Manhattan raises guest tax, to accept proposals for Community House redevelopment

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Transient Guest Tax
The tax that visitors to Manhattan pay for a hotel room is set to rise by half a percent. The Manhattan City Commission unanimously voted to raise the city’s transient guest tax from 7 to 7 point 5 percent at their meeting Tuesday.
The city has been looking into an expansion of the Manhattan Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn that is now estimated will cost $3.5 million. The additional revenue from the increase in transient guest tax would be intended to help pay down the debt on that expansion, expected to bring in an extra $130,000 per year. HCW, the Hilton’s owning company, will finance $800,000 of expansion’s price tag and agreed to increase annual contributions to that from $100,000 to $120,000 per year starting in 2029.
And should the tax money not come in as expected, HCW as well as the Convention and Visitors Bureau agreed to cover the difference on the gap needed to pay the debt service — up to $25,000 each.
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi was on board, saying the center will be a benefit to the community.
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“I can support this because there are other resources if some of the money doesn’t come through and there won’t be a financial impact on city funds,” said Reddi.
Reddi asked what hotel owners have said about raising bed tax in the city. CVB Director Karen Hibbard responded, saying that hoteliers in the city were largely favorable of the increase due to their interest in the conference center.
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“It is in agreement that as the conference center expands, the opportunity to affect all of the hoteliers is great,” said Hibbard. “The pressure is on for us to continue to not just sell that property, but other properties as well.”
Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO also spoke during the meeting saying that the city will be collecting tax revenue on the property, which he says is commonly not the case as cities often give tax abatements for conference centers.
Though supportive of the increase in TGT, Commissioner Wynn Butler didn’t want the debt for the center’s expansion to be paid from the bond and interest fund — funded by property taxes. He was vocally opposed to paying for the original debt for the center from that fund as well.
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“I have no problem voting for this ordinance tonight because all it does is raise the guest tax,” Butler said. “But long term, […] I support expanding the conference center, but none of that needs to go on property tax. I just thought that was a great disservice done to everybody when that did happen.”

Community House

The Manhattan City Commission unanimously approved city staff to solicit requests for proposals for the redevelopment of the Community House at their meeting Tuesday.
Built in 1917 by the City of Manhattan in collaboration with Rotary International clubs from multiple states, the Community House was originally intended as a refuge for soldiers during both world wars. Added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2006, the Community House is in need of a number of upgrades and renovations including improving accessibility for disabled residents. A study on the cost of converting the building for use as Parks and Recreation usage found that the necessary improvements would require $2.5 million, leading to them looking into potential private redevelopment.
City officials were keen to preserve the historical nature of the building and laid out multiple criteria for consideration of any proposals for the Community House. Potential developers have to present the city the following in their proposal:
1) the proposed use, renovation, and/or re-purposing of the Community House;
2) the financial ability of the Proposer;
3) the experience of the Proposer in renovating and/or re-purposing similar properties;
4) the impact of the Proposal on the Community House, it’s historic status, and nearby properties;
5) the compatibility of the Proposal with the City’s zoning regulations; the historic nature of the Community House as a state and nationally registered historic site and its contributing status to the Downtown Historic District;
6) the architectural quality of any proposed renovations;
7) anticipated financial benefits to the taxing jurisdictions by way of future property and sales tax generated from the renovation, along with an acquisition price or long term land lease payment;
8) any anticipated tax credit(s) grant(s) or other revenues proposed in the redevelopment of the Community House.
The city plans to receive all requests by March 8th, then a selection committee would review the requests before sending them to the commission for their final approval.
Deputy City Manager Jason Hilgers says the commission could continue to protect the historical status by creating an agreement with a private developer where the city retains ownership of the land underneath the building. Drawing comparisons to the Manhattan Town Center, he says the agreement could include provisions requiring developers to get city approval to sell the property.
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“You could write this thing really tight to where you know exactly what’s going on and for how long,” Hilgers said. “And if they decide they want out, they come to use first. They don’t go to the market, they come to us and get permission as to how they’d like to proceed.”

Mayor Mike Dodson says that though most people living in Manhattan probably are unfamiliar with the building’s history, they still have a responsibility of preserving and passing on the city’s history.
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“We can’t just do nothing, because it’s just going to get worse — it’s already in terrible shape,” Dodson said. “This is an opportunity to at least entertain some options.”

The commission also appointed Commissioners Wynn Butler and Linda Morse to a selection committee that will review proposals for the site. Butler says he’s very excited for the process.
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“Over the past two election cycles I’ve talked about the Community House and how we need to turn it into a bigger asset for the city,” said Butler “It’s going to become a liability here shortly.”
Morse expressed her interest in ensuring the building retains its historical status as well.
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“I really want to preserve the historic integrity of the building as best we can,” Morse said.
Multiple members of the public spoke during the public comment period asking the commission for the steering committee that will review any proposals for redevelopment to meet in public so the community can stay informed of the dealings. City officials were agreeable with the request.
 St. Luke’s Annexation
The City of Manhattan is set to grow by just over 28 acres. The City Commission unanimously voted to annex the future site of a new church to be constructed at their meeting Tuesday. The owner, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, requested annexation in order to utilize the city’s water and sewer services.
The city first moved toward annexation of the land in November, but as it was not adjacent to the city limits they had to request approval from the Board of Riley County Commissioners. They approved the request.
The extension of water and sewer lines West from Anderson Avenue will also allow the city to create loops in the lines, improving water pressure and reducing strain on the system according to Public Works Director Robert Ott.
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“Creating additional loops, creating redundancy, creating options during emergencies,” Ott said.
Eventually, the lines will extend north from the site up to the Grand Mere Village area.
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi stressed the importance of being mindful of the Wildcat Creek floodplain, which part of the plot is within. She also asked about the construction timeline, to which Mark Hatesohl of St. Luke’s replied that the latest timeline they received was work would start in Spring.
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The commission also unanimously approved rezoning the plant from Riley County’s agricultural district to the city’s single-family residential district.
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About Author

Nick McNamara

Local government reporter, sometimes host/producer of the KMAN Morning Show. 2017 Long Beach State graduate in Journalism/Native American cultures. Los Angeles County born and raised. Nick can be reached at Nick@1350KMAN.com.

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