By BECKY KISER
The planned truck stop and retail center just north of Interstate-70 Exit 157 in west Hays is lagging about a year behind its construction schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The original start date for the Community Improvement District (CID) was April 1, 2021. That's when the CID was to have been effective, the truck stop open and operating and generating an additional 2% sales tax.
Developers asked the city for an amendment in the development agreement, changing the start date of the CID sales tax from April 1 to October 1, when the project is now expected to be completed.
City commissioners heard the legal explanation from Kim Rupp, finance director, during their Thursday night work session.
"It doesn't present any other legal considerations or financial considerations," Rupp told the commission. "Pretty straightforward, very simple."
A similar request was previously granted by the city for the Hilton Garden Inn CID.
In answer to a question from Commissioner Ron Mellick whether D & J Land and Development would get another CID start date if work delays continued, Rupp said it has "been communicated to them that this should be their only request."
Commissioners will consider approving the request at their Feb. 25 regular meeting.
The 2% CID sales tax will be imposed on only the travel plaza and truck wash portions of the project to fund certain developer expenditures on a pay-as-you-go basis. The CID sales tax will generate approximately $2.2 million over the maximum 22-year term.
Commissioner Shaun Musil said he remains excited about the project.
"Things happen. You know, 2020 wasn't a good year for anybody," Musil said. "As long as they're still going to do what they say they're going to do, I think it's going to be a good thing for us."
Despite the delay, developer Doug Hutchinson of Topeka told the commission he believes the retail tenant side of the project will actually be stronger because of COVID-19.
"The strong companies have made it. They're looking to expand. They have cash and they're looking to go," Hutchinson said. "It's worked out really good.
"When everything hit, food, of course, was the biggest issue we had. And that's all back. There's money there. These guys want to go."
Plans call for a travel plaza, truck wash, at least one full-service hotel, restaurants and other commercial businesses. There will also be associated public and private infrastructure, utilities, storm water and drainage, landscaping and parking facilities.
Utility extensions from south of the interstate and running underneath it to the north are about 75% complete, Hutchinson reported. Site grading is about 85% done.
"Although we haven't received them yet, we've put in for building permits on the travel plaza and the truck wash. So we're excited about that. We've had some comments back, all solid, just stuff that needs to be cleaned up from our side. Everything's good there."
One sticking point has been the hotel financing, according to Hutchinson.
"I actually got an email while I was sitting here tonight. It's starting to come around," he said. "It's a tough issue, but we'll get through it."
The development agreement with the city of Hays requires five of the project lots to be sold in five years.
"We'll have two of them up and going and fill the retail strip right after that."
Hutchinson said he'll meet Monday with a national representative for the stand-alone restaurant.
"I do think everything's moving along well and it's turned out for the better for everybody."