Commissioners seek details on road fee
Leavenworth County commissioners continue to mull a proposed hike in the county's road improvement fee.
"It's a quandary," Commissioner Don Navinsky said Tuesday, a week after commissioners conducted a hearing before a packed house.
On Tuesday, commissioners will hold a study session to take an in-depth look at the proposal. The study session will be open to the public, but not to public comment, Navinsky said. A public hearing will be held later.
If commissioners wind up approving the proposed plan, the road improvement fee on homes built in rural areas of the county would rise from $2,500 to $14,000.
But it doesn't appear commissioners will accept the proposal as written.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Bob Adams said he has not decided how he will vote.
"If it (the proposed plan) is the way it is, I probably would vote against it -- but I'm not casting my vote today, so I'm not dead set," Adams said. "I think it has its merits, but I don't like the plan, and I'm probably just going to vote against it."
Navinsky said he doesn't have enough information yet.
"I'm looking for information as it stands," Navinsky said. "...There's still things that need to be investigated."
Commissioner Joe Daniels said he doubted the proposed plan would be adopted as is.
"There are several options available," Daniels said.
Like the other commissioners, Daniels said he wants to know more.
Meanwhile, the proposal has been hotly contested, especially among some builders, developers and individuals who want to build homes in the county, as well as rural landowners who plan to sell land. They say the additional $12,500 in fees would deter construction.
The proposal generated so much public interest that on Feb. 17, a commission meeting to study the proposal was shifted to a courtroom in the justice center. Even then, all the seats were filled, people stood around the sides of the room, and dozens of others were turned away. Daniels estimated that more than 250 attended.
After hearing a presentation from John Zoellner, the county's planning director, at least several dozen area residents spoke, the vast majority arguing against the plan.
The plan to increase the road improvement fee was drafted by the county's transportation committee. On Jan. 28, the county's planning committee voted 6-1 to accept the proposal.
Now, county commissioners must decide the plan's fate.
Adams, who has been a commissioner for eight years, said he believes that sometimes rural home buyers are misled into believing that the county plans to pave their roads.
"As far as I'm concerned, that road is rock. If it's rock today, it's rock tomorrow," Adams said. "If there's development going on and folks want that road improved, then I say, hey folks just do it like the city of Leavenworth does. We'll do a benefit district. Get your petitions up, bring it in and we'll bond it and put it on your tax rolls. We'll collect your money and we'll go ahead and do that road."
Another option would be to leave it up to developers to pave existing gravel roads. Of course, Adams said, developers would be required to build their own internal streets.
A third option, Adams said, would be for rural residents who live within three miles of a city's rural growth area to petition to be annexed and ask the city to pave their road.
Navinsky, who is in his ninth year on the commission, has dealt with road problems before.
"Roads are always an issue, but not to the extent of what it is now," Navinsky said.
Just last year the county improved one road that is bordered with growth -- 158th Street south of Basehor. In this case the road was already hard surface, but, primarily because of safety concerns, it needed to be widened and have turn lanes installed.
"On that one mile, 158th Street, we spent $1.3 million just improving that," Navinsky said. "...The money it costs to do that is unbelievable."
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