NWK Investments will not go through with plans for Big Creek Travel Plaza, it was announced Wednesday.
“The NWK project was not possible without tax increment financing,” said Don Hoffman, attorney for NWK Investments.
The company presented plans for a hotel, multiple restaurants and a truck service plaza at the Hays City Commission work session last week. It requested incentives, including a Community Improvement District, which is a special sales tax assessed to customers of the business; the issuance of Industrial Revenue Bonds, which allows the developer to avoid paying sales tax; and Tax Increment Financing, where city, county and school property tax is waived.
NWK Investments approached the city of Hays approximately 18 months ago with plans for an auto plaza east of Hays. The project evolved through time into a much larger project located northwest of town at 230th Avenue and 55th Street. The price tag for the project was $27.5 million.
The commission told NWK it would consider a CID, but bonds and a TIF were off the table.
“I had a conversation with Mike Woofter, who was leading the project on the travel plaza. After the work session when the (city) commissioners had talked about moving ahead with the CID only, his team looked at the numbers and determined without the TIF, the project wouldn’t be feasible,” said Aaron White, executive director of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development.
“We obviously are disappointed. A lot of time and work was put into that project. We work with developers as needed, but we also represent the city and county’s interest. If a different format project comes out, we’ll continue to work with them and we’ll continue to work with other developers.”
There is no infrastructure at the location, including water, streets or sewer.
“The commissioner members that were present at the work session obviously liked the project,” said Mayor Eber Phelps. “There were some requests in there for incentivizing that the commission didn’t agree with. In my opinion, that’s part of the negotiation.”
At Thursday’s city commission meeting, Commissioner James Meier echoed his support of the remaining commissioners regarding Big Creek Travel Plaza. He was absent from the work session a week ago.
He said he would not have approved Industrial Revenue Bonds because it would cut sales tax collection for the city. Meier would not have approved the CID. His thoughts on CID’s are the businesses should instead raise their prices by 2 percent to cover what the special sales tax would collect.
Meier said he also would not have approved a TIF.