Mayor hopes growing city maintains small-town feeling
John Franiuk remembers at age 10 riding in the car with his parents to his grandparents' house. Grandma and grandpa lived on a farm near Louisburg in the midst of open fields.
The drive to their rural home now winds through subdivisions of new homes that have sprung up south of Overland Park.
Rural Louisburg then was very similar to rural Tonganoxie now. The growth that is reshaping Louisburg and other small towns that ring Kansas City is expected to change Tonganoxie and its surrounding community in the coming years.
Franiuk has been the mayor of Tonganoxie for less than a year. However, like most public officials, he has opinions and ideas about the future.
"The city likes growth," he said during a recent interview at the Fourth Street Caf
New housing being built on the edges of Tonganoxie is only the beginning.
The mayor anticipates more homes, improved parks, new schools, and additional commercial and retail property within the city limits in the years to come.
Franiuk said the city must concentrate on three infrastructure improvements: water, waste treatment and roads.
The city has been working to increase its water supply to meet the needs of the next 30 years. And while the current waste treatment plant is adequate and has room to grow, if current projected subdivisions were completed tomorrow, the plant would be at capacity.
The city has considered, in recent months, purchasing 153 acres near Linwood. The property would be the site, 10 to 20 years down the road, of a new waste treatment plant that could handle greater volume of waste possibly all that of southern Leavenworth County with access to the river for dumping the treated waste after it had been processed.
Leavenworth County is only in the developmental stages of planning for countywide services, and an organized effort by Tonganoxie could put the city in the position to provide those services for southern Leavenworth County, Franiuk said.
While underground water and waste are services less noticeable to the casual observer passing through Tonganoxie, roads are a visible and important connection between homes and businesses in the city.
Franiuk acknowledges the difficulties the flood plain through the center of town creates. However, he said it is important for the city to consider improvements, especially arterial roads that run through the middle of town and connect the community.
In addition to infrastructure improvements, the city has been working with zoning rules to regulate construction and ensure builders create a high-quality product. The city has looked at the approach taken by others, including growing areas of Johnson County and Kansas City, Kan.
The new rules are not always easy to explain to local builders and developers, but those coming into the community from the outside have no problem with zoning requirements, Franiuk said.
Development will change along with the city, Franiuk said. In five years, he expects building and development to be more organized, bigger and more commercially oriented.
Still, Tonganoxie will try to retain what has made it a great place to live for many of its current residents.
"We're trying to always maintain a sense of community and down-homeness," Franiuk said.
He said he hopes that development will include housing for people from a variety of backgrounds.
"Not everybody can afford quarter-of-a-million-dollar homes," Franiuk said.
Providing affordable housing can only benefit Tonganoxie, according to the mayor.
"The community serves all people and all needs," Franiuk said.
Community services include attractive and useful public buildings and spaces. Franiuk's wish list of new public projects includes improvements to the area schools, new parks, walking trails and biking trails.
The city is working on plans for new parks. Adding an impact fee on developers could provide revenue for land acquisition and more parks although Franiuk would prefer not to add to the costs of building.
Ideally, a developer would see the benefit of donating some land to the city. Or, Franiuk said with a smile, a wealthy benefactor could include the city in his will.
Franiuk said he feels the city is on the verge of an explosion in growth. Highway improvements, capital investment by the city, and the new speedway will all be contributing factors to new faces in Tonganoxie.
The growth won't always be easy. Franiuk expects there to be border wars between Tonganoxie and the surrounding communities.
But the city won't go out of its way to offend people. Tonganoxie currently doesn't plan to force annexation on surrounding property, but the city does want to expand its borders.
"We wouldn't turn down anybody who wants to voluntarily annex," Franiuk said.
He's sympathetic with property owners who are trying decide whether to convert their once-rich farmland into housing or other commercial development.
"You only get to sell it one time," Franiuk said. "There are no do-overs."