoors," he said.
Without the CID, Cabela's Real Estate Director Jamie Gull said the outdoor sporting good giant would not have even considered building in Wichita.
"The CID was an important part of our process in coming to Wichita," Gull said. "Without it, it would have been a totally different discussion."
Miller, however, gave her verbal approval of Cabela's, saying the company will be a good investment for Wichita. But she suggested that Cabela's could simply charge each person who walked through the door $1.00, and the store would raise the same $18-million that the CID would bring in over the 22 year life of the CID. That, she said, would leave city government completely out of the mix.
The estimated total cost of the project is $28 million. Cabela's will now be able to charge an extra 1.2% in sales tax to its customers. The money will be used for development of the store and for a new highway interchange at K-96 and Greenwich Rd.
Cabela's predicts between 800,000 and 1,000,000 visitors will come to Wichita to visit the sporting goods store. Construction is expected to start as soon as this summer.