City kicks rezoning back to planners
Neighbors turn out against development, cite concerns over property values
Despite the protests of area residents, Tonganoxie City Council members on Monday refused to kill a rezoning request that would pave the way for a multifamily development.
Instead, the mayor and four of five council members who attended the meeting voted unanimously to send the rezoning request back to the Tonganoxie Planning Commission for further review. Three weeks ago, the planning commission, on a 4-3 vote, recommended to the council that the rezoning request be denied.
The proposed development at the center of the controversy is west of Smiley Road, north of Hatchell. Greg Ward is asking the city to approve a change for 5.25 acres from rural zoning to multifamily zoning. At the site, Ward plans to construct owner-occupied two-family units, which he refers to as villas.
The tract is the first phase of a 27-acre development that Ward plans.
Area property owners say they're concerned that if the multifamily development is allowed, traffic would increase, their property values would decrease and stormwater would cause flooding. They say a multifamily development is inconsistent with the single-family homes in the area that sit on large lots.
However, Ward and his wife, Karen, counter that the development is consistent with the city's comprehensive planning guide.
In addition, they say work on a pond, along with stormwater detention that is planned on the property, will address concerns about water. And the development will be served by sanitary sewers, unlike nearby properties that are served by septic tanks.
properties that are served by septic tanks.
But Carolyn Hernandez, who has lived at 140 Hatchell Rd. since 1978, and her neighbors don't buy Ward's arguments.
"I can see clearly now that we got in this pickle partly because back in 2000, when the comprehensive plan was adopted, I was too apathetic to become involved and really study that plan and to know what the potential land use of the property across the street from us could be," Hernandez told city council members.
"I would encourage you to keep in mind that the master plan is a guideline. I would encourage you to consider the composition of the neighborhood when you make your decision. I agree that the concept of villas, especially ones that are maintenance-free, is needed in this community. But I am going to be one of those people and say, 'Not in my neighborhood.'"
Area residents said they would have no argument with Ward if he were to develop the property into single-family homes, much like the ones they own.
"If he'll put single-family homes in there, we'll accept it with open arms," said Ernie Edmonds, 21253 Parallel Rd.
In asking the planning commission to review their decision, city council members said they wanted to ensure the city is consistent.
"One of the criteria for saying we're denying something can't be people saying we don't want it in our neighborhood," said council member Velda Roberts.
Roberts, who lives in southern Tonganoxie, said she faced much the same issues as a homeowner when Eagle Valley subdivision was developed.
"I have empathy for what you're saying," she told the property owners.
At Monday night's meeting, the council had three options: return the matter to the planning commission; concur with the planning commission's recommendation to deny the rezoning; or approve the rezoning.
Had the council approved the rezoning, it would have required at least four votes in favor. In zoning matters, all five council members and the mayor vote.
On Monday, former Mayor John Franiuk, who lives south of the proposed development at 133 Hatchell Rd., was visibly upset after the decision.
"I'm very disappointed this evening with this vote to send this rezoning request back to the planning commission," he told council members. "I don't think it's respectful to the people who live in the community."