Delays stall downtown Anthony project

ANTHONY, Kansas – Voters approved creating a commercial improvement district — or CID — back in the summer of 2011. But why is no development taking place? The answer depends on who you ask. Some blame the county’s economic development corporation. But that entity says it’s simply trying to protect the integrity of the project by preserving the plan taxpayers originally approved.

It was July 8, 2009 when a gas line fire destroyed several buildings in downtown Anthony. Many figured the empty lot would be redeveloped by now, but the development deal passed in 2011 has been delayed several times.

Now, business owners like Heather Bonham aren’t happy about it.

“It’s frustrating for me because I want to generate more tax money for our community and we can’t seem to get over all these little hurdles,” Bonham said.

The deal was passed by county commissioners three years ago after it was rejected by Anthony city leaders.  The CID will take about $7 million created by a 2 percent sales tax, to rebuild the downtown. But two of the lot owners did not agree to sell their properties to the HCEDC, so half the lots are still privately-owned. The HCEDC insists that’s a violation of the original proposal and means taxpayers are paying for a new building for private landowners.

“That was their original plan for it to be a perpetual fund for the whole block, it benefited no one monetarily, no one was getting a free building, but we can’t control that, I just do what I’m instructed to do by my board. We’re going to move forward and get at least half the project done the way we said we should do it,” Mike Lanie of the HCEDC said.

County Administrator Al Roder took his position with the county as the project was being passed.

“Those people that own property in the burnt out block the primary focus on the CID project number one they should be able to rebuild inside that project area, everybody would be able to benefit from the sales tax that’s being collected by district itself,” Roder said.

The HCEDC recently hired a new attorney to try and get this deal closed with a private Wichita-based private developer. The Bonhams plan to break ground in March, using the tax money.

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