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The Wichita city council has approved changes in the city's policy on incentives for economic development and job growth projects. The changes were discussed in a workshop meeting in July, and they were presented to the council Tuesday for formal approval.
The changes cover a variety of issues on incentives that the city would provide to companies and developers for projects that would create new jobs. One provision deals with so-called "spec" buildings, newly constructed buildings that would be available for a variety of uses. There is a high demand for existing buildings with companies that are looking to expand or start operations in Wichita. The policy called for different levels of property tax breaks for five years, depending on the size of the building.
Council member Michael O'Donnell complained about "roadblocks," city requirements that he says are preventing new development projects in Wichita. He proposed a change to allow for a 100 percent tax break for 5 years for all buildings that are greater than 50,000 square feet.
Vice-mayor Janet Miller said the purpose of having different levels of tax breaks is to encourage different sizes of buildings. She and council member Lavonta Williams voted no, but the council approved the new policies 5-2 with O'Donnell's change included.
The council then delayed action on a letter of intent for up to $3.5 million in industrial revenue bonds for a real estate investment company to manufacture a "spec" manufacturing and warehouse building near Pawnee and West Street. The building would be 90,000 square feet, and the company plans to lease the building to one or more users. Action on the letter of intent was delayed because of a problem in the wording of the public notice for Tuesday's meeting.