Archive for Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Residents ponder further appeals of rezoning issue

Judge: City should expand deliberations

April 14, 2004

The city of Tonganoxie last week survived a legal challenge to a rezoning decision -- but not without first being chastised by the judge in the case.

Leavenworth County District Judge David King on Wednesday ruled that the city acted within the law last August when rezoning 27 acres in northwest Tonganoxie from rural residential to single-family zoning. Ernest and Ruth Edmonds, along with other nearby residents, appealed that rezoning decision to the district court.

Greg Ward, who owns the land, has said he wants to develop single-family garden homes for empty-nesters and senior citizens. Ward has not filed any specific development plans with the city for the land, which is on the west side of Smiley Road, north of Hatchell.

This week, Ernest Edmonds said he and his neighbors were disappointed by the judge's decision, which also can be appealed -- to the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Edmonds have 30 days to make decision on whether to take the case further.

"We're trying to decide now what we're going to do," Ernest Edmonds said. "We've got a few days left. ... We have no ill feelings against Mr. Ward or whoever was in favor of Mr. Ward building. We were just trying to protect our investments."

Edmonds, though, was upset that the attorney he hired -- Pete Heaven -- did not argue the case. Instead, Carrie Josserand, an associate in Heaven's office, handled the neighbors' arguments.

In his questioning of Josserand and of Tonganoxie City Attorney Mike Crow, the judge challenged the city to do a better job of deliberating zoning changes in the future. At several points, King called the city council's deliberations "bare bones."

"Could there be anything more minimal than this and still survive a zoning challenge," the judge asked rhetorically.

He compared it to his own role in the appeal over the rezoning. Instead of providing reasons for his decision, the judge said, he could simply say the appeal is denied or the appeal is granted.

"That's essentially what the city council did," King said.

He encouraged the city to make written findings or oral findings.

"There wasn't much discussion by the governing body," the city attorney admitted during questioning by the judge. "Maybe there should have been more. ... There really wasn't anything to discuss because every point, pro and con, had been covered. There wasn't anything to say."

But Crow has taken the judge's admonitions to heart.

"The criteria needs to be better discussed by the city in rezoning matters," Crow told city council members Monday during the regular council meeting.

He said City Administrator Shane Krull is working on some outlines that would encourage a more thorough discussion.

"The city needs to follow through on his suggestions," Crow said of the judge's statements.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.