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Farm Tax Breaks, But Is There a Farm?

Plaza at the Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo courtesy:

There are no beans or corn. No hogs or cattle. No tree nuts, berries, or chicken. You probably don’t think that you are stepping on a farm.

But In Kansas, you may not need any of that to be considered a “farm,” and that means that you have an area that could qualify for tax breaks.

The Kansas City Star reported on the tax breaks for an area that is part of an outdoor shopping mall development called the Plaza at the Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas (In case you aren’t familiar with the area, there is a Kansas City in both Kansas and Missouri).

The Plaza at the Speedway is an 865,000 square foot development that includes big box retail stores like Walmart, Kohl’s, and Sam's Club. It also includes restaurant chains like Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s.

The developers, Block & Company, Inc., promote on their website that the project is next to attractions like the Kansas Speedway, Cabela’s, Great Wolf Lodge, Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Legends Kansas City Outlets, KC T-Bones Baseball Stadium, and KC Sporting Park.

The company’s site also adds that the development has “Outstanding visibility to the more than two million square feet of retail and entertainment space built and planned on this corner.”

Overall, the attractions provide a regional draw of more than 14 million visitors each year who travel from as far as 250 miles away, the company claims.

Landowners, according to the Kansas City report, market the area as a farm. That allows them to qualify for property tax breaks that lawmakers created in the 1980s for agricultural land.

The Plaza at the Speedway development is now at the center of a lawsuit. Critics say the project skirts a significantly higher tax burden by claiming the agricultural designation until the owners develop the remaining land commercially. Developers defend the tax breaks, saying that a portion of the land grows hay that is sold to local farmers.


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