City OKs zoning for 27 acres
Nearby residents upset by density of proposal
Tonganoxie City Council's approval Monday night of a controversial rezoning on the west side of Smiley Road north of Hatchell Road drew strong criticism from neighbors.
"I'm very disappointed," said Alice Moore outside city hall minutes after the council made its decision. "We're not against development, just different rezoning."
Moore initially voiced her displeasure during the meeting when votes were tallied on a request to rezone 27 acres owned by developer Greg Ward.
The rezoning passed on a 5-0 vote, with council member Kathy Graveman abstaining. Mayor Dave Taylor also voted because a protest petition was filed against the rezoning, meaning a super majority was needed. Council member Velda Roberts, who sits next to Graveman on the council, was surprised by Graveman's decision and said something to her. At that point Moore stood up and said Roberts shouldn't influence other members' decisions.
Roberts, though, said she was asking Graveman whether she could abstain without a reason, such as conflict of interest.
"I didn't try to sway her," Roberts said. "You are incorrect."
After the decision, Moore still was visibly upset with the situation.
"That's swaying another council member's decision and that's not how a council should be run," Moore said.
Graveman said after the meeting that she abstained because minutes were not yet approved from the last planning commission meeting when that board unanimously approved Ward's rezoning. Minutes likely would have been approved during next Wednesday's planning commission meeting.
"We didn't have planning and zoning minutes," Graveman said. "I was uncomfortable because we hadn't reviewed them."
Ward, however, said he was confident the council would follow the planning commission's recommendation.
"We felt good that the city would uphold that," Ward said. "Our attitude all along is to be good neighbors and unite in harmony in the neighborhood."
Ward said he has kept neighbors of the proposed development informed since first formalizing the project.
Before the council voted Monday, Mayor Dave Taylor limited public comment on the controversial issue, saying the council would hear only from Pete Heaven, an Overland Park attorney for neighbors of the development, and Jane M. Eldredge, Lawrence, who is Ward's attorney.
In his statements, Heaven said that his clients weren't anti-development, but that Tonganoxie needed to have thoughtful, controlled growth.
The council rezoned all of the 27 acres that Ward owns in the area along Smiley Road. Heaven said he was concerned with 1,000-square-foot houses being placed on 6,000-foot lots.
"What do they really plan to do?" Heaven asked the council.
Heaven said that the proposed district also would be detrimental to proper growth.
"RSF is the worst of all worlds," Heaven said. "It's the highest density Tonganoxie allows."
Neighbors opposed to the development signed a protest petition and it was hand-delivered Aug. 14 by David E. Waters, another attorney in the same firm as Heaven -- Lathrop and Gage.
Basically, neighbors who are against the development don't want that type of residential district.
"You can put a Quick Trip on a commercial site and you can put an office building on a commercial site," Waters said. "Which do you want to live next to? The office building."
In an original plan, Ward wanted multi-family townhomes with an empty-nester community in mind. Neighbors, though, voiced strong displeasure for the plan. Ward then proposed the current project -- single-family garden-style homes with an empty-nester development still in mind.
When Eldredge spoke to the council, she said the development could better the entire city, explaining that a lift station would be built, not only to provide sewer lines for Ward's development but for future developments.
"It's time to re-district this property to more urban uses," Eldredge said. "It is the right thing to do to act in a reasonable matter and not to change a thought-out recommendation from your planning commission and staff."
The neighborhood group has 30 days to appeal the decision to district court.