Firm tells Tonganoxie ‘no thanks’
It appears that Tonganoxie's development rules may cost the city a new business.
Gerald Shepherd, president of Superior Alloy Steel, said Tuesday that his firm likely can't afford requirements that the city is placing on his company's plans for a building in Urban Hess business park.
"It doesn't look to me like we're going to be moving to the city of Tonganoxie," said Shepherd, who had planned to purchase a lot and an as-yet-unbuilt building in Urban Hess. Shepherd has agreed to purchase the lot from the Leavenworth Port Authority, which has agreed to construct a 10,000-square-foot building on the land.
Shepherd had hoped to move his company from Olathe to Tonganoxie by early next year.
"They're requiring that we do many, many things to this site out there at a cost of $10,000 in review of the storm water drainage system," he said. "They've come up with quite a few regulations. At this point, we're going to say, no thank you."
At the heart of the issue are development requirements such as landscaping, stormwater retention and building appearance that the city's Site Review Committee has power to enforce. In recent weeks, the local committee and Gary Carlson, who represents the Port Authority, have met to hammer out differences. Most issues were resolved except drainage requirements.
On Monday, the Tonganoxie City Council met in special session to hear the Port Authority's appeal of the site review committee's requirements. But that meeting which also included representatives of the site review committee and the planning commission centered on the city's development requirements. Tempers flared at several points, when members of the site review committee questioned whether the city should change its standards for the Port Authority.
The mayor appointed an eight-member committee to complete changes to the city's comprehensive plan.
Council member Kathy Graveman made a motion to approve the Port Authority's plans for the Urban Hess property without requiring a water retention plan. Instead, Graveman asked that a "common-sense approach" be used concerning water retention. Council member Pat Albert seconded the motion.
"Basically, we're giving them carte blanche to get in there," said Diane Bretthauer, a planning commission member.
She said she's concerned the city is opening itself up to a lawsuit from other developers who have been required to follow guidelines.
After discussion, Graveman and Albert withdrew the motion.
"I don't think we can come up with a solution tonight," said council member Dave Hernandez, who then asked for adjournment. The four council members present Janet Angell was absent voted to adjourn.
After the meeting, city engineer Cecil Kingsley proposed a solution: Treat all of the remaining 30 developable acres in Urban Hess as one unit and complete one drainage study for the entire area. That, he said, would cost less than doing a study for each of the 19 lots and it would achieve the city's goal of having the study complete.
But Carlson said Tuesday that that's not a workable solution because it will mean the Port Authority won't be able to develop some of its land.
The five-member Port Authority will meet today to consider the Urban Hess situation.
Carlson said it's possible the 10,000-square-foot building which has been ordered could be placed in the Port Authority's business park in Leavenworth.
"The cheaper solution, I think, is to put it somewhere else, where it can be put without all of the extra requirements," Carlson said.
He said that when the Port Authority constructed its first building in Urban Hess the city did not enforce such development requirements.
"This is the dilemma: We have two industrial parks," he said. "In Leavenworth, we don't have to deal with a citizen board. In Leavenworth, we don't have to hire an engineer to do a drainage study."
In addition, he said, the city of Leavenworth doesn't require the Port Authority to pay for a building permit, and the city has installed streets and sanitary sewers in the industrial park.
"None of those things are available in Tonganoxie," Carlson said.