Wichita’s letter of intent for Douglas Place LLC

On Tuesday August 9th the Wichita City Council will consider passing a letter of intent to do something. Then, on September 13th, the council will hold a public hearing on whether the city should do the things contained in the letter of intent. Is this putting the cart before the horse? The agenda packet for the meeting is available at Wichita city council agendas, or an excerpt of the relevant pages is at Letter of Intent for Downtown Incentives for the Douglas Place Project.

Mayor Carl Brewer
Manager Robert Layton

Gentlemen,

I am concerned about the letter of intent for Douglas Place LLC to be considered at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Without regard to the merits of this project, it seems that endorsing a letter of intent regarding a matter, and then later on holding a public hearing on the very same matter, reduces the public hearing to a meaningless exercise.

I realize that Tuesday’s item is only to pass a letter of intent, and that the council would still have to pass ordinances implementing the ideas mentioned in the letter. The text of the letter states so: “This letter of intent is subject in all respects to subsequent actions by the City Council to authorize specific incentives outlined herein and does not constitute a binding obligation of the parties … ”

But prior to this, in the same paragraph, the letter states “… this Letter of Intent with Douglas Place LLC, is submitted in order to set forth the agreement of the parties concerning the principal elements of Douglas Place LLC’s commitment to the City and the City’s intent to provide the incentives outlined herein … ” (emphasis added)

The city’s intent could not be more clear.

Mayor and Manager, no matter what information is presented at the September 13 public hearing, and no matter how strong public opinion might be against this project, is there any real likelihood that the council would not proceed with this plan and its incentives, having already passed a letter of intent to do so? I imagine that persuasive arguments will be made that since the city issued a letter of intent, and since the developers may have already taken action based on that letter, it follows that the city is obligated to pass the plan. Otherwise, who would ever vest any meaning in a future letter of intent from this city?

May I also ask this: What is the need for this letter of intent? If the developer is not going to take action based on the proposed letter, why is it necessary?

I would urge the city to withdraw consideration of this letter of intent until after a public hearing is held.


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