Professoinal helps city plan development
Although Linda Zacher's job as Tonganoxie's city planner could place her in a hot spot between developers and residents, so far that hasn't happened.
Zacher credits the relatively smooth path her work has taken to the people she deals with.
"My job is to represent the city of Tonganoxie when working with developers and businesses, looking ahead 10 to 20 years to see what impact the development and change will have on the city," she said.
"I've met a lot of people in the past year who are so nice, and so concerned about this community, that controversy hasn't been a problem here."
Zacher, who has a master's degree in urban planning, was hired by Leavenworth County in June 1998. Her initial assignment was to work with Tonganoxie and Basehor two days a week, and to spend three days a week helping Leavenworth County's Planning and Zoning Department.
Tonganoxie Mayor John Franiuk said he views Zacher as a resource that many small towns can't afford, but one that Tonganoxie is lucky to have.
"Thanks to the agreement with the county, Tonganoxie has a really professional employee who has brought professional definition to our subdivision regulations and now our industrial development," he said.
"Linda is a resource that many of our residents will never be directly
aware of or acquainted with, but her knowledge and skills will touch everyone by their planning expertise."
Franiuk said Zacher looks at the city, "one hundred years from now, while many people are only looking at the city 100 days from now."
However, given Tonganoxie's rapid growth, Zacher said she has found it difficult to accomplish the city's demands within the time restraints.
"Chris Eppley (Tonganoxie city administrator) likes to say that 20 years ago, Johnson County was mostly suburban, like Tonganoxie is now," she said.
"And that scares me. I grew up in the city and came out here. I like Tonganoxie. I don't want it to turn into Johnson County and lose its identity."
Zacher's education has prepared her to work with residents and developers on how best to develop their land, she said. This includes looking at such issues as buffering to block undesirable views, storm water containment to handle excessive runoff caused by paving and residential construction, and the impact that development has on traffic flow.
"I have to look at whether we can provide adequate services or whether we are overloading an area with home lots," she said. "For a long time, nothing much seemed to be happening out here, but now, everyone sees this area as desirable and it's going wild. Now there's a lot to be considered."
"In Eagle Valley, in one month, we handled 14 residential permits. That's more than we sold there in a whole year, a year ago, if that tells you anything about what's happening in Tonganoxie now," she said.
Tonganoxie has been working with growth in several subdivisions, including Eagle Valley, with approximately 100 lots, Twin Cedars with about 12 lots, McGee Meadows with about 35 lots, South Park with about 150 lots and Stone Creek with approximately 300 lots. There are also some lots still available in Evans East subdivision, she said.
Tonganoxie's development hasn't all been residential, however, Zacher said. With several areas already zoned for industrial use as well as commercial development, her skills are also used in other areas.
A case in point is a special use permit request from Meier's Ready-Mix, a Topeka-based concrete company, which has made application to locate in Tonganoxie on County Road 5 at the intersection of Laming Road.
"This is a different matter than a subdivision," Zacher said. "We are dealing with a lot of federal and state regulations and departments overseeing this issue. We have to look at containment, primarily of the dust which could be produced by a concrete plant. There is a beautiful home located right across the road. There are variances from existing regulations to look at, as well as plats and lot splits."
Zacher said the importance of balance between residential, commercial and industrial development can never be overlooked or underestimated. Each has its costs and contributions, she added. When sleepy little towns find themselves in the path of growth, they survive by virture of their ability to take the long view, which is what her job is all about, Zacher said.