Meet the candidates vying for the Lenexa City Council 4th Ward seat

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LENEXA, Kan. —Two candidates advance to the general election following a three-way primary to represent the 4th Ward on the Lenexa City Council.

Craig Denny and Scott Callaway will go head to head in November to fill the council seat currently held by Mandy Stuke, who has served on the council since 2011.

To help voters get a better idea where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro, FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County.

Here’s a look at what Callaway and Denny had to say:  

Q: Would you support the city issuing a mask mandate or any other health orders beyond what has been recommended by the county health department? Please explain why or why not. 

Callaway: Lenexa residents and businesses have demonstrated amazing civic responsibility as a community by following advice provided by the county health department, civic leaders and CDC recommendations.

Craig Denny, Lenexa City Council Candidate, Ward 4

COVID infection rates across Johnson County appear to be trending downwards. Kansans who have received at least one dose of a vaccine are well over 50%, with those having received two vaccinations in the 50% range and climbing. I do not believe Lenexa needs a mask mandate at this time, and I would not support a mask mandate unless the county health department determines it to be necessary, and our community would support the health concerns and needs of our neighbors.

Denny: I would not support the city issuing a unilateral mask mandate or other health orders beyond those recommended by the county health department. Kansas state statutes grant certain powers to local county health officials. County health officials have the knowledge, training and expertise capable of analyzing data and making well informed recommendations related to control of contagious diseases. The city hires staff specifically to research issues and provide information to elected officials.   

Q: What is your view on the use of tax incentives for new development? What criteria would you use when determining if incentives like Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), tax abatements or the creation of a Community Improvement District (CID) should be granted to developers wanting to build within the city?

Callaway: Providing tax incentives such as abatements and exemptions, for a specific period of time, are great incentives to attract new construction and improvements in areas that need an incentive, where there is a need to see development and property improvement. Also to be considered, are using these incentives to rehabilitate older homes and neighborhoods. Attracting new businesses to these older areas falling into neglect should especially be considered. 

Scott Callaway, Lenexa City Council Candidate, Ward 4

Criteria for these tax incentives, as well as other options currently available, should be reviewed on a case by case basis on the need to attract new development. Criteria such as what these projects will do to communities, both positive and negative, should be weighed carefully in each case to make certain the residents of Lenexa are benefiting from incentivizing development with tax incentives.

Denny: I support Lenexa’s use of incentives and other economic development tools when needed to attract quality development to Lenexa that is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. Prior governing bodies have thoughtfully considered economic development incentives and have developed policies to analyze and evaluate requests for incentives (Governing Body Policies – Chapter GB05 – Funding). 

Article GB05-E addresses tax increment financing (TIF) policy; Article GB05-B addresses private activity conduit financing and tax abatement policy for economic development; and Article GB05-I addresses community improvement district (CID) policy. Sections in each of these Articles address objectives, scope, provisions and procedures, which include criteria. I have reviewed the criteria to be used in analyzing and evaluating requests for TIF, tax abatement and CID and I agree with the established criteria.

Q: What initiatives would you support to improve affordable housing options in Lenexa? How can the city offer a range of housing options for residents of different income levels?

Callaway: Lenexa housing values are based on market value, and in recent years we have seen property values are rising. This reflects the prosperity of Lenexa as a wonderful place to raise a family with exceptional schools and city services.

I would support any initiative that helps residents cut through the red tape in receiving COVID-19 property and rent relief, and work with the state to increase funding in housing voucher programs. We need to ensure programs and services that currently provide support for affordable housing are made known, and are easily accessible to residents. We should improve our efforts to review these programs regularly to ensure we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of the community while balancing the population growth.

Denny: The 2021 United Community Services (UCS) Housing Study, a 319-page document, was compiled through the efforts of many stakeholders and contains information that will be helpful to Lenexa. I support engaging with the Housing Study Task Force so we can evaluate current city policy, programs, and funding to determine where they align with the identified housing needs.

The USC Housing Study projects that future housing growth in Lenexa should include about 1,400 owner-occupied units that are priced below $250,000 (in 2018 dollars) and about 800 rental units with rents below $1,000 per month. The city could consider adjustments to policy, procedures and/or development requirements if appropriate and consistent with our comprehensive plan.

Lenexa currently has a range of housing options (apartments, duplex and townhomes, senior housing communities, condominiums and single-family residences) for different income levels. Lenexa residents who meet certain criteria are eligible to participate in Johnson County’s HOME program, which provides grants to bring an owner-occupied home or dwelling into compliance with local housing codes and to address health and safety issues.

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