by Murrel Bland
Wyandotte County had an excellent opportunity in the early 1950s. Larry Winn Jr., a residential housing developer, wanted to build 5,000 homes near 110th Street and State Avenue. Winn later became a Congressman.
The demand for such housing, boosted by the post-war boom and the 1951 flood, was quite apparent. Unfortunately politics got in the way. The area needed adequate water—more than the township companies could provide. The Board of Public Utilities could have supplied the area, but it couldn’t come to an agreement with the townships although they were already BPU wholesale customers.
Despite that missed opportunity, the 1950s marked the largest residential expansion in the 20th century in Wyandotte County. In the mid-1950s, more than 1,000 single-family homes were being built in suburban Wyandotte County. Most of the homes that are now between 38th and 86th streets were built then.
Fast-forward to the 21st century. West Wyandotte County has another opportunity. The Cerner Corp. is building an office complex near I-435 and State Avenue that will house 4,000 employees. Nearby apartment developments should provide market-rate places to live.
The Piper community has about 20 some subdivisions; the Unified Government and the BPU are waiving fees to encourage builders to invest in single-family homes. The UG has invested a considerable amount in the infrastructure in these subdivisions.
Talk to a Realtor who is selling new homes in Piper and he or she will tell you that a major consideration is the monthly mortgage payment. A substantial portion of that payment goes for property taxes. That same Realtor would probably tell you that he or she has lost sales to western Shawnee where the tax rate is about 20 percent less.
I am encouraged that starting in 2017, the Unified Government, buoyed by sales tax money from Village West, finally will be able to provide taxpayers with long overdue relief. In the meantime, the Unified Government’s waiving of fees should help reduce building costs and spur sales.
Wyandotte County missed its opportunity some 60 years ago; it would appear it will not make that same mistake during the next few years as it seizes residential opportunities.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.